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Most people recognize the name of celebrity chef Tom Colicchio from his role as the bald head judge of the Bravo reality show, Top Chef. If the only place you’ve seen him, however, is sitting at the table eating food from anxious semi-pro cook hopefuls, than you’re missing out on just what a fantastic chef Colicchio is in his own right.
Tom Colicchio got his start the old fashioned way by working his way up the ladder at various restaurants on the East Coast. Eventually, his attention to great food prepared with good ingredients started earning him a reputation that put him in the kitchens of some of the nations best chefs, including Thomas Keller. After opening his first New York establishment, Gramercy Tavern, his place in the food world was secure as one of America’s best chefs. Following the success of Gramercy Tavern, Colicchio opened a restaurant simply entitled, Craft, and focused even further his belief in simply prepared dishes using the best local ingredients possible. Over the years, Craft has expanded into many different venues including a more casual sister restaurant, Craftbar, a high-end sandwich shop, ‘wichCraft and a steakhouse, Craftsteak.
I had the privilege of eating a meal at the Craftsteak in Las Vegas this past week, which can be found at the MGM Grand hotel. My wife and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into as we celebrated our fifth anniversary with a dinner at Craftsteak and we were met with a shot of reality after looking at the prices. You won’t be getting out of here for under $100.00 per person due to the ala carte nature of the experience. However, while you might initially choke at the high Las Vegas prices (and no one can blame you), let me tell you that at the end of our meal, my wife and I felt that we had gotten more than our money’s worth. Ridiculous, I know but the food was that exceptional. It’s defiantly the kind of place you chose for a special occasion and you’ll likely eat there just once.
My wife and I decided we would leave ourselves in the chef’s capable hands and ordered a tasting menu that had as its central feature, Grade 7 Wagyu Beef. We started with four appetizers, which had as it’s standout dish the Warm Frisée Salad with Farm Egg and Bacon. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of Frisee, with it’s bitter taste making it right for only certain dressings. However, I’m sold after eating this version. With a warm buttermilk dressing mixed with bacon and a poached egg on top, it was like a bite sized version of a fantastic breakfast. A bit unreal, unexpected and yet a completely satisfying, savory start to the meal.
The Wagyu Beef came in the form of two steaks, one a 10oz Fillet Mignon and the other a 14oz Ribeye. Wagyu, I came to find out, is an amazing hybrid of the famous Japanese Kobe and the American Angus. It is, without a doubt, the greatest steak I have ever and will ever eat in my life. With the full bodied taste of the Angus steaks we know and love in the States but matched with a soft, buttery texture that make it unlike any steak I’ve ever tasted. Velvety and delicious, it was the signature moment of the meal and every bite was an amazing one. Matched with the steaks were three side dishes that included a Butternut Squash Rissotto with Hen of the Woods, Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Yukon Gold Puree with Chives. These side dishes were all very simply prepared and were simply exceptionally delicious. All the flavors worked well together and made a fantastic counterpoint to the steaks. Of particular note was the risotto which had chunks of butternut squash in the creamy, brilliantly prepared rice topped with Hen of the Woods which gave a very earthy contrast to the rich, buttery, creamy rice.
Following that (and at the point where we were having trouble imagining eating more food) came the desert course. Consisting of variations on cheesecake, sorbet and fruit, our three plates of desert simply rounded out a once in a lifetime, unforgettable meal.
It has to be mentioned that the service at Craftsteak was unlike any experience I’ve every had at a restaurant. I have to be honest here and say that service is usually the last thing I notice in a dining experience. Unless the waiter is a complete jerk, I rarely take note and simply appreciate the staff staying out of the way and bringing out the food in a timely manner. However, at Craftsteak, I had no less than five people interested in making sure every last thing was taken care of. From explaining the various dishes to asking how if we needed anything to simply making us feel welcome and at home, the service was stunning. I have never felt more comfortable in a high end dining experience and for folks trying high end dining for the first time, no place will make you feel more at home.
Overall, if you have the time (the meal took around 2 1/2 hours all told) and are willing to spend some serious money on an artistic meal that will stick in your mind for a long, long time, give Craftsteak a try the next time you hit the casinos in Vegas.