facadeFriday, May 29, 2009 was the first date night that my Fiancé and I had in quite some time.  So the plan was to make it good . . . really good.  (Unfortunately in LA, really good can often come at a price, but we nodded our heads in agreement when we decided upon the perfect place, and easily happened to “overlook” the prices on the tasting menu.)

Our Mission was to eat at Craft, Los Angeles (Tom Colicchio’s restaurant).  It is located snugly and somewhat discretely at 10100 Constellation Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90067. However, it may have only appeared discrete because it is nestled…and somewhat dwarfed between the new Creative Arts Agency building and the Century City Twin Towers. The exterior is a nondescript boxy sort of building that can best be described as a concrete bunker from the street.  The only indication that this stocky cube was our destination was the tiny sign labeling it as such (I definitely needed my glasses).

We dropped the car with the Valet, and agonizingly wasted about 5 minutes out front so we didn’t appear overeager for our culinary experience (this way we were only 10 minutes early).  The atmosphere was somewhat casual with the host and hostess dressed entirely in black and the servers dressed in black pants and vests.  The dining room was warm and inviting with honey colored hardwood floors and sage green upholstery.

Craft, Los Angeles Dining Room

As you can see, it was simple and lovely.  I particularly liked the light fixtures.  They were made to look like hand blown light bulbs from an era long forgotten.  It was absolutely charming. Pictured to the right, you can see our lovely table front and center.

But enough of that.  Let’s get down to brass tacks. . .

I began the evening with a cocktail.  Grapes Three Ways. The first of which way was in the form of  Cîroc vodka and with the help of Wikipedia we learn that “this is an upscale brand of distilled beverage manufactured in France . . . It is distinguished from other vodkas by the fact that it is derived from grapes”.  The second way was in the form of a Riesling, and the third, delicious semi-frozen grapes on a skewer.  This beverage, served in a frosty martini glass, was quite delicious and a great complement to the most delicious bread I have ever eaten!

‘Where does this bread come from?’, you may ask.  My dear friends, it comes from La Brea Bakery.  What was this crispy delight?  It was Anise Bread.  Now I am not a lover of the licorice flavor, but this bread was dynamite!  When we called La Brea Bakery the next day they informed us that you can order this pillowy goodness one day in advance for pick-up.  So after about 2 slices of said bread, we decided to cut off the waiter from bringing us any more.  We had many courses ahead of us and it would have probably been a crime to fill up on the bread (however much we wanted to).

{Amuse Bouches} ‘Mouth Amuser’

AmuseAn amuse-bouche has only become a staple of fine dining quite recently, and it can best be described as a single bite that serves to excite the taste buds and familiarize the patron with the Chef’s style.  Here is a great quote that I found on my trusty online encyclopedia that seems to define an Amuse perfectly:

Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a popular celebrity chef with multiple restaurants around the world who is based in New York City has stated that: “The amuse-bouche is the best way for a great chef to express his big ideas in small bites.”

My thoughts exactly Jean-Georges! And our Amuse Bouches (plural!) at Craft were outstanding!

Our first amuse was a Chilled Asparagus Soup with Mushroom Crème Fresh.  It was served in a small white shot glass-style cup, and it was smooth and silky, indicating that, yes, it had been strained to perfection.  Had I not felt it inappropriate to stick my tongue in the little glass for the few additional drops, I most certainly would have.

Our second amuse was, in the Japanese tradition, a thin slice of raw Hamachi with Cara Cara Orange.  In case you were wondering (and some of you might just  be) Hamachi is young yellowtail.  The Japanese variety has light golden flesh and has a smooth and buttery taste. Admittedly, I was not familiar with the Cara Cara Orange until I moved out here to California about 3 years ago, but with a little taste test and some research I discovered that they are a special variety of juicy, low acid, seedless navels.  They are quite delicious and were a perfect complement to cut through the rich Hamachi.

{First Courses}

Panna Cotta (lit. ‘Cooked Cream’) is an Italian dessert and it is typically served with fresh wild berries or  any number of sweet sauces. So much to my surprise, the first of the first courses was a savory version, Local Sea Urchin and Squash Blossom Panna Cotta. I was more interested than wary  of the dish, and it was actually incredibly refreshing, as I happen to be a huge fan of the briny ocean flavor of sea urchin.  For those of you who have never had sea urchin it has somewhat of a spongy texture, but in a good way.  The fried squash blossom topping added the perfect crunch!

I feel a little silly saying this but the second . . .First Course (or the fourth course for those of you who were counting) was arguably my absolute favorite course of the evening, Soft Shell Crab on toasted Brioche with Tomato Marmalade.  Have you ever had a spider roll?  Well, if you have you will know that the primary protein in said roll is soft shell crab.  You would also know that when you eat soft shell crab it is often fried, and you eat the whole dang thing, soft shell and all.  And boy did I eat the whole dang thing soft shell, garnishes, and all.  Le petit crab was about the size of  the bottom of your standard size coffee mug, and its little crispity legs were outstanding.

The next course was Maine Lobster Ravioli Fava Beans & Black Truffle. I don’t believe I need to say anything more. . .  Just kidding. But, you have to admit it doesn’t really get any more decadent than that.  The dish was comprised of a single freshly made ravioli.  I truly do not think I can put into words the pure glee I felt about this dish, particularly the sauce, which I believe was created from a reduced and thickened stock made from the lobster shells and shaved black truffles (as a side note, the flavor of black truffles is far less pungent and more refined than that of white truffles). I would say that the flavor is quite similar to the smell of a forest just after a spring rain.  How’s that for poetry?

Foie GrasNow I consider myself somewhat of an animal lover. . .especially when it is on my plate and tastes delicious, and that is exactly what our optional  course,  Foie Gras with Sweet Red Onion Reduction was.  Delicious.  We happened to luck out for this particular course, as our server had been out for several weeks and didn’t realize that it had been taken off of the tasting menu when he first suggested it to us.  However, the very accommodating chefs cooked us up some foie gras lovin’ anyway.  A must have for the discriminating diner, should you visit Craft.

{Main Courses}

At craft the Roast Duck with Duck Spring Roll was prepared the way that duck was truly meant to be. Tender, not greasy, with just a sliver of fat around the edge,  The crisp of the spring roll provided that extra special something that put this dish over the top.

Unfortunately in almost every meal there has to be a dish at the bottom of the list of favorites.  The Braised and Roasted Lamb Saddle with Spring and Root Vegetables just so happens to be that dish.  Now, don’t get me wrong it was wonderful, just not quite as spectacular as every single other dish we had that evening.  It was cooked to perfection and quite tasty, so perhaps we’ll just take the “It’s not you it’s me” stance and say it is because I am not the biggest fan of lamb.

Cheese Mouse{Cheese Course}

I have three words to describe this culinary interlude : Divine Divine Divine! The Cheese Course with Candied Nuts and Fresh Fruit was the perfect way to transition the meal from savory to sweet.  Not a single crumb of anything (even cracker dust) was left on that plate.  I loved it so much that I have now firmly decided to have a cheese course at my own wedding!

{Dessert Courses}

The first dessert was an amuse bouche.  It was a delightful, Crème Fresh Panna Cotta with Mulberries and Vanilla Bean.  Have you ever seen a mulberry in person?!?  Well I certainly had no idea that they were long and somewhat phallic.  But despite the Washington Monument in my cup, I thoroughly enjoyed it!  They are incredibly sweet but not quite as tangy as a blackberry.  And, admittedly, it was the perfect complement to the traditional panna cotta that I love so dearly.Long_Mulberry

So I just asked my Fiancé what he thought of the final dessert, the Dark Chocolate Soufflé with Stewed Cherries and Crème Fresh.  He could only reply ‘Oh My God!’.  I will attempt now to further articulate this notion.  It was absolutely fabulous. However, here is the sticking point the “dark chocolate soufflé”, while a classic, seems a bit unoriginal for such an outstanding meal. Honestly, because I have had my fair share of Soufflé, I would have much rather sampled one of the many exotic ice creams and sorbets that Craft has to offer. (i.e. Meyer Lemon, Blood Orange, Sarsaparilla, White Carrot, Bittersweet Chocolate, Maple Bacon, Banana Date, or even Earl Grey).

{Petit Fours} Small Oven’

So, using a little linguistic deduction we can easily determine the first half of this lovely French term ‘Petit’ refers to the size of this dainty little course.   It is typically eaten at the end of a meal where they try to sweeten you up and lull you into a false sense of security before they lay the check on you!  These petit fours were, despite signaling the end of our fabulous meal, quite delicious.  We had dark chocolate biscuits sprinkled with a small amount of salt to bring out the flavor; gleaming little peach gelées that looked like little gems sitting right there on the plate; and finally a teensy weensy little cup of caramel popcorn! Truly a dainty, delicious, delight (say that 10 times fast).

{Une Surprise}

And just as we were about to bid adieu, the element of this meal that truly blew me away arrived at our table along with our check.  We were given two fresh baked Blueberry Muffins for breakfast the next morning.  And, despite being so full that I could hardly breathe that very next morning. . .I ate that muffin. . .and I enjoyed it. . . thoroughly.

craft muffin

So, when it is all said and done I give Craft, Los Angeles an 8.5 out of 10 possible points, and I would highly recommend this restaurant for everyone to try for themselves. A future culinary adventure may be to return to Craft to sample some of that Ice Cream and to take part in a slightly less expensive non-tasting menu that also consists of  haute cuisine, but with ‘unique  family-style service’.

{Till next time: Eat Well, Stay Safe, Be Happy!}

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