Tom Colicchio's Craft opened on the edge of the Gramercy district in 2001. Inside, it's the same leather, wood and steel that it was 10 years ago, with individual Edison bulbs hanging from the ceiling on exposed wires and wide, bare tables that continue to demand weeks-ahead reservations. For all this, the space is appealing - it's modern and masculine but also cozy and comfortable.
The menu is the epitome of simplicity, though there is nothing at all simplistic about the food. The hamachi and tangerine appetizer is simply that - thinly sliced hamachi and wedges of tangerine - and the halibut with white miso is served alone on a plate, accompanied by nothing, no more and no less than the fish itself. But every ingredient is the right ingredient, the perfect tenderness and temperature, allowed to be accompanied only by what will make it even better - or, put another way, even more of what it essentially is. The hamachi was the sweetest I've ever tasted and the halibut, beneath a thin glaze of lemony white miso, was without doubt the best halibut I've ever had. The complete lack of pretension and theatricality is the best part. The braised short ribs and root vegetables fell apart at the touch of a fork, and the roasted mushrooms - a mixture of hen of the woods, oyster, baby shiitake and trompette royale, glazed in butter - were perfect, but coaxed into perfection without needing to become anything more than simple, roasted mushrooms.
Ten years ago, all this was described as "quiet magic" by William Grimes, the then-food critic of the New York Times. Despite Tom Colicchio's success with Top Chef and his ever-expanding empire of new restaurants and sandwich shops, I think these words still hold true. But who's to say I know what I'm talking about - come, and try for yourself!
43 East 19th Street
hamachi & tangerine
halibut & white miso
beef short rib & root vegetables
roasted mushrooms (ask for a mixture)