Monday, January 28, 2008

Great Views and Great Food

by Xani

The next morning in LA we started on a healthy note, hiking at Runyon Canyon. This STEEP uphill hike provided me with an opportunity to take a couple non-food pictures:

The elusive Hollywood sign!

We worked up quite an appetite on that hike, so afterwards we headed to Toast (which you might remember from EP's visit a while back) and after a short wait we were seated at a table outside. I ordered the Shakshuka, described as "exotic breakfast treat of a slow roasted tomato, peppers and garlic stew, topped with over medium eggs - delicious! Served with toast." And indeed it was all of those things. It also came with a delicious fresh fruit cup. Jenny got her usual egg white scramblette.

Shakshuka

There is certainly something to be said for eating outdoors! We had a lovely relaxing breakfast which allowed us to regain our strength and spend the next 5 hours shopping!

Later that evening, after all the shopping, a snack at Pinkberry, and a celebrity sighting (Bob Saget at the nail salon!), we went to meet Jenny's friend Remy at Craft Los Angeles. I was super-excited about this meal. Ever since EP went to Craftbar in NYC, I have been eager to go to a Tom Colicchio restaurant. And (spoiler alert!) it did NOT disappoint!

We ordered champagne cocktails at the bar before being seated at our cozy table. One thing I really liked about Craft was the atmosphere-- upscale but very relaxed. The lighting and level of noise were just right (well, lighting was just right for dining, not so much for picture-taking). The service was friendly and extremely competent. And the food... well, let's get started!

First, the amuse-bouche. This was a little bite of fresh, raw ahi tuna, a bit of yuzu (Japanese citrus), a spring of cilantro, and a few grains of crunchy fried rice. Certainly the perfect bite to start off the meal: savory, sour, crunchy, and absolutely delicious.

Jenny and Remy were kind enough to allow me to order for the table (thanks ladies!). It was a very tough job because the menu is extensive, and there are so many delicious-sounding things! I finally made my choices, got their approval on a couple of "unusual" picks and off we went. For the first course we ordered raw Japanese Hamachi & apple cider, roasted Peruvian octopus & Greek yoghurt, and roasted pork belly & Madras curry.

Himachi

Terrible picture of octopus dish

Heavenly pork belly

All three dishes were very, very good. The himachi was really fresh, buttery and delicious. The apple cider flavor was delivered in little blocks of jello-like substance on top of the fish, and the sweet/sour flavor was a great compliment to the fish, along with the crunchy vegetable shreds and black sesame seed garnish. The octopus was tasty and well cooked, but was the weakest dish of the course. There was not enough of the Greek yoghurt sauce to go around, then the octopus on its own did not have quite enough flavor. I will say that it was extremely tender, unlike octopus I have had in the past (which was much like chewing on big chunks of rubber-- and that's being generous!).

The big winner of the course (and perhaps the whole meal) was the pork belly. Just WOW. So rich, so flavorful, so crispy and fatty and great. The curry flavor was very subtle. I could eat this dish every day and am currently scouring the Internet for similar recipes. My main concern is how to get the inside so soft and tender (braising?) but then get the outside to be perfectly crunchy... Chef Colicchio, if you are reading this, I must know your secret!!!

For the next course I ordered the roasted Niman Ranch flatiron steak, Brussels sprouts and smoked bacon, and braised leek and duck confit risotto. Again, no major disappointments:

I was dying at the cuteness of this little copper pot that they served the risotto in!

First off the steak: I have had a lot of steaks in my life and I have to say this was one of the most flavorful, well-cooked steaks I have had in a long time. I mistakenly believed that a Flat Iron steak was similar to a flank steak, but this article proved to be very enlightening. It was really, really good. Even though it was a small portion (with a hefty price tag!) it was so rich and flavorful that, along with the side dishes, it was plenty of food. The Brussels sprouts were perfectly cooked and deliciously bacon-y, and the risotto was pretty good. I didn't feel it was as good as others I have had, at restaurants or even cooked at home-- the texture was a little off. The pieces of duck confit perched on top were outstanding, however.

Finally we had had our fill of delicious, savory dishes, and it was time to move on to dessert! We were presented with a cute little dessert amuse, which I think was a lavender panna cotta with some kind of foam on top. I don't really love panna cotta so this didn't quite work for me. But luckily, Craft has an extensive dessert menu as well, including almost twenty flavors of sorbets, gelatos and ice creams. We ordered a sampler of 4 flavors: Madagascar vanilla ice cream, olive oil gelato, thyme sorbet and MAPLE BACON ice cream! I managed to get bacon into all three courses-- mission accomplished!

I used the tiny spoon that came with the amuse to eat the rest of my dessert!

All the flavors were very good. The vanilla was the most vanilla-y ice cream I have ever had. It was like a whole vanilla experience when you brought the spoon up to your mouth-- SO aromatic, so flavorful. A good pick by Jenny even though I originally thought it was boring! The olive oil gelato was tasty, but had a very mild flavor and was not as good as the one we tried at Pizza Mozza last time I was in LA. The thyme sorbet was soooo good. Just light and refreshing and packed with lemon-y, herbaceous flavors. The first thing I thought of when I tasted it was that it would make an excellent palate-cleanser between courses at a fancy meal. Then I thought it would probably be killer as a cocktail mixer-- a little scoop topped off with champagne (like a ice cream float, but a billion times better!), used instead of mint and sugar syrup for a thyme mojito, etc. Next time I have leftover thyme I will strongly consider turning it into sorbet, especially when summer rolls around!

Finally, the maple bacon ice cream. I have heard rumors of its existence, but I was thrilled to be able to actually try it at Craft! The maple ice cream was awesome-- very rich and sweet, maybe sweeter than you would want a normal ice cream to be, but the sweetness was perfectly set off by the salty, smoky bits of bacon! This is a genius dish. If I were to make one complaint, or adjust the recipe to make at home, it would be regarding the size/preparation of the bacon pieces. The pieces were about the size of lardons, fairly small cubes of crispy bacon. They could have been smaller and crispier. They were about pea-sized and I think about half that size (or smaller? we are getting into "bacon-bit" territory here now) would have been even better.

It seems now the meal would be over but no! Next came macarons (I tried these last time I was in LA-- I am so ahead of the food curve):

and THEN, a final little treat and what I thought was an adorable little touch by Craft, a little coffee cake from the bakery to take home for breakfast or a midnight snack!

Jenny and I display our gifts

I ended up giving mine to Jenny's husband Andy b/c I was so full I didn't think I could ever eat again, and also I don't like coffee cake that much-- too crumbly.

So, overall this meal was AWESOME. One of the best I have had in a while. I would definitely go back to Craft (except there are five hundred OTHER restaurants I want to try in LA!) and order some of their less mainstream dishes (sardines, sweetbreads, oxtails, pork cheeks, etc). I would, without hesitation, get the pork belly again. I suggest if you are anywhere near Craft LA, you do the same!

X

5 comments:

  1. So, just two things to say (other than I would love to eat at Craft):

    --I love Shakshuka immensely. I make a point of going to this tiny place Dr. Shakshuka every time I'm in Tel Aviv and it is the stuff. I have been making the good Dr.'s recipe for some time now and it always goes down smooth.

    --You don't really braise the pork belly as much as you confit it. To produce the result you speak of, you would braise it in, among other things, fat, thus reminiscent of confit. Then at serving, brown the outside in a pan with duckfat...yummmmm!

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  2. Okay, in six months, for my birthday cocktail, will you make me a thyme sorbet mojito/champagne cocktail/float??

    What a delicious trip you had! Next time we're in LA together, you bet your bippy we're getting some pork cheeks and sweetbreads!

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  3. interesting the way these high-end restos follow a similar curve these days. They all start with an amuse, then you have starter, maybe pallate cleanser, main, desert, random little sweet thrown in before or after, and the doggy bag. Every fancy resto I've eaten at gives me the take-away for the day after though I've usually eaten so much the thought of yet more food is beyond conception.

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  4. I'm with Erin. The thyme sorbet/champagne cocktail/float is a must try. Too bad (for me) it is not passover friendly! Also- bacon for 3 courses? BRAVO!

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  5. So glad you were able to hike in LA and it's didn't look too smoggy either! Glad we found your blog through ????'s blogroll. Don't remember. Anyway, your blog is so much fun.

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