Tonight I had dinner at Craft, Tom Colicchio's Los Angeles restaurant, on someone else's dime. Whoohoo! At work, one of my primary responsibilities is managing the relationship with our vendor. They're in town for a meeting and took us out to a nice dinner (as usual), and they asked me for suggestions. Since I've been dying to go to Craft, guess what topped my recommendation list? The unfortunate thing is, the vendor has been having some financial troubles and recently had to lay off a bunch of people. I knew that irrespective, they would take us out somewhere fancy-schmancy, but I did joke that we could take out Apple Pan at my house to save a few bucks.
Anyway, I was quite pleased to get to try this awesome restaurant, particularly with a large group. For parties of 9 or more, they do a chef's selection for first courses, side dishes, and dessert, and each person orders his own entree. This meant we got to taste way more good stuff than if we just ordered our own dishes.
What a feast! You do not go away hungry from this place. In fact, it's pretty over-indulgent, but I'm not complaining. I'm not sure I will even remember all the dishes we tried. We started with an amuse bouche of smoked trout over potato salad with micro-celery (does that mean miniature stalks?). It was smoky and salty in the way nova is, and the perfect tiny bite.
Next up, first courses: Spinach salad, lightly dressed, with crunchy onions and thick, inchlong slabs of bacon. Fried octopus with some kind of sauce I never tasted (but the octopus was tender and great). Sweet potato mezzaluna with homemade pasta, sage, and slightly spiced, toasted pecans. A red and yellow beet salad with gorgonzola. I think there was one more, but I can't picture it. At least three of the appetizers had bacon or pork in them, because everything's better with bacon!
My entree was diver sea scallops in brown butter. In fact, the primary sauce was wine-based, and the brown butter appeared just around the edges of the dish with some toasted almonds. The scallops were perfectly cooked, nicely seared, and well-seasoned. I was happy to have a lighter main dish because I was tasting so many other things. I had a bite of my colleague's venison, but I am not a huge red meat eater, and it was pretty gamey for me. Side dishes included breaded and roasted brussel sprouts, roasted mushrooms (which I did not taste), steamed broccolini, and creamy scalloped potatoes, sliced so thinly they were bendable.
After dinner was a dessert amuse bouche. A shot glass, with a three-inch straw, of pomegranate soda with a perfect, round blob of cranberry sorbet. Really refreshing, and the tart sorbet contrasted nicely with the sweet soda.
Then came dessert. Pear tart with a side of bright red pear sorbet (my least favorite). Warm, just-made deconstructed jelly doughnuts with Creme Anglaise, jelly, and some kind of special chocolate pudding, the name of which I didn't catch. A trio of perfectly scooped huckleberry ice cream, strawberry sorbet, and lemon sorbet with chocolate shortbread on the side. And a peanut butter cup with caramel ice cream, bits of candy (peanut brittle?) and a caramel sauce. So good.
But wait! There's more. As we were rounding up to pay the check, they appeared with a tray of petit four-sized vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting and teeny tiny macarons. Here's where my palate really failed me (maybe because I had both tastes together), but it was either a salty caramel or an almond-flavored macaron. You definitely got the salt taste on your tongue, which was nice against the sweet. I am just starting to appreciate that contrast more.
And, as we walked out the door, they handed us a take-home packet with a fresh cranberry muffin for breakfast.
The appearance of each dish was almost as good as the taste. There were lots of Top Chef-esque presentations, several deconstructed items, and a lot of descriptions that took longer to say than the dish did to eat. It's a little pretentious, but in a "hey, food is cool and I care about how it looks" kind of way. Plus, I am a total Top Chef junkie, so I didn't mind. I know Craft prides itself on using local, and - particularly - seasonal, foods. So the fun of it is that if you go back throughout the year, you're virtually guaranteed a different experience each time. I don't suppose I could wear elastic-waisted pants next time?