Craftbar: Tom Colicchio Can Do No Wrong
It is remarkable that later on in his career and after transitioning to family man, Tom Colicchio shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, along with his celebrity persona, his food is just getting better. Craftbar, the casual sister restaurant to his fine dining flagship Craft, brings Colicchio’s brand of Italian-flecked seasonal American to the epicurean mecca of Flatiron.
The restaurant is big, bustling, and sleek with soaring ceilings, an elevated wine rack cantilevered over the long bar and complete with a spindly industrial-style catwalk, rich brown banquettes, and a plethora of nicely spread-out dark wood tables, all white-tableclothed for a bit of sophistication. The space is large and impressive, but decidedly formulaic. Despite the modern and simple elegance, a sense of intimacy is certainly lacking. It’s as though Colicchio has turned Craftbar into his big box store since moving it into its current and much bigger space.
Perhaps the hardest thing about eating at Craftbar is picking just a few things to eat from the incredibly well-designed menu. Each dish (of the surprisingly abundant array) is tempting and most everything would appeal to even the pickiest of eaters. The menu rotates seasonally, focusing on simple interpretations of Italian-American cuisine made with the best ingredients available. Small plates such as the marinated olives, polenta fritters, and fried oysters harken back to Craftbar’s original small plate format and offer flavor-packed bites for those unwilling to commit to the full-suite of appetizers. The pecorino risotto balls are particularly wonderful, served lightly fried and oozing with spicy salty tomato flavor from the inside out. Appetizers could include everything from a refreshing baby beet, watermelon, burrata and basil salad to the absurdly massive and arguably too sweet duck prosciutto bruschetta with orange puree, a mess of soft-cooked egg, and mizuna. The Spanish octopus starter is more reasonable – a small bowl of tender grilled octopus, chorizo bits, cranberry beans, and cool lemon Greek yogurt.
With close to 20 entree options, there’s something here for everyone, whether its the braised chicken leg with fava beans and tender Bluefoot mushrooms, a corned beef and choucroute panini, fat dayboat scallops with tomato confit and zucchini in an inventive smoked egg vinaigrette, or a tantalizing pasta dish of sweet corn agnolotti, gulf shrimp, and summer truffle. A veal fan? The veal ricotta meatballs are a study in restrained decadence: salty, spicy, meaty; they’re true comfort food, all gussied up. Prepared in an entirely different way, the braised veal breast is perhaps one of the best items offered; it’s perfectly cooked, texturally interesting with the soft meat and slightly crunchy romano beans, and soul-satisfying, served piping hot in a crockpot. Desserts are kept simple, evoking classic Americana with offerings like the vanilla ice cream float, the warm brownie, and a peach & raspberry cobbler with buttermilk sorbet. The ice creams are artisanal, expensive, and worth the money. Creamy and luxurious, opt for a devilish blend of the caramel and toasted almond flavors.
Craftbar is good, very very good. The food strikes a satisfying balance between recognizable comfort food and inventive market-driven casual dining. The extensive menu ensures that every palate will find something it likes, and the flavors are original and complementary without crossing over into funky and bizarre. Sleek and contemporary, the restaurant itself is built for yuppies and suits, the well-dressed and well-moneyed Flatiron crew, those who wear loafers without socks and bow-ties on nights out. For those looking for a brand-name reliable spot and willing to shell out more than a few bucks for an above average meal, Craftbar is an all-around win.
Perfect For: client lunches, snazzy special occasions, impressing a first date, throwing New York’s sodium discussions to the wind, getting a bit of Colicchio magic