Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Delicious Food, Quirky Service at Craftbar

Let’s be completely honest here for a second: Sundays stink. Not only are they the end of the weekend and the gateway to the most awful day of the week, but usually I’m tired from going out Saturday night (my own fault, I realize) and bummed out that I have another 5 days of work until my next weekend. Due to these facts, Patrick and I decided that we would no longer dread Sundays, but instead we would start a tradition of Sunday Night Dinners where we’d have an awesome dinner to look forward to on Sunday nights.

Last weekend we decided to kick off this new tradition with a dinner at Tom Colicchio’s CraftBar. (PHOTO CREDIT: Blonde in the Kitchen)

It’s no secret that I’m a big time Colicchio fan, and I’ve been wanting to try this more casual version of Craft, the restaurant that Patrick took me to for my 26th birthday dinner. We made a reservation and walked downtown in the warm Sunday summer air.

When we walked into the restaurant, it was almost completely empty. This sometimes turns me off, but on a random Sunday night at 6pm in the summer I expect many restaurants to be empty. We were shown to our table and our waiter came over almost immediately. This is where things got really interesting. Our waiter was nothing short of hilarious. With an incredibly dry sense of humor and a strong opinion on what we should eat and drink, he provided constant entertainment throughout the entire meal. For diners as open-minded as us, he hit the jackpot. I could imagine anyone with less of a sense of humor or pickier eating habits being completely turned off by his personality, but not us. We were delighted.

When I told him I wanted a white similar to Sauvignon Blanc but something new, he recommended the Pinot Blanc instead. It was dry, crisp, cold and mild—exactly how I prefer my white wine. It was also several dollars cheaper per glass than the Sauv Blanc, so I gave him silent points for not recommending something pricier. When we told him we were ready to order, he let us know that he’d be right back to tell us about what else they were offering, exclaiming that he was certain we’d need to hear these menu additions. And again, he was right.

The entrée special for the evening was Berkshire pork for two. Our favorite! He described that the pork was prepared three ways, and while I again can’t recall everything he said, all I really remember are the use of phrases like “succulent,” “fall off the bone” and “you won’t be sorry.” We ordered this dish immediately for dinner. Our hilarious waiter assured me that I would be so happy with the pork dish that I’d have to resist the urge to hug him, but that he’d settle for an enthusiastic high-five.

Patrick and I decided to start the meal off by sharing the Fried Pacific Oysters with Pickled Cucumber and Old Bay Aïoli. Ever since the fried oysters we had at Beauty & Essex, I’ve been craving them. This version definitely didn’t disappoint.Enormous, flavorful oysters were lightly dusted with a crispy coating that had a really great spice to it. There were four oysters in the order, and even half the order was plenty for me given the size of the mollusks.

The next thing we shared was the Duck Rillette Bruschetta with Fried Duck Egg, Mizuna and Orange Aïoli.This dish consisted of some very tender duck meat (Rillettes is a preparation of meat similar to pate. The meat is cubed or chopped, salted heavily and cooked slowly in fat until it is tender enough to be easily shredded, and then cooled with enough of the fat to form a paste. Thanks Wikipedia!) While the meat on this dish was a bit salty, I didn’t find it to be too overwhelming and I actually quite enjoyed it. The fried duck egg introduced a nice texture to the dish but I found the aioli to be rather unremarkable. Overall, though, I definitely enjoyed the it.

As the courses came out of the kitchen and our waiter made frequent visits to our table, he continued to strike up witty banter with us. While the restaurant was empty when we got there and he admitted he was excited we were there so he’d have someone to talk to, people did begin to pour into the restaurant and soon it was quite busy. Regardless of the other patrons, our waiter supplied superb service all night. I noticed that he saw our water glasses were near empty from afar, and I saw him subtly nod to a support person who immediately ran to our table with a pitcher of water. We truly enjoyed his style.

Finally, the pork dish came out. It was a gigantic skillet that was filled to the brim with green vegetables and pork galore.There were pork cheeks braised in red wine and a hearty helping of pork trotters (pig’s feet) that were lightly fried. I can’t recall the third preparation but I remember the meat being tender and very yummy. To top the whole thing off, there were several pork rinds in there because, well, why not?! We really enjoyed the pork for two, even with the $70+ price tag, but since the dish was plenty of food for the two of us the price wasn’t too crazy. In the end, I did high-five the waiter.

We ordered coffees but skipped dessert, as per usual, and left Craftbar with a very positive feeling about the experience. Our waiter, although very unusual, was knowledgeable, friendly and quite funny. I hope he uses good judgment when laying his charm on patrons and holds back his over-the-top sense of humor if he can tell it won’t be well-received. Patrick and I were very entertained.

What are your thoughts on quirky service? Would you prefer a waitperson remain strictly professional at all times? Or are you okay with a little comedy show to accompany your meal? Let me know, I’d love to hear what you think

Let’s Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

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