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Wednesday
Feb022011

Tom vs. Tom: Craftbar & Colicchio & Sons go head to head

*Both of these restaurants have since closed*

 

48 hours.  Two Tom Colicchio restaurants.  One trophy...maybe.

Tom went head to head with himself in my two most recent dining adventures.  Having never experienced this chef-legend's cuisine outside of 'wichcraft, his chain of small sandwich kiosks, I was really looking forward to both of my upcoming "Tom" meals.  Saturday night: Craftbar for Teddi's birthday dinner.  Monday night: Colicchio & Sons Tap Room for NYC Restaurant Week.

Restaurant design / overall atmosphere

Craftbar is the informal, sister restaurant to Craft.  The main dining room is spacious, open, and "airy" due to tall ceilings and minimal decor.  An overhead catwalk reveals an exposed second level which houses the restaurant's abundant collection of wines.  The atmosphere is energetic and appropriately urban.

Photo: The ScoutC&S, Colicchio & Sons Tap Room, is situated in the heart of Manhattan's famed Meatpacking District where, for the most part, spaces are ample in size.  C&S is no exception.  Using a floor to ceiling wine rack as a partition, the restaurant is divided in to two spaces: the more formal Colicchio & Sons dining room - and the Tap Room, which is shares its space with the bar.  Uniting each of the two concepts is the breathtaking decor and an atmosphere that screams urban chic and sophistication.  

Photo: Bill Barr~

Bread basket / service

Craftbar Upon being seated, our party was presented with narrow flutes filled with house-made, salted breadsticks.  Despite their tooth extracting crunch, I found them to be quite addicting and enjoyable.

 C&S For a higher end concept - despite the fact that we were dining in the less formal of the two rooms - C&S served one of the single most inedible rolls that I've ever had the misfortune of eating.  Dry, brittle, and rock-hard are the kindest adjectives that I can use to describe this god-awful bread.

~

Appetizers

Craftbar *note that the following appetizers were split by the table

Pecorino Risotto Balls, Spicy Tomato

Seriously, what's not to love about a fried risotto (rice) ball, oozing with pungent Pecorino cheese, that comes atop a creamy and spicy tomato sauce?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing!

Warm Field Mushroom & Fontina Bruschetta This transcendent piece of toast has the power to end wars, turn enemies in to BFFs, and convert even the most religious of mushroom-hater.  A crunchy, buttery slice of peasant/country bread was topped with a suffocating layer of warm, gooey fontina cheese, followed by a pile of perfectly seasoned, sauteed 'shrooms. 

To. Die. For. 

C&S *individual portion 

Caramelized Onion Soup with Bacon, Raisins & Stinky Cheese Do you love French Onion Soup?  So do I.  If you don't have an aversion to pork, then I highly suggest sampling C&S's unique version of this French classic.  In terms of familiarity, the rich, caramelized-onion laden broth doesn't particularly stand out - at least not until you get a spoonful containing a smokey chunk of bacon or a plump, sweet white raisin.  Dynamite.

~

Entree

Craftbar

Veal Ricotta Meatballs For those of you out there who frequently read my website, then you are well aware of my obsession with homemade meatballs.  Simply put: if they're listed on a menu - and I confirm that they're made in house (...and not a pre-made version transported via the Sysco truck) - ordering meatballs, above all else, is a no-brainer.

These meaty morsels came highly recommended by Teddi, the birthday girl.  Since the order was a-la-carte (sans pasta), I ordered a side of crusty bread for dipping purposes.  Although I was a bit off-put by the blinding-white interior color of the 'balls (they were made of veal, after all), there was no denying just how moist and flavorful they were.

C&S

TC Burger with Drunk Onions, Pecorino & Chips While homemade meatballs may be one of my menu non-negotiables, a hamburger is definitely another. 

In my opinion, diners should use Restaurant Week as the opportunity to taste more formal, indulgent plates.  Something they've never tried, perhaps.  But, in this case, I broke my own rule: the burger took precedence over the Braised Lamb Rib or the Surf & Turf.  There was something about the way that the TC Burger was described that got my salivary juices flowing.

Buttery, toasted brioche bun?  Check.  Quality-sourced, 1" thick ground beef patty cooked to my liking?  Check.  A mound of silky, liquored-up, sauteed red onion tangles?  Check.  Melted pecorino cheese?  Check.

...Chips?  No check.  I was really disappointed to learn that, what I had assumed would be an accompaniment of British "chips" (a.k.a. French fries), where potato chips.  Literally, kettle-cooked potato chips.  Buzz kill. 

However, as much as not having a side of French fries sucked, I must say that the burger more than made up for it.    

Dessert

Craftbar

In honor of Teddi's birthday celebration, the table split three desserts:

Chocolate Custard Tart Too rich and heavy, plus I HATE hazelnuts.

Brown Sugar Cake Delicate, buttery, sweet...I loved this feminine cake, which was was appropriately accompanied by creme fraiche ice cream and a wedge of poached pear.

Butterscotch Pot De Creme Rich, creamy, silky, and chock-full of caramel-y, butterscotch flavor...this particular dessert sang to me. 

C&S

Meyer Lemon Merigue Tart with Hibiscus & Blood Orange Sorbet This sweet treat, quite possibly, may be the best restaurant dessert that I've had in my 7 years of living in NYC.  Texturally, there was crunch (crust), soft and creamy (lemon curd), crisp (caramelized meringue top), and chill (sorbet) - in terms of flavor, there were notes of sweet, sour, salt, and savory.  

A picture truly does speak 1000 words, doesn't it?

~

And the winner + trophy recipient of Tom vs. Tom is...Craftbar and C&S!  That's right, folks, both of Tom's restaurants did their fair share of knocking my socks off, and I'm looking forward to returning to each very soon!

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