Sorry, life has gotten crazy these past few weeks, and a trip to New York set me back even further. The good news is that I’ve been blessed to have done a lot of eating and cooking. The bad news is, it’ll take me a while to get anything posted. Here’s a start:
Cru is a restaurant that many have urged me to visit. I finally made it in a couple of weekends ago.
All the photos from the meal and further commentary on the dishes can be found on my flickr site.
Overall, my meal at Cru was very good, but the experience, and especially the service, was un-impressive.
I decided to visit Cru after falling in love with the tasting menu online. Despite having emailed and called the restaurant to inquire about having the kitchen cook for us, I received no call-back or email responses. Nothing was mentioned or acknowledged about my request when we arrived either. I decided to let it go and enjoy the tasting menu; I hadn’t expected that the kitchen would be willing/able to cook for us anyway, since it was a weekend night. Regardless, some kind of response or acknowledgment would have been appreciated.
Cru’s reputation for an extraordinary wine program can overshadow Gallante’s skills in the food department. Many had told me that Cru is all about the wine. While I’m sure their wine list is extraordinary (I don’t have the budget or the experience to know), from my experience, it’s not all about the wine. The food is rather spectacular in its own right. Gallante’s training at Bouley and Felidia, both which I have visited in the past month, is cognizable from his cooking at Cru. Classically French with inflections of Asian and Italian cuisine, his cooking is creative and perfectly-executed.
I truly enjoyed almost every course we had, except the very first – “Marinated Fluke.” But, this wasn’t a “fluke,” (mind the pun). I’m not a big fluke fan. I find it rather bland, and the texture is slightly mushy regardless of freshness. For someone who really enjoys fluke, it would have been a great opening volley.
The “Sepia and Rock Shrimp” and the “Buttermilk-Poached Poularde” stand out as the highlights of the meal. The “Black Bass” was also excellent, its texture (either sous-vides or poached in fat) was very memorable – that state between raw and cooked that I love.
Despite being known for pasta, Gallante’s “Tortellini of Sweet Corn” failed to grab me. It was good – the pasta was cooked properly, but tortellini is one of those pastas where it’s more about the pasta than about the filling. There wasn’t enough sweet corn filling for me to appreciably taste or enjoy. I had looked forward to the combination of sweet corn along with the speck and ramps. The ramps were the only thing that stood out .
Overall, flavors were nuanced and balanced. Again, nothing disappointing, but nothing creative or ground-breaking for me. There were no “aha!” moments to this meal.
The wine pairings were nice, but similar to the food, unremarkable on the whole, save a Cassis Blanc that went particularly well with the “Sepia” course.
The dessert on the tasting menu sounded absolutely boring (“Dark Chocolate Financier, White Chocolate Mousse, Milk Chocolate Sorbet”). It might have been a delight, but, I can’t comment on it because all of us requested to have something else substituted in its stead; they kindly accommodated. We were all pleased with our substitutions. (I do not know who the current pastry chef is.)
As I stated up-post, service was the main disappointment. It may have been because it was busy night (the restaurant was full when we walked in at 8pm – but at this level of dining, I still see very little excuse), but our server/sommelier seemed distracted through the first few courses. I would describe his m.o. to be “cool.” He wasn’t outrightly rude, but there was a “I’m too busy to be bothered” smugness that turned us off (I was not the only one who got this impression).
The only care he seemed to show us is when he brought out a separate flute for my friend (who wasn’t getting the wine pairing), who wanted to share a bit of my champagne and had poured it from my flute into his wine glass. The server/sommelier was kind enough to bring out an extra wine glass for my friend for the subsequent courses. Not to be a pessamist, but even this act was not a clear indication of friendliness to me, as the flute came out with a comment to the effect of, “I truly don’t care to see you trying to enjoy your wine out of a glass, sir. Here’s a flute”
Half-way through the meal, one of the managers came over and started chatting us up (I’m not sure if this is customary), and seemed to really take interest in our table. Following his drop-by, service improved remarkably. Our once dour-faced server warm up and was even pleasant through the remainder of the meal.
The decor of the dining room is reserved and oddly done. It is not one whose style I particularly admire. But, I suppose, it serves its purpose: a comfortable and undistracting space with sound-absorbing banquettes, upholstered chairs and thick carpeting. I was surprised that even though the dining room was packed, it didn’t seem loud.
I’d return to Cru, but I’m not in a hurry anytime soon.
Executive Chef Shea Gallante
24 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10011
* Michelin Star