Manhattan Meals

April 9, 2012

Last week my wife and I spent a few days in Manhattan. Just a few thoughts: I finally got around to the Tom Colicchio flagship Craft on 19th between Broadway and Park. Someone told me he thought the interiors were a bit dated, and I agree, though luckily the food was not. The lamb loin was perfectly roasted to medium rare, although the more memorable dish was the pork trotter and farm egg appetizer. Beautifully molded with the fried egg on top, the meat was itself tender and succulent. Incidentally, it wasn’t that hard to figure out the menu—when I recently interviewed Colicchio, he explained how his menu concept evolved:

When we opened Craft in New York, and the way the menu was set up, people were freaked out. They couldn’t figure it out. It took a long while before people were comfortable with the idea of ordering a protein, ordering sides. Okay? So now we bring it to Las Vegas, we put a steakhouse moniker around it, and people are like, “Okay, I’ll order my steak, I’ll order my sides.”… It made perfect sense. So I should’ve made it a steakhouse from the beginning. Or called it a steakhouse. But my point is that as much as a lot of chefs would like to say “This why I do things,” so much of it happens by chance. It really does, just trial and error. You walk through the kitchen one day, and you’re sitting there snacking on something that was cut, and all of a sudden you put it on something else and “Oh wow, that works really good together, I like that, let’s work on this.”

Next day’s lunch was at Seäsonal, a tiny midtown Austrian establishment that serves Tafelspitz (sadly not for lunch anymore) and a Wiener Schnitzel lightly breaded to golden perfection. Founding chefs Edi Frauneder and Wolfgang Ban also have a less formal Heuriger in the East Village called Edi & the Wolf. That night’s dinner was at Boulud Sud, Daniel Boulud’s tribute to Mediterranean cuisine (around the corner from his bustling épicerie and Bar Boulud). Again, though the halibut main course was rich in flavorful and delicate, the Harira soup, with its spiced lamb, lentils, chickpeas, and vermicilli, was outstanding. Prior to boarding our bus at Port Authority we stopped in at the Papaya King on 86th for two hot dogs with sauerkraut and curly fries. I could have easily had four (the actual wieners are not that big—that’s what she said).

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