Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Craft LA: A DineLA Success

After all the build up to Dine LA restaurant week with the quickfire challenges, I had to try at least one of the deals. I chose Craft, the Los Angeles outpost of Tom Collichio's fine dining empire. I was joined at the meal by Dommy! of Chowhound and LA Weekly and her husband.  Usually the Dine LA menus offer choices for each course but at Craft the appetizers, side dishes and desserts are served communally for the table, while there was a choice of four different entrees.

The restaurant was packed when we arrived and we had to wait a full 30 minutes past our reservation time to be seated. Even the lounge was packed. We were shown to a table in the modern but comfortable dining room.  Craft employs many fine dining flourishes whether you are dining on a Dine LA promotion or paying full freight.  The meal began with a plate of gougeres, finishes with mignardes and we were sent on our way with a treat for the next morning.  The gougeres (small puff pastry balls filled with cheese) were made with Gruyere cheese and were served room temperature.  They were nothing special but might have been great if they were served warm.

The two appetizers were Chicory Salad, Pear, Goat Cheese & Date Purée and Braised Octopus Carpaccio. I did not eat the octopus but it was enjoyed by my dining companions. The salad (above) was a nice start to the meal and I enjoyed the traditional pairing of pear and cheese but it wasn't a very memorable dish.

It was at the entree portion of the meal that Craft really shined.  The Roasted Leg of Lamb (shown above) was especially delicious.  It was sliced like a prime rib and had a salty and slightly gamey flavor.  It was cooked a perfectly rosy medium rare and was something I would order again.  The Spotted Skate Wing was presented nicely (see below) and I was pleased to see a more adventurous dish on the Dine LA menu.  The skate was a successful dish and more interesting than the vegetarian pasta (not pictured) that was our third entree.  Unsurprisingly for Craft the three entrees were served family style as if they were all for the table.

The entrees arrived with two shared side dishes: market squash puree and grilled vegetables.  The puree arrived in a pot at the table, which some may find charming but I found a silly affectation.  The vegetables were squarely in the Craft wheelhouse of getting the best ingredients and minimally fussing with them to let their quality shine through.

Desserts were a chocolate item (below) and a vanilla panna cotta (not pictured). You can see the salt crystals on the chocolate.  I really liked this dessert a lot but didn't care for the panna cotta.  My dining companions strongly preferred the panna cotta, so it worked out for all of us.

The generosity of Craft continued with the post dessert mignardes which included caramel corn and mushroom shaped marshmallows.  We found room to eat these too.

The last impression the restaurant leaves is the mignardes and the "to go" pastry given to each of us to enjoy in the morning, which is a very classy touch.

Overall it was a good value for $44 and a great way to sample the restaurant.  The service was good and the Dine LA menu was printed right on the regular menu, not hidden at all, which was refreshing and welcomed.  Normally the fish and meat entrees cost between $29 and $54, with the side dishes extra (like a steakhouse), although note that the items are meant to be shared.  At those prices it is significantly more expensive than Bastide, my favorite of the fine dining spots in town, so not likely to be a regular spot in my rotation.  However note that the CraftBar menu is significantly more accessible in pricing and may be a good way to experience Craft without breaking the bank.

Remember that Collichio will be hosting an Australian dinner there next Monday November 1st.

Craft Los Angeles: 10100 Constellation Blvd, Century City. (310) 279-4180.  Website: craftlosangeles.com

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