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Craftbar – Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio shouldn’t pack his knives and go

Damn those reality cooking shows.  Must they be so shamefully addictive.

I know I’m not alone in my obsession with cooking shows, but that doesn’t make it right.  I could be reading or playing tennis or volunteering my time to a needy cause, but no, I’m sitting on the couch, glued to the TV, wondering what on earth they’re going to make with Twinkies and durian fruit that will be good enough to serve Wolfgang Puck.  They’ve got their hooks in me and aren’t letting go anytime soon.    

Chefs seem to make great reality TV hosts.  They can be outspoken and blunt at times.  They’re opinionated and dedicated to their craft.  There’s something captivating about watching such passion.  Now, whether all this emotion is real or not is another thing altogether, but in the case of at least one celebrity chef I tend to believe his genuineness.  Tom Colicchio seems to be the real deal. 

When Nick and I visited CraftBar, one of Tom’s New York restaurants, part of me wanted to find something wrong with the meal.  Tom Colicchio is handing out sometimes cutting criticism weekly on Top Chef and a small part of me wanted to find some fault with his establishment.  Spoiler alert…I didn’t find much to complain about.CraftBar Tongue

The food was pretty reasonably priced for being such a big name establishment, and it’s a nice alternative to Tom’s big boy restaurant Craft.  It’s a great place to grab a bite or share some small plates before a show.  We went before a show at the Gramercy Theatre.

The food was honest and straight forward.  The drinks were a little overpriced.  Tom, who are you trying to fool by charging that much for a Lion’s Head?  That stuff is cheaper than PBR in some areas of the country.  And the cocktails were yummy but a bit pricey at around $10-$12 a pop.  Luckily there were a few nice $6 glasses of wine on the menu, in addition of course to the $100 plus bottles, that made for enjoyable and affordable sipping.

The charcuterie and cheese selection is good.  We had a tongue charcuterie plate (priced in the low teens) that was to die for.  It almost tasted like pastrami but with a delicate, melt in your mouth consistency.  There were some fried onion rings for texture and mustard and chutney for some acidic tang and sweetness.  Right now the menu has a smoked pig’s head terrine that looks bitchin’. 

There are a bunch of smaller plates all priced in the low to mid teens with some standouts like duck and heart dumplings and marinated Montauk squid. 

The large plates are all pretty hearty, soulful dishes.  I had the cassoulet which I don’t currently see on the menu.  Perhaps it was a winter dish.  It was flawless and overflowing with duck legs.  I don’t see the hubby’s fish on the menu either, which is a good thing as it means they rotate the menu often.  His fish had an almost cracker like crust on the outside and was perfectly cooked.  It was served with a root puree and roasted brussel sprouts. Both were priced in the mid 20’s.

Perhaps this isn’t a standout destination for someone looking for a wow-worthy celebrity chef dinner, but it is an approachable and affordable place to have some drinks and very well crafted food in NYC.  So I guess, Tom, you don’t have to pack your knives and go.  

Service was flawless.  There’s ample seating.  They take reservations but you might not need them with a dining room of this size. 

It’s in a great location in the Flatiron.  Make a night of it and go to Beecher’s first to stock up on some homemade cheese (on the same block), then have dinner at Craft and grab a post dinner drink at No Idea bar all on the same block.  They serve BIG and CHEAP drinks.    

P.S. Forgive my lack of pictures…this was the only good one.

Craftbar on Urbanspoon

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