Grub/Spirits Restaurant Reviews — 10 July 2012
Craftbar: A Restaurant Review

900 Broadway, near 20th Street, Flatiron District
Getting There: 4,5,6,L,Q to 14th Street – Union Square; N,R,W to 23rd Street

Hovering above the spacious restaurant floor of the Flatiron District’s Craftbar sits an unmistakably massive selection of wine bottles placed carefully on display on a corridor walkway looking down at the tidy interior of the dining room. Instead of the farm-to-table fare served up at its arguably more recognized (and noticeably pricier) sister restaurant Craft, Craftbar stakes its claim to small plates served extravagantly- deliciously prepared and meant to be shared, from brainchild and Top Chef co-host Tom Colicchio. With inventive takes on American cuisine and a menu certain to be palatable on any budget, chef de cuisine Lauren Hirschberg deserves kudos for continuing along the path blazed by his predecessor, as the restaurant remains among the finest in the neighborhood.

With its rectangular gray flag perched atop the restaurant’s exterior, from afar the Broadway situated eatery may be mistaken for a furniture store. But the cleaver and wineglass imagery underneath the name of its famed celebrity chef on the front door opens up to an inviting, long 13 seat wooden bar. The place’s floor to ceiling windows welcome in enough natural light to illuminate the restaurant’s entire space making it an ideal destination for a warm weather brunch, despite a bevy of mouthwatering options being served for dinner. Wooden tabletops are tastefully placed throughout the dining room floor, decorated minimally with oversized wineglasses and surrounded by largely undecorated walls, lending the entire ambiance to feel entirely clean.

The expansive brunch menu falls in line with the décor accordingly, with dishes that suit the welcoming vibe inside. From a nice assortment of fresh Salumi (price varied) and cheeses (3 for $12; 5 for $18) to tasty small snacks, there is no shortage of options to open your meal. We began with the delectable “Pecorino Risotto Balls” ($7), beautiful crispy, golden spheres over a thick base of sweet and spicy red tomato sauce. Inside, the risotto was delicately moist, keeping each fried ball tender and tasty. While a substantial start to an afternoon meal, the bowl was passed around and quickly finished off nonetheless.

As the restaurant’s atmosphere combines elements both elegant and relaxed, so does the menu. Offerings are equally available for the more experimental eaters- the “White Anchovy Bruschetta” ($11), “Pork Scrapple & Eggs” ($16)- or the more traditional ones- “Amish Chicken Breast” ($26), “Eggs Benedict” ($16) in your party. Effectively tasting each portion of the menu, we began at ‘breakfast,’ with the “Fried Soft Shell Crab & Egg Sandwich” ($18). The runny sunny-side-up yolk ran havoc over the crispy pieces of fresh crab and the hearty two-handed baguette, but the flavors paired competently with each bite of the light old bay aioli as the complimentary spread. Far superior however was the “Warm Field Mushroom & Egg Bruschetta” ($15), which by name, fails to do this heaping dish sufficient justice. Served atop a grilled rustic slice of bread, the combination of delicious mushrooms with roasted tomatoes, creamy fontina cheese, and a slightly amended fluffy egg scramble, the collection of flavors managed to be pleasant and filling at once, and worthy of a return visit on its own merits.

The large plates and lunch menu alternatives were equally notable. The “Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Ravioli” ($20) was especially light for a pasta dish, mixing the sharpness of an aged pecorino with the summery taste of lemon zest. The dish was also laced with a bed of peas and asparagus, among other green seasonal vegetables which blended nicely with the pillowy pasta envelopes. We decided upon a traditional staple- the “Spaghetti & Veal Ricotta Meatballs” ($23) to close out our non-rushed brunch. Topped with shards of unmistakable basil and chunks of sweet San Marzano tomatoes, the strands of spaghetti were cooked to perfection, around the tasty tender, cheese infused meatballs. The red sauce essentially served to coat each piece of spaghetti allowing the taste to revolve around the combination of the fresh ingredients utilized in the dish, and although Craftbar might not be renowned as a primary destination for pasta dishes, they certainly hit it out of the park with each of these selections. By the time our party had wrapped up sharing a deliciously sweet plate of “Brioche Donuts with Rhubarb and Ricotta” ($6), it was time to settle up and ship out. And now that some time has passed, we can only look back fondly at our dining experience at Craftbar, which should be considered no slouch compared to its higher priced sibling.

Rundown of the Meal

Pecorino Risotto Balls ($7)*

Cheese (3 for $12)
Pawlet- raw jersey cow- VT
Hudson Valley Camembert- sheep, cow- NY
Cabot Clothbound Cheddar- Holstein Cow- VT

For the Table
Brioche Donuts with Rhubarb and Ricotta ($6)

Fried Soft Shell Crab & Egg Sandwich ($18)
Warm Field Mushroom & Egg Bruschetta ($15)*

Large Plates
Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Ravioli ($20)
Spaghetti & Veal Ricotta Meatballs ($23)

*Meal Highlight

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