Since my real birthday fell on a Sunday this year, we decided to celebrate Saturday night instead. I have been so excited since learning that Chef Tom Colicchio had opened an LA outlet of his famous NY restaurant Craft last month and Jim was a doll to make reservations there for us for my birthday dinner. Woohoo!
After getting all dressed up (yes, it is LA where jeans are allowed almost everywhere, but it was my birthday and I wanted to look fancy!) we took off for Century City for our 7pm reservation. The front of the building is very modern looking with lots of light wood and glass. After stepping inside a very chic and open interior the hostess informed us that they had outdoor seating and would we be interested. Sure, why not? We get seated and then realize we did not make a good selection. It was quite windy and pretty chilly. And not a heat lamp to be seen. Hmmm, this is not starting off very well. Before I give you the wrong impression though, I should point out that once the waiter came over (and very promptly I might add), he mentioned that fire code was such that they were not able to have heat lamps on the patio b/c the main building was too close to allow them to be used safely. They were working on installing a heating system on the floor of the patio and that it should be up and running in the next 3 weeks or so. In the meantime, they had a supply of black pashminas that guests could use to help stay warm.
It probably would have been better to just move inside, but I felt bad asking for a change of table, so we braved the chilly weather and dug into the menu. Where do I even start? The menu is a long flat rectangle that lists first courses to the left, main entrees down the middle and sides to the right. Everything sounds fantastic and we both have trouble deciding what to order. I started with a raspberry lemon mojito and the heirloom basil seed salad while Jim ordered a Chimay and the tuna and pickled jalapeno. Before our appetizers were served, an amuse bouche came out (how fun!) -- a small toast point with a little egg, salsa verde and white anchovie on top. While it may not have been something I would have ordered, it was pretty tasty.
Everything comes family style, so the appetizers were placed in the middle of the table so we would have an easy time of going back and forth between the two. The heirloom tomatoes were sooo good -- perfectly ripe and seasoned so that the natural flavor was enhanced, not overpowered. The tuna tasted very fresh, but as Jim mentioned, he would have liked to have had more to get a better idea of how good it was.
For dinner, we ordered the braised short ribs, halibut with salsa verde, roasted asparagus and gratin potatoes. The presentation was beautiful (clean and not overdressed) and the food did not disappoint. The short ribs were tender and had a great flavor, while the salsa verde had a saltiness to it that totally gave the halibut a different taste that was expected, but in a good way. The gratin potatoes were a huge surprise as they were different from any others we have tasted from a restaurant. It's hard to put my finger on what was different, but they were and they were really really good!
For dessert I opted for the chocolate souffle and Jim ordered the "Studies" in blueberry. Another amuse bouche preceeded dessert -- melon soup with cucumber sorbet -- that was did a great job of cleansing the palate. The souffle was to die for!! Perfectly cooked and lots of deep chocolate flavor. The side of hazelnut ice cream was a nice touch too. The study is an interesting concept that was pulled off well. The bottom of the bowl came with fresh blueberries on one side and blueberry compote on the other. On top was a scoop of blueberry ice cream and blueberry gelato. Sounds strange, but it was actually really nice. I'm not a huge blueberry fan though ( I'd probably try the strawberry study next time), but Jim really liked it.
Even with the chilly weather, the meal was delicious and the whole experience was one I'd like to do again (but with maybe a heater or two!)On top of this wonderful dinner, I also got a new brown leather Kate Spade bag from Jim! I love it so much and it's perfect for fall. Needless to say I had a very happy birthday!