While in New York, not only did I get to eat at one of Mario Batali's restaurants, but I was also able to eat at one of Chef Tom Colicchio's restaurants, Craftbar. Granted, it was on the same day (I feel full just thinking about it), but time was limited since I was only there for a short weekend, and we had to do what we had to do.
So, after leaving Lupa, Lauren and I strolled around NYC for about 4 hours, trying to both work off our previous ridiculous meal, and work up an appetite for the next. We only stopped briefly to people-watch (aka judge others on their choice of attire, and/or go crazy for the cute dogs who passed by).
As I said before, Craftbar is one of Tom Colicchio's (head judge of the fabulous Bravo show, Top Chef) restaurants, and it's supposed to be his "causal" counterpart to his original restaurant, Craft. I was very excited to eat there since I watch Chef Tom rip apart the contestants on Top Chef every week, and finally I could taste some of his own work.
We arrived a bit early for our 7:45 reservation, expecting to get a drink at the bar to kill time, but we were seated right away. The restaurant was a large space, but was very dimly lit. We were seated in a "cozy" alcove with several 2-person tables. The tables were very close together, so the couple seated next to us pretty much heard every word of our (sometimes ridiculous) conversation. We also noticed that they weren't really talking to each other at all...awkward! Ah well, we were happy to entertain them.
Anyway, since we were moderately hungry but certainly not starving, we had to think of an appropriate game plan for what to order. We ended up getting three first courses and a main to share. But first, we of course ordered cocktails. After a bit of a fiasco with my drink order ("You really stumped the bartender with your Tom Collins order...Here's, uh, his best shot."), we both ended up with a glass of Prosecco. Delicious.
For our first appetizer, we ordered Mixed Greens with Ricotta Salata. The salad had a nice, bright vinaigrette on it, and little bits of the ricotta salata running through it. It was very good but paled in comparison to what came next...
Next we had the Pecorino Stuffed Risotto Balls (which we saw the tight-lipped couple next to us order when we first sat down). These were DELICIOUS! The outside was crispy and greasy (but not in a bad way...haha), and inside was delicious risotto and a bit of stringy pecorino...yum. The risotto balls were served over a bit of marinara sauce, which was delicious and complimented the risotto balls nicely.
For our third appetizer, we got the Calamari with Arugula and Lemon Confit. This, Dear Reader, was probably the very best grilled calamari I've ever had! The calamari was perfectly cooked, it had some sort of seasoning on it to give it a bit of heat, and it went spectacularly with the peppery arugula. I think this dish had crack in it. It was that good.
After recovering from the awesome calamari, it was time for our main dish. We ordered the Short Ribs with Caramelized Onions and Local Beets. Once again, this was an INCREDIBLE dish! The meat was tender and so flavorful, and its intensity played off the sweetness and freshness of the beets and the onions. There was also freshly grated horseradish root on the top, which, while I would have preferred for it to have a bit more heat, it had a lovely flavor. I just can't get over how good this was! I want it right now!
Then it was time to order dessert and coffee. We ordered the Brown Sugar Cake with Cinnamon Ice Cream. This was delicious - the cake was sweet but not too sweet, and the best part was the cinnamon ice cream. The chef was clever here - he put the ice cream on a bed of cake crumbs so it wouldn't melt into a big mess and roll around the plate - smart!
There is one last thing to discuss: the fact that it says "Happy Birthday" on the dessert plate. This is a mystery to both me and Lauren to this day since neither of us have a birthday coming up, and neither of us EVER said anything to our waiter about a birthday...hmmm. The waiter even came up to me and said quietly, "Happy Birthday." Um, what?! He was a weird waiter, and if I had to criticize anything about this experience it would definitely be the service. He had a bit of an attitude but was trying to be funny about it, which was in actuality not funny at all. Ah well, I would definitely go back and try to get a different waiter!
It was another great meal with Lauren in NYC, and I am so glad I got to visit her finally! I love you, Lauren! Thank you for everything!