No more truffled mac and cheese (10/29/08)
Ah…Valentine’s Day. Food-wise mine is already over. Tonight I will probably just watch Lost and turn cold leftover white rice into fried rice for dinner. Romance is not dead; it can be kind of strange, though.
Last year I was happy to start doing Valentine’s dinners on dates that weren’t the 14th. This year the trend was continued with a meal on the 13th at odd choice, Crave on 42nd. If anything it was a reminder that two people with very different ideas regarding just about everything can remain amiable after eight Valentine’s Days.
If I were to pick a Top Chef restaurant, which I wouldn’t, I would definitely lean towards Perilla. Nothing I read about Dave Martin’s restaurant inspired much confidence, and frankly I was kind of scared. I was also scared to take interior shots of the room lest the chef think I was trying to snap photos of him. I'm not one for such antics.
My hesitance wasn’t allayed by the blustery stroll to Twelfth Ave from Port Authority. Walking five avenues in heels (I wear flats 90% of the time because I’m overly practical and paranoid about falling down stairs) on the rainiest day of the year made me nervous. I thought I had seen the last of this block abutting the Hudson River when I made the trek twice last fall for my Chinese visa.
The location at the base of a large condo complex and across from the Chinese Embassy is kind of unfortunate. From a distance, you might think the restaurant would be a dry cleaners or dentist office, but then you’re thrown off by the white Christmas lights dolling up the edges of the windows.
Yeah, it’s suburban feeling, spacious, inoffensive, and I’m ok with all that. Embarrassingly, it marries all that I love about chains with a Manhattan address, which is to say that many New Yorkers would hate it. The food is benign: comfort-y with twists. Burgers and pizza are prominently featured. It’s not a place for tasting menus and wine pairings.
The overall style is the opposite of that Citicard commercial that I hate. The one with the tired cliché “the food was tiny.” Maybe this elf food joke was funny in the ‘70s when nouvelle cuisine was, uh, new? Amusing only to me, I Googled “the food was tiny” and this very site came up ninth place in reference to Megu. Quite fitting since that was a Valentine’s dinner from three years ago.
The first thing you notice upon entering the room is the distinct aroma of warm cheese and truffle oil. The windows were steamed up, it was like stepping into a sauna made of fontina. I refused to go with the flow and order the famous truffled macaroni and cheese, but that didn’t stop James. I did appreciate the crispy top on the two bites I took, but I’ve never been a mac and cheese person.
Instead, I ordered the sea scallops with vanilla cream and smoked tomato butter. The vanilla was subtle and worked with the smokiness. Apparently, smoke is the chef’s thing as my next course also used that descriptor.
Smokey rubbed filet mignon with groovy gorgonzola, sweet onion rings and Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. No, the groovy isn’t my addition, I’m just giving you a taste of how the titles are written. I don’t usually order beef so I’m not sure what got into me. Maybe I was just going for the traditional spirit of Valentine’s Day and ordering the most expensive thing on the menu. It was meat and potatoes with blue cheese; it’s kind of hard to ruin that combination and clearly it did its job because I ended up eating the whole thing even though I didn’t plan to. It's hard to tell from the photo, but for some reason it was in two pieces.
Sassy sea bass with adobo honey butter and couscous. James ordered the girl dish. It was sassy, after all and he’s the opposite of that adjective. The glaze was sweet, which was pleasing to me because I like candied flavors.
I’m anti-chocolate molten cakes and am generally underwhelmed by panna cotta, so the only dessert possibility was the warm apple turnover. Definitely better than a fried McDonalds pie.
Our wine pick, an Australian Chardonnay, Slipstream, Arcade Hills 2006, was probably an off choice for my steak but that’s the beauty of a place like this, no one is going to care. Admittedly, I was thinking more about my scallops when I picked this white wine.
I hate to say it but I’m experiencing some serious gastrointestinal distress this morning. So much so that I decided it was safer to work from home today (I would be surprised if any office mates read this but if you do, just know that I’m writing this on my lunch hour and not goofing off, thanks). Maybe the gorgonzola was too groovy? I’d like to blame it on escolar, the much blogged about Ex-Lax fish, but bass and salmon were the only fish on offer.
There’s nothing more romantic than the warm glow of a tow truck hauling away an illegally parked car outside your window.
Crave on 42nd * 650 42nd St., New York, NY