I have eaten a lot of meals in a lot of restaurants and I truly feel that the service can greatly add to or take away from the overall experience. In my post about newcomer Ciano, I noted that the food was exceptional, but the service was bad (even though, I do realize, it was opening night.) It's no secret to anyone who knows me that Tom Coliccho is my all-time favorite chef, so for my 26th birthday Patrick took me to Craft, Collich's (my nickname for him because obviously, we're buds) spot on 19th & Park. I have been wanting to try this place for awhile, so off we went.
Upon opening the (very heavy) door into the gorgeous space, we checked in for our table and headed to the bar for drinks. I had the American Beauty (apple-infused tito’s vodka, apple schnapps, laird’s applejack, cinnamon syrup, tobacco bitters) and Patrick had the Bee Sting (maker’s mark, fresh ginger, cardamom-honey syrup, regan’s orange bitters). Both drinks were delicious, and then the bartender told us the drinks had been taken care of for my birthday by Patrick's family. Thank you again Ms. Patty & Mr. George!
We were shown to a lovely table near the bar, and we opened our menus to begin making our selections. That was when I started to notice how every single small detail was taken care of by the staff. When I dropped my knife on the ground (klutz!) the hostess was at my side immediately with a new one. When I got up to use the bathroom, a waiter walked me there and someone folded my napkin while I was gone. My water glass was NEVER empty (and we all know how I am about that!) And the service only got better as the night went on.
For our appetizer, we decided to share the Ricotta Cavatelli & Guanciale.When it came out, I was delighted to find a cooked egg in the middle of the plate. We immediately broke the yolk and let the delicious yellow liquid invade every part of the bowl. When I took a bite, the flavor was that of the most perfect bacon, egg & cheese I had ever tasted. I practically licked the plate clean.
For the main courses Patrick chose the special of the evening, the Suckling Pig Platter and I chose the Nantucket Bay ScallopsThe Suckling Pig was juicy and full of flavor with the Crispy Pork Belly as the succulent star, while the Diver Scallops were the perfect combination of tender & sweet. I have had a lot of tough & stringy Bay Scallops, so I was impressed by how good these were. After doing some research after dinner, I learned that Bay Scallops are no more tough than Sea Scallops, it's 100% about how they are cooked. So, Mr. Colicchio certainly triumphed with this dish.
Our sides were Duck Risotto, Brussels Sprouts & Hen of the Woods Mushrooms.The Risotto was packed with intense flavor and was full of tender duck meat. I found the consistency to be slightly too glue-y, but otherwise it was a perfect dish. The Brussels Sprouts had little pieces of bacon heaven scattered throughout the plate for a delightful crunchy surprise, and the mushrooms were earthy and rich. These sides perfectly accompanied the main courses, and we were happy campers.
The excellent service continued throughout the entire meal. Our waiter asked if we'd like to sit with our wine before bringing out our cappuccinos, not rushing us at all. They didn't miss a beat. This elevated our experience from great to extraordinary, and put Craft close to the top of my own personal Best Restaurants list. The waiter then brought out a little birthday treat that was the perfect end to the meal: Hazelnut Meringues.When we were done, Patrick paid (thanks again!) and we went to fetch our coats. As if the service hadn't already been stellar, the hostess struck up a friendly conversation with us while we waited and wanted to know how our experience had been. Because I (obviously) love to talk about food & restaurants, we chatted for awhile, and then she handed us both our perfect parting gifts: Two Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins wrapped in cellophane. Seriously?! A GOOD-BYE MUFFIN?! I had died and gone to heaven.
What other restaurants have outstanding service? How do you think it contributes to the overall experience? Let me know your thoughts, I'm now addicted to great service!
-The Fabulous Foodie