Friday, February 20, 2009

Skill at Craft

Today I ventured into the latest celebrity restaurant in Atlanta: Craft by Tom Colicchio. Initially it appeared the restaurant was closed. The (seemingly) front door was locked and it appeared dark inside until one pressed against the glass. The door is behind the building, away from Peachtree Street.
Upon entering we were promptly and cheerfully greeted and shown to our table. I could not help but gaze lovingly at the flames licking out of the wood fired grill as I walked past stacks and stacks of wood. Oooh...I must get something from the grill, I thought. The rest of the restaurant is modernly appointed and invitingly open.
The menu is broken down into two sections: First courses and main courses. The first courses are small plates and salads. The first course prices range from $10 for red mustard greens with bacon lardon, apple & humbolt fog cheese or a mixed lettuce salad with goat cheddar & hazelnuts to $15 for a smoked trout salad with confit fingerling potato, watercress & smithfield ham or a cobb salad.
The main course menu ranges from a low of $13 for a meatball panini with ricotta salata & pickled peppers to $24 for a pork chop, Harris Ranch strip steak or escolar. We decided to split a few small plates. The pork belly was meltingly delicious with great caramelization outside and garnished with a yogurt sauce, pickles and radishes. The combination was wonderful, the acidity of the pickles and radishes cutting through the fat of the belly. The yogurt was creamy rounding and rounded out the flavors.
The wood grill beckoned me to order two grilled dishes: Grilled oysters with herb butter and bread crumbs and the grilled quail with turnips, apple and smoked bacon. The oysters were small, more roasted than grilled, and sitting atop a bed of rock salt in a cast iron pan. The quail tasted of the wood grill and was seasoned perfectly. Little bites of crispy bacon were smoky, salty and all around yummy proving what I have said for a long time “all things are better with pork”. The other plate was the salad with hazelnuts and cheese. It was good, but nothing to write home about.
The main thing that was going through my head was “there is skill here”. The only downside is probably the price. Four small plates and only water to drink came to $60 with tax and tip. I am not sure what you can do to a meatball Panini to make it a $13 sandwich which is half the size of a regular meatball grinder that can be had for a few bucks less. The salad was smallish, and pork belly is a damn cheap cut. A single quail for $13 and five oysters for $12 are not prices that many people can afford with great regularity, especially in this economy. The cost into the plate is minimal so you will pay for the skill, which is definitely present, and the Buckhead address, which is definitely expensive. These are not criticisms, simply facts of a chef driven restaurant with a prestigious address. With that being said, Craftbar is worth the trip, just don’t think you will be bargain hunting.


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