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Week in Reviews: Two Stars for Craftsteak, One for Craftbar

Kalina, 5/17/06

1) In this week's edition of the Frank Bruni takes Manhattan, the Times chief critic is at Craftsteak and Craftbar, venues he deems worthy of two and one star, respectively. Bruni's treatment of 'Steak is as expected: Tom Colicchio has gotten his act back on track and so an upgrade, from it's ten-month-old one star rating, is in order. At Craftbar, the edges remain rough, following a 2005 relocation:

Craftbar, which opened in early 2002, has moved even further from its origins than Craftsteak, having traded its nest alongside Craft for greater independence a few blocks away. The relocation in mid-2005 gave Craftbar more room: about 175 seats, including those in a private dining room, versus just 70 or so before.

But it took away some of the restaurant’s soul. The stark space it now inhabits has a grim industrial feel that works against the intended coziness of the predominantly Mediterranean cuisine: fried oysters with a celery root rémoulade; sweetbreads in a lemon and tuna sauce; bruschetta with fontina and hon shimeji mushrooms; bucatini with pancetta and an oozing egg; hanger steak with buttery puréed potatoes.

The Bruni's roadmap at Craftbar: "play things safe by sticking with cheeses, charcuterie, salads and finger-friendly snacks (except for the generic risotto balls) while you wait for Mr. Colicchio to patch some of the holes." [NYT]

2) This week, Alan Richman visits Jeffrey Chodorow's newest restaurant, Wild Salmon, which gets a he'd-return-for-lunch-or-apps rating. He also suggests the Bruni give it one star. But, what of the salmon?

Mostly, though, the restaurant is about salmon. You will learn a lot. The king salmon is creamy, fatty and luscious -- well worth the extra cost. The sockeye is reasonably flavorful, the coho boring...The question is whether we care enough about salmon to want so much of it. Goodness knows, there's enough around already. A friend who eats no meat said to me, "Too often I eat what I call penitential salmon -- it's on the wedding dinner menu or served as an option on the Caesar salad. I'm not sure we've developed a taste for the uber-salmon, the way we have for steak."
Special Richman bonus tidbit: the flatbread is fabulous. [Bloomberg]

3) The Robs' Underground Gourmet goes to Resto and deems it the best Belgian food in the city and four-stars-good.

With an American owner and chef and a refined Manhattan approach to food, Resto is Belgian in the same way that Momofuku Noodle Bar is Japanese or the Spotted Pig is English—which is to say, not slavishly but interpretively. And like those two restaurants, Resto achieves that rarest of combinations: expectations- exceeding, thoughtfully executed food in the sort of unpretentious surroundings that define the best kind of neighborhood restaurant.
Note: Resto, in short, is a meat-eater’s paradise...Vegetarians will find it rough going. [NYM]

Elsewhere, Dining Briefs has Spotlight Live and Pio Pio Salon, Paul Adams at the lounge-like UESer Azza, Randall Lane has four of six for Gilt, Robert Sietsema on Frederick Douglas Blvd. at Zoma, Strong feeling 'great' at 15 East, The Amateur Gourmet bored at Stand and Chowmaster brunching at Telepan.