Sampler Platters

From sushi to steak, CRAVE goes for it all

Let's say it’s Friday, and the sun has gone down. A wearisome set of days and a skipped lunch have you communicating with words like “I don’t know, what sounds good to you?” If this has or will hit somewhere close to your gut, you might consider adding the eclectic CRAVE to your mental register of last-minute haunts. CRAVE is situated in the center of Midtown Crossing’s ambitious cul-de-sac of small chain and start-up eateries. The glass V-adorned door opens to pleasant gold and red hues that descend steeply off a chandelier into the lounge below. One brilliant booth, beneath the entry, and plenty of bar tables are situated about the center for libations. Lofty windows offer a glimpse at the festive glow that wraps the trees of Midtown Crossing’s green space. The bridge between lounge and dining room showcases a floor-to-ceiling wine “cellar” that won a 2010 Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. Made of glass, this fancy encasement houses a conservative sweep from Pinot to Pinot, late 20s to few hundreds in price. Upon sitting down, one takes quick notice of a backlit geode that casts a wonderful sunset shade of amber from behind the sushi bar. The adjacent kitchen offers guests a quick glimpse of steaks being fired in pans, and pizzas being popped into a gorgeously fronted, wood-burning oven. That’s right, CRAVE sets itself up to deliver cuisines from different corners of the culinary world. A first course of baked crab and artichoke dip offered a slight creaminess to go with the touch of shellfish underneath. The accompanying flatbread was delicately sprinkled with paprika, and ranged from chewy to crunchy. If this dip sounds too tame, there are plenty more adventuresome appetizers like miso glazed chicken nuggets and kimchee topped tacos to choose from. And don’t forget the sushi. Order a boat of it for your meal, or let it be coursed nicely before your soup and salad. Nothing beats a sushi break, especially when it’s proceeded by a hot towel to wipe your worries — or previous crumbs — away. The Keilani’s roll was an interesting way to open the taste buds, working almost as an aperitif. The brightness of the fresh water eel underneath the crunch of tempura shrimp is only made better by a topping dot of Sriracha style sauce. We followed the sushi with a seasonal soup of mushroom leek. Balanced in both creaminess and richness, the soup allowed a mild earthliness to come forward. A dinner salad of greens was topped with pine nuts, a bright vinaigrette and a mislabeled — yet still delicious — “local” goat cheese. Diligent service and proper timing lead to the main course, a place where any variety of hunger is sure to be cared for. Be it steak, fish, pasta, pizza or poultry CRAVE has you pegged. We ordered the nori crusted New York Strip, an instance where the eye may have fooled the stomach as to what it could take. The few inch thick slab of 100 percent certified Angus beef — a fact that would be easier forgotten if it weren’t shamelessly printed on each oversized steak knife — was fashionably propped over charred green beans and a silky sweet potato mash. The nori, a type of seaweed used more commonly to wrap sushi, in certain bites added an exotic complexity to the tender beef. In others, the delicateness of the nori gave a taste of burn rather than sear. The best pairing on this dish was the tangy ponzu sauce that ran into the mash — the delicious duo of sweet and sour could compliment any cut of meat. A second main course of butternut squash ravioli hinted at some of the Mediterranean flavors CRAVE infuses into its pastas. While the exterior of the ravioli is a bit chewy, its accompanying Sicilian influenced sauce provided an underlying layer of succulent morsels. This thick mix of eggplant and raisin gave off deep autumn notes like cinnamon to wake up the blandness of the ravioli filling. We’ll need to make a second visit to try the less humble lobster macaroni. But the sweet tooth conquers all. Almost Christmas, we opted for the seasonal choice of gingerbread cake. A decadent, orange-zest cream cheese frosting was certainly the perfect icing on an intensely gingery, not-too-sweet cake. At first look, it may appear that CRAVE is approaching cuisine from too many angles. That trying to appease a roomful of appetites could wipe away any individuality. But as the seats continue to fill up, it appears that CRAVE is intent on offering a taste all its own. Sushi and pizza, why not? CRAVE, 200 S. 31st Ave. #4103, in Midtown Crossing, is open Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-midnight and Sun. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Call 345.9999 or visit craveamerica.com.

posted at 08:23 pm
on Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

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