Tom Colicchio needs to stop spreading himself so thin. The host of Bravo’s Top Chef has five branded restaurants with 13 outlets across the country. ‘wichcraft, his casual sandwich eatery, has 12 locations in NYC alone! (I ate at one in my neighborhood; it doesn’t have the flair it did when it first opened next door to Craft on 19th street.) Even his renowned flagship Craft, which lets the quality of ingredients sing for themselves like à la carte presents, has lost its luster. Not surprisingly, Colicchio & Sons has followed in this vein: Good but not great.
Don’t get me wrong. If you want to make money as a chef these days, you have to get on a television show, start a product line or four, and multiply your restaurants like an Applebee’s disease. Otherwise, all a chef brings home is an aching back and a drinking problem. But a diner still has the right to feel cheated, especially if you knew how good it used to be.
On Chelsea’s warehouse-stacked west side, the Colicchio & Sons space used to be a Craftsteak, which first opened in Las Vegas, and it shows. The interior looks like it was imported directly from the Strip, with soaring ceilings and enough space to make a NYC studio-dweller ache just a little. It’s hard to imagine them ever being able to say that they’re “booked out” for dinner. Also, there were just a smattering of people for lunch yet the music was blaring like a Saturday night service.
On the advice of our waiter, I started with the octopus terrine with sugar snap peas, chorizo, and pickled ramps [pictured at top]. It was good; the flavors became much more tangible (and enjoyable) once the chill came off of it.
A salad of fava beans, country ham, and walnuts. My friend said it felt like a nice balance between summer and fall, given the predominant ingredient of seasonal fava with accents of cured ham and creamy walnuts.
A lamb sandwich with grilled vegetables and tapenade. I didn’t taste this but the person who did said it was a bit bland. Bland lamb sausage, really? Again, good but not great.
Pizza with goat cheese, ramps, and fava beans. [To be fair, this pizza is usually served with mortadella, or Italian bologna, but my vegetarian friend asked for the omission.] She raved about this pizza, “the best in her life,” and this girl lives in San Francisco! I thought it was okay, and again a good use of spring vegetables. I’m also a little skeptical of goat cheese on pizza; a bit like eating a tofu hot dog–it just doesn’t go together.
I finished with arctic char dressed with asparagus, morels, and watercress. Yet another good use of spring vegetables, and the arctic char was fine, but it tasted like the 20 arctic chars I’ve had before it. In short, the food felt a bit old for a “new restaurant.”
A friend ended with a Crimson Gold apple tatin with frozen Greek yogurt.
Afterward, we took a walk on the High Line, the railroad track-turned-city park along Chelsea’s west side.
Other NYC restaurant reviews:
Minetta Tavern: I Don’t Get It
Eleven Madison Park: French Laundry Wanna-Be
Peter Luger v. Strip House: The Steak-Off
Motorino v. Kesté: Neapolitan Pizza Pie-Off
Locanda Verde: Swing and a Miss
Maialino: Danny Meyer Does It Again
Marea: Do Your Homework
Great Jones Cafe: Best Wings In The City
Apiary: Hidden Gem
Seäsonal Restaurant & Weinbar: Who Knew?
Brooklyn’s Fatty ’Cue: Malaysian BBQ
La Esquina: VIP Mexican Food?