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Eater Inside: Craft

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With all they hooplah and the hype, we had to see for ourselves, right? Thus, a closer look at Craft. The room is nice and open, good flow. Big booths along the side are private enough for agent/producer/bigwig conversations without anyone stealing company secrets or the talent. The tables along the middle banquettes are a bit closer; we easily made friends with the people dining next to us. Craft's signature Edison lights dangle from the ceilings. Windows look out to the enormous wrap-around patio, which faces the pear orchard (pears don’t grow well in LA, but OK), surrounded by the Deathstar and other tall gleaming beacons of Century City industry. The restaurant isn't serving out there yet (we're told "soon"), but various Armani suits were already making use of the cabanas by the lounge. They weren't the dominant force in the restaurant, but enough sprinkled around the room to remind us that this isn't just a neighborhood bistro. This undoubtedly will be Power Dining at its best.

We're still trying to figure out which section is the wasteland for the nobodies. The room is wide open like Cut, so there's really no place for anyone to hide, but there must be someplace where VIPs can go to keep the masses at bay. Twice we were seated towards the back of the room near the kitchen. We suppose it's a good spot for celebs and such because fewer peons can walk by to gawk. But it's near the kitchen, the cliché wasteland. Also a great spot for Tom Colicchio watchers while he's here (at least a month); he regularly pokes his head out to survey the dining room. It's a toss up. We saw Warren Beatty dining with a group one night, quasi-controversial American Idol alum Antonella Barba the next (who was right next to the kitchen door). If our eyes don’t deceive, we think Jeffery Katzenberg was lolling about a booth as well. Adding a spacious lounge was a smart move. Good for those of us who don't want to or can't afford to drop $300 for dinner every night.

At this early juncture, if we were to offer any criticsm, we'd say the service needs to step up. There's a lot of staff, but too much fumbling and bumbling, and a bit of awkwardness. Everyone is obviously doing their best, but it just isn't?smooth. There was definitely some bullshitting with the menu, ie. they didn't know it very well. The menu is lengthy, all a la carte, with no descriptions. Classic Colicchio. But in order to serve a wow meal, servers should know every detail of a dish. Even if the customer doesn't ask what's in "gem salad with bacon" and they order it, the server should offer "that has bacon-wrapped cippolini onions and an apricot vinaigrette," so the diner doesn't play a guessing game, or worse, eat something they shouldn't or hate. Unfortunately LA is so overstocked with mediocre service---not everywhere, calm down---but enough that we're used to it. But it doesn't have to be that way, people. Rebel! Other than that, we tasted some memorable dishes (tangy marinated fresh sardines, halibut with sorrel, plump scallops, buttery braised corn with tarragon, black kale gratin, glazed donuts), and a few not so memorable. Once Craft is running on all cylinders, creaks oiled, wrinkles smoothed out, it will hopefully be worth that high price tag. At least to us non-suit-wearing little people without big expense accounts.

More Craft coverage here, thoughts elsewhere on Chowhound and Yelp.

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