Saturday, August 21, 2010

Craigie on Main in Cambridge (food)

For my final dinner in Boston, we (SS and CDM again, but no kid) went to Craigie on Main in Central Square. While the food was quite good, the overall experience left much to be desired. I will get to that part at the end, but I know most of you want to see pictures. We ordered the 10 course "Ultimate Craigie Experience" tasting menu, which costs $115+t/t. I asked about the kampachi kama (yellowtail collar) that I had the last time I came, and our server mentioned that they still do preparations of fish collar, and that he would ask the chef for me. Our server also mentioned that with the entree course to our tasting menu there would be sides, and we had the option of bone marrow or vegetables, so we opted for one of each. One good thing was that water was refilled quickly and often, but bread came with butter and no salt, a pet peeve of CDM's.

A direct view of the open kitchen, right off the entrance, which bridges the main dining room and the bar room.

Our first course was a trio of chilled seafood preparations. Starting from the left, noodles made with squid with asian flavors, a striped bass tartare marinated with citrus, and smoked arctic char. Our favorite was the squid noodles, which had both great flavor and an amazing, tender texture.

Our second course (of which I can't find a picture) was a salad of hiramasa sashimi with green tomato-red onion salsa, avocado, lemon-caper vinaigrette, shiso, and fried tempura batter bits. I remember that we enjoyed this and liked the flavors and the crunch added by the batter bits, but remarked that the portion was on the small side.

Next was Australian sea trout cooked a la plancha with clams and tomato. I found the tomato a little too tart for my taste, but the fish was cooked beautifully.

Fried frogs' legs. This was not particularly special, but it was interesting in that they served it whole, so that you could see the webbed feet as well.

Snail ravioli with broccoli puree, squash blossoms, and paprika oil. This was my favorite dish of the night. I would describe the flavors as earthy and green, and the pasta texture was terrific and worked with the puree.

Pork belly. I don't remember what went with it. I mean, it's delicious, but it's not that hard to make pork belly taste good in my opinion.

At this point, I realized that there was no kama coming and I asked about it. Only at that point did the server tell us that the chef couldn't fit it into the 10 course menu. I find this completely unacceptable. If that were the case, come tell me before we start, and I'll just add it a la carte. It's not a hard thing to do.

Our entree consisted of duck leg confit and a piece of smoked duck breast. I found the smoked duck breast to be extremely flavorful, while my friend SS preferred the duck at AKA Bistro.

Our roasted vegetables side.

Our bone marrow side. This was an obvious thing for us to order since SS really likes bone marrow.

For our pre-dessert, we each had a different flavor of sorbet. There was yogurt, raspberry, and blackberry. Refreshing and nice, but nothing special.

I can't believe I can't find the pictures of our main desserts, but there were also 3 different ones. One was a white corn grits brulee with lemon verbena ice cream. Another was a sour milk panna cotta, and finally a sheep's milk cheesecake. Our favorite by far was the sheep's milk cheesecake, which was incredibly light, followed by the panna cotta and the grits.

Our final dessert course was a rhubarb hibiscus mousse with buttermilk foam that came with a pisco punch with herbs. We liked it, but again I didn't find it particularly special.

I also vaguely remember some almond rocher types of chocolate which were very good.

Let's start with the meal in general. While there were certainly some terrific hits on the menu, I found the tasting menu to be expensive. $115 for ten courses, of which three were dessert courses (and not all full ones) and relatively small portions just felt to me completely devoid of value, especially in Boston. I think a better choice would have been if we ordered a bunch of stuff a la carte and ate family style. A pig's head they were sending out looked particularly inviting. For the same price, we would have enjoyed ourselves much more I imagine.

Then there was the front of house issue. Not coming back to me to tell me that the kama wouldn't be in the 10 course menu was just poor. To resolve the situation, they decided to comp the sides. That was nice, except that we didn't even know we were getting charged for the sides! I guess they were "optional" when we heard the word "options". Again, another front of house gaffe. And the last person to come apologize to us was the hostess. In her nice red dress and high heels. Unless her official role is maitre d'/manager, I don't know how I feel about that. I personally feel that none of this is acceptable at a place that charges these prices. There should be a heirarchy of servers, captains, and a manager. The front of house and back of house disconnect felt so egregious that we wondered if the front of house had much say in anything at all. There is a reason why on every season of Hell's Kitchen, Gordon Ramsay brings along his maitre d' and drills the importance of front of house into the contestants.


Memphis MOJO said...

Loved the view of the kitchen -- great shot. Agree with you about the (lack of) service - at those prices it should be superb.

Jonathan Weinstein said...

Sounds great...hey, is this the exact location where Bertucci's used to be? Wondering because if so I first met my wife there.

The Pretender said...

No, Bertucci's is still there. This is the exact location where La Groceria used to be.