Thursday, February 3, 2011


This week, my lunch date and I stopped by Tom Colicchio's Craftbar. The more casual relative of Craft, Crafbar offers the same high-quality, seasonal food in a less formal setting. Located in the Flatiron District, and just down the street from Eleven Madison Park, Chelsea and I met to take advantage of Craftbar's Restaurant Week lunch menu.

The Flatiron Building

The space is open, with a long, dark wood bar down one side, and a balcony that leads to what looks like wine storage. Although there were cozy booths lining one side of the room, we were seated at a small two-top sort of in the middle. I feared this would mean there would be a lot of foot traffic around us, but the restaurant was only moderately crowded, and I felt comfortable where we were. Upon sitting, we were brought rosemary and herb breadsticks in a small silver bucket which while seasoned liberally, were a little hard on my teeth. I had to use a considerable amount of force to break one in half and crunched on it without much grace. The casual and somewhat nostalgic vibe of the restaurant was reinforced when my requested Diet Coke was served in an adorable glass Coke bottle and poured over ice, tableside.

Photo courtesy of

Unlike DBGB, Craftbar was only offering their Restaurant Week menu rather than their full lunch menu, but their pre fixe menu provided plenty of choices, many more than other restaurants'. Typically on a pre fixe menu, especially those during restaurant week, restaurants offer three courses, with three choices for each; however, Craftbar boasted ten choices for their first course, nine for their second, and four for dessert, including one cheese selection (why does dessert always get the shaft?).
With so many options, it was tough to choose just one for each course. I previewed the menu online ahead of time, so I had already narrowed my options. During restaurant week, I tend to try to take advantage of the deal I'm getting, so I order more food than I normally would. For example, I knew I wanted to try one of their irresistible-sounding paninis as my main course (it was lunch, after all), so typically I would have ordered a salad to start. But frankly, ordering a salad wouldn't have gotten me my money's worth, and although I've had some really delicious salads lately, there's always a risk that they'll be sort of boring or flat, and not really worth the space they take up in my stomach. After some relatively swift deliberation, Chelsea and I both decided on the Pecorino-Stuffed Risotto Balls for our first course.

Photo courtesy of Flickr
In no time at all, a generous portion of three golf-ball sized Risotto Balls were set in front of me. Garnished with freshly grated Parmesan and flat-leaf parsley, and settled atop a small pool of marinara sauce, the risotto balls looked and smelled inviting. I took a big bite, learning that a) they were very hot, but b) my slightly singed tongue was not in vain. The risotto was cooked perfectly so it was not too soft, and the outside fried breading was crisp, but thin. The pecorino appeared as a small lump in the middle of the ball, but it was easy enough to get a little bit of cheese in every bite, not to mention that the risotto was creamy enough on it's own. The portion was very large (I didn't finish all 3), and the accompanying sauce was, in my opinion, disproportionate. It added the essential acidic note to cut through the richness of the dish, and by ball #2, I was pretty much out.

 Another beautiful building in the Flatiron District. And the bottom floor's for rent!

For the second course, the menu was stacked with comfort food classics; Braised Chicken and potato puree, Spaghetti and Veal Meatballs, Linguine with Mussels, Braised Pork Belly, just to name a few. Chelsea's mostly vegetarian, and though she toyed with the idea of being adventurous and ordering the skate wing, she ultimately went with the Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragout. I had a tough choice to make too. I love sandwiches. I think they are the perfect lunch and when I packed lunch for myself, that's what I brought everyday. So Craftbar made it really hard on me by offering three enticing paninis. The first was a vegetarian option: Mozarella, Piquillo Pepper, and Sweet onions. Nice, but I wasn't sold. The second was a Chicken Milanese panini with cheddar, roasted tomato, and arugula. Tempting, but I would have nixed the roasted tomato, and when I'm dining out, I try not to order chicken since that's mostly what I eat at home. And then there was the third option: Corned Beef with Choucroute (similar to sauerkraut), and French Raclette (cheese!). On second thought, maybe it wasn't such a hard decision.

As you can see, I had a hard time resisting a few bites before I could take a picture

This sandwich was...I'm not even sure there is a word. The bread was perfect; crusty on the outside but nice and soft on the inside so as not to tear at the roof of my mouth. The corned beef was so tender that even though there was a generous amount on the sandwich, I had no problem getting my teeth through it. It was flavorful but not overpowering, simply delicious. The choucroute was nice and crunchy, although I could have done with just a tad more, and the cheese, although creamy and relatively mild, was a bit detracting. I did enjoy it, but I would have been just as happy without it. A small pot of Russian Dressing was served on the side, which I generously slathered onto the sandwich as well for just a little bit of tartness. The small salad on the side was composed of pickle slices, radishes, and some peppers. I only sampled the pickles, which I suspect are prepared in-house, but I enjoyed them so much more than I thought I would. They were a little sweet but garlicky, which I loved, and typically I really hate sweet pickles. 

Although I desperately wanted to finish every last bite of this sandwich, my appetizer had been pretty filling, and I knew I still had dessert to conquer. So as much as it pained me, I left a few morsels on the plate, which I'm still regretting now. I also regret not getting a picture of Chelsea's polenta, which she raved about, which would have been unnecessary had you simply seen her spotlessly clean plate when she was finished. I did notice that she finished her dish much faster than I finished mine, so I suspect that her portion might have been a little small. Either that, or I was enjoying my sandwich so much I didn't realize just how much I was taking my time savoring it.

What your view would be from the Flatiron Building. Not fair.

Last, but never least, was dessert. Another classic selection of tried and true favorites: Flourless Chocolate Cake, Butterscotch Pot de Creme, and Brown Sugar Cake. Can you guess which one I chose?

If you thought the chocolate cake, you'd be wrong; that was Chelsea's (another good reason to go out to eat with someone else: they order your second choice so you can have a bite!). I ordered the Brown Sugar Cake, since Flourless Chocolate Cake can sometimes be a bit bitter and dense for my sweet tooth. Let's start with the chocolate cake, since you know I took a bite. First, as you can see, the portion was very generous. With such a densely rich dessert, this would be hard to finish by yourself. Also, the proportion of mousse (not ice cream) to cake is a little small. The cake was garnished with caramelized hazelnuts, cocoa nibs, and a little salt, and was very dense and very dark. One bite was plenty for me.

One the other hand, I couldn't get enough of my brown sugar cake. It was just the right size for me, with a sweet crispy crust on the outside, possibly from a sugared cake mold. The cake was sweet with a nice tight, moist crumb, topped off with a thin layer of melted brown sugar (which I suspect was put into the cake mold before it was filled with cake batter). The Vanilla ice cream was fine, although as someone who doesn't love nuts, I was a little disappointed to learn it was anchored by them instead of more cake crumbs, and the poached pear was too hard and a little flavorless, I suspect because it was neither ripe enough nor poached long enough. Although the cake was certainly delicious enough to stand on its own I do wish these other two elements would have been just a little better so they could have highlighted the dessert instead of detracting from it.

As we were leaving to take a quick salivating tour around ABC Home, I noticed a 'Wichcraft just around the corner. Is it wrong that I immediately wanted to go and order a sandwich? Don't worry, it's on the list! As is ABC Kitchen, hopefully for Brunch. How do I say no to Glazed Doughnuts with housemade jam and Cinnamon-raisin scones with apple butter??


  1. Those paninis you mentioned sounded amazing. I really enjoy your reviews. They seem fair and honest, plus you totally order what I would order! Well lets be serious I would have ordered the chicken panini but usually it would be the same.

  2. i'm coming for brunch during my visit to nyc i think. i like the sound of a sandwich that doesn't tear up your mouth!


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