First Impressions: CRāVing on Hertel
by Caitlin - posted 6:14 pm, May 31, 2013
My husband and I took advantage of yesterday’s beautiful, summer-like weather with an al fresco dinner at CRāVing—the latest project by Jennifer and Adam Goetz, of Sample Restaurant fame.
Unlike Sample, which focused on small plates served tapas-style, CRāVing is more traditional in its approach to portions. The menu features regular-sized appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and pizzas, while entrees are available in full and half sizes.
Though I did not try enough of the menu to develop a fully informed opinion of the restaurant, I can report that the meal I had yesterday was underwhelming and, in general, underseasoned.
Braised artichokes with grilled treviso (a lettuce similar to radicchio), Parmigiano-Reggiano broth, and focaccia crisps had a good base of flavors but was gray and dreary on the plate and, except for the bites of deliciously bitter treviso, was flat on the palate. A sprinkling of fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon or splash of wine would have given it the punch of color, freshness, and acidity it needed to be a truly great spring dish. A brushing of olive oil and a bit more time in the oven would have helped the focaccia taste more like crostini and less like day-old bread.
A sizeable appetizer of buttermilk fried chicken, sautéed greens, and truffle honey over cheddar grits was hands-down the best dish of the evening. The grits were stone-ground and cooked to creamy, chewy perfection, and the truffle was subtle, not overwhelming. But the dish needed salt, especially the chicken, which could have also benefited in terms of flavor and texture from being fried in its skin.
The pizzas at CRāVing are cracker-thin (admittedly, not my favorite style) and came in five varieties the night we dined. We tried the version topped with steak, caramelized onions, banana peppers, and goat cheese, and found the steak to be chewy and totally void of seasoning when tasted on its own. Luckily, the strong flavors of the other ingredients masked the steak’s shortcomings, resulting in a passable pizza.
For our final dish, we opted for a small-plate portion of house-made ricotta gnocchi in a sauce of brown butter cream, kale, walnuts, and lemon gastrique. Though the premise was good, and I appreciated the savoriness the bitter kale and tannic walnuts brought to the table, the gnocchi were dense and oversauced, and the dish would have been better balanced with a little more lemon and a little less butter and cream.
Despite my criticisms, I welcome any restaurant to the local scene that is as committed as CRāVing is to using seasonal ingredients and cooking with a point of view. I look forward to giving CRāVing another try in due time.