Restaurant Review: Craftbar (Restaurant Week Winter 2010)
February 3rd, 2010 by plumpdumpling

The Craftbar winter 2010 Restaurant Week menu is huge! Most restaurants have three to four choices in each of the appetizer, entrée, and dessert categories, but Craftbar has at least ten. If that isn’t reason enough to go, check out some of the offerings we sampled at lunch yesterday:

Craftbar Smoked Pig Head Terrine
Smoked pig head terrine, citrus mostarda

I ate head cheese. There. I said it. I ate headcheese. I’ve been interested in it but never interested enough to actually order it, but I thought, “Hey, it’s Restaurant Week. This meal is going to be incredibly cheap, so even if I end up vomiting it up all over my shoes, I don’t have to feel bad about it. Plus, if anyone can do pig head meats right, it’s Tom Colicchio.”

It tasted like a lightly-smoked bacon and had the consistency of week-old ham. I know that sounds kind of gross, but it was delicious. The fat wasn’t chewy like I thought it’d be, and the slight gelatinous feel of it was about a hundred times less jellyish than any other head cheese I’ve seen. It was firm enough to sit on top of the bread but also soft enough to be spread, and the sweetness of the mostarda of lemon and orange peels went so well with the spices on top of the terrine and the sweet mustard seeds on the side.

I would order this again and again from Tom, but I’d still be a little scared to try it anywhere where it looked like this.

Craftbar Salt Cod Croquettes
Salt cod croquettes, piquillo peppers, capers

Just before he met me for lunch, my boyfriend came out of the subway and saw Bobby Bacala (aka Steve R. Schirripa) of “The Sopranos” fame walk by wearing a track suit. (A track suit! So perfect.) Call him nerdy, but he couldn’t resist ordering the salt cod croquettes, because he knew that the Italian word for salt cod is bacala. (Isn’t he so smart?)

The croquettes themselves mostly just reminded us of fish sticks, but the piquillos were especially sweet and marinated. He liked them, but in the end, he wished he’d ordered something more adventurous.

Craftbar White Anchovy Bruschetta
White anchovy bruschetta, soft-cooked egg, braised leek

Our friend ordered the bruschetta, not realizing it came with anchovies. Luckily, she’s a fish person and didn’t mind them, but she did seem especially willing to share.

Craftbar Fried Chicken Breast
Fried chicken breast, potato puree, pipérade

I was especially excited to try the pipérade after just learning what it is recently, and as deliciously tomato-sauce-y as it was, the fried chicken definitely didn’t require it. We had a to-die-for pan-fried chicken during a previous visit, and this one might have been even better. The batter was thick enough that I got to really enjoy all of the rosemary flavor in it but thin enough that it didn’t overpower the succulent chicken. The potatoes were creamy, salty, and thick, making this a true comfort dish.

Craftbar Braised Pork Belly
Braised pork belly, grits, cippolini onions

We’d also had craftbar’s pork belly once before, and just seeing it on the menu made my mouth water. You’d think something that fatty would be tough to eat, but it all just falls apart as you cut it and disintegrates when it hits your tongue. The grits were fine, but I prefer the dark and earthy richness of the black currant puree that accompanied the pork last time. Still, um, this is the best pork belly ever.

Craftbar Salmon
Salmon, root vegetables

Our friend ordered the salmon, which looks totally lame next to all the lard in the last two dishes, but I guess you can’t hate a girl for trying to play it cool. I didn’t try this, but she said she liked it aside from the abundance of onions.

Craftbar Apple and Cranberry Crumble
Apple and cranberry crumble, maple whipped cream

I got this solely for the maple whipped cream, and it did not disappoint. It was only lightly maple-y, but that was enough to satisfy me. The sugar topping was so thick and chunky, and the apples, cranberries, and golden raisins all had different levels of sweetness that really complimented each other.

Craftbar Brownie
Warm brownie, caramel ice cream, whipped cream

The best thing about this brownie is that it has a really thin, really crunchy top layer and then a thick fudgey layer below. The caramel ice cream was much better than the banana ice cream that used to come with this dessert, but I’m a bit biased against bananas, so think what you will.

Craftbar Cheeses
Selection of cheeses

Who ever actually orders the dessert cheeses? My boyfriend, that’s who. I sort of talked him into it, actually, and while he genuinely liked them, he was obviously in pain when he sampled my apple crumble and then had to go back to his coagulated milk. Sorry, Kamran.

Craftbar remains one of my favourite NYC restaurants because of the way the chef uses such basic ingredients but makes them taste better than they ever should. At $25 for lunch, it’s a total steal, and if you can’t get there in the next few days for winter Restaurant Week, you’d better be prepared for the next one.

11 Responses  
  • plumpdumpling writes:
    February 3rd, 201012:42 pmat

    For the record, Kamran says, “Dude, those grits RULED,” if anyone trusts his opinion more than mine.

  • karinya writes:
    February 3rd, 20101:27 pmat

    Was not aware there was such a thing as “dessert cheese.”

    Also totally creeped out by pictures 1 and 3, but that chicken looks delicious and midwestern-palate friendly.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      February 3rd, 20103:15 pmat

      If it was a sweet cheese, I may be okay with it, but regular cheese served as dessert totally doesn’t count as “dessert cheese”, right? Granted, we’ve had some great cheese trays that included sweet breads (not sweetbreads!) and fruits and jams, but this one didn’t do it for me.

      The Midwestern-palate-friendliness is probably why I liked the chicken so much, actually.

  • Heesa Phadie writes:
    February 3rd, 20102:49 pmat

    Haha…I love this “I would order this again and again from Tom…” you’re on a first name basis with him :P

    Man alive everything looks amazing. Those desserts! My word! …and I would totally order the coagulated milk course myself.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      February 4th, 20109:19 amat

      I thought about calling him Chef Colicchio or Chef Tom, but that seems way too weird. Besides, I’ve spent about an entire paycheck at his restaurants at this point, so he owes it to me.

      Are you not a dessert person?

      • Heesa Phadie writes:
        February 4th, 20109:20 amat

        An entire paycheck?! How many times have you eaten there?

        I’m a HUGE dessert person! How could you tell? :P

  • Bachelor Girl writes:
    February 3rd, 20107:37 pmat

    I am so jealous you got to try headcheese AND salt cod in the same meal. And I bet that maple whipped cream was a total foodgasm.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      February 4th, 20109:20 amat

      I love the phrase “got to try”. You’re probably the only person to ever say it in conjunction with face meats and salty fish.

  • Annie writes:
    February 5th, 20102:45 pmat

    I’ve wanted to try head cheese for a while, so that sounds totally amazing to me. Of course, I also am guilty of peeling the fat off of the standing rib roast that I made for Christmas and eating it straight out of the oven, so my judgment may be skewed on things like this (that might be why my cholesterol is high).

    Also, I love cheese for dessert (that might also figure into the cholesterol thing), so I totally embrace Kamran’s choice there.

  • Tracey writes:
    February 5th, 20109:47 pmat

    OH. MY. GOD. I made the mistake of clicking the head cheese link, and I don’t think I will ever be the same. What you had definitely looks more appetizing, even if it does resemble a slab of totally raw bacon.

    Also, $25?! What a steal!

  • Jim writes:
    February 9th, 20105:57 pmat

    Haha that is the most pathetic cheese I’ve ever seen. In France you sometimes have cheese before dessert – not sure how common it is but we get French parties in our restaurant going for it that way every once in a while.

    The first place I worked had an OK cheese board – 3 cheeses with oat cakes, quince jelly, petit salad and apricot & brandy chutney. Where I am now it’s a cheese plate but a lot better. You get home made oat cakes (really good ones, too), spiced pear chutney, curled shavings of celery, a few pieces of apple, 3 cheeses, and a small bunch of grapes. I’d be very happy with that if I ordered cheese after/instead of dessert… but 3 piece of cheese and some bread? Weak!

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