Craftsteak had a tough start, with most of the reviews citing the same peculiar flaw: the kitchen didn’t know how to cook a steak. With prices running about $10–20 per steak higher than the going rate in Manhattan, that wasn’t going to fly.
I visited Craftsteak 1.0 twice (here, here). Frankly, I might not have bothered to return after the first time, but I was so sure Tom Coliccio would right the ship that I figured it was worth another look. The second visit was, if anything, even worse than the first. I was still sure that Coliccio would fix it somehow, but I wasn’t going to rush back.
Tom Coliccio got busy. He fired his chef de cuisine, bought new kitchen equipment, and continued to tweak the menu. His efforts finally paid off with a rare re-review from Frank Bruni, elevating the restaurant to the two stars that I’m sure Coliccio intended it to have. More than a year after my last visit, I thought it was time to give Craftsteak another try.
Craftsteak 2.0 is much improved, though not without its flaws. The menu is still far too sprawling, with 20 different steaks and 35 side dishes. Ten of those steaks are variations on the New York Strip — corn-fed, grass-fed, or Wagyu; 10, 12 or 18 ounce; aged anywhere from 28 to 65 days. Who needs so many options?. Coliccio should offer New York Strip the two or three ways he thinks are best, and ditch the others.
The amuse-bouche was a bit of a dud: a thin pâté buried too deep in a cast-iron bowl, with just three skimpy crackers to mop it up with. Parker-house rolls were much more successful, and it was all we could do not to eat all six of them.
Our favorite steak is the ribeye: naturally, there are two versions: 14-ounce grass-fed ($55) or 18-ounce corn-fed ($52). We chose the latter, as it’s four ounces heavier and three dollars cheaper. And finally, Craftsteak served a steak for the gods: tender, beautifully charred, evenly marbled, full of mineral flavor. There was no need for four steak sauces: they were first-class, but why offer only two spoons?
Rounding it out was a plate of gnocchi ($11), soft, light and creamy enough to make you forget every other gnocchi you’ve ever had.
The dining room was full, but we had no trouble getting walk-in seating at the bar. The tables there are just as big, and it’s the same menu. Servers aren’t quite attentive enough. I would almost be tempted to award three stars for the food, if I did not suspect that a menu as vast as Craftsteak must have some duds, and perhaps we were just lucky enough not to order any of them. But on the strength of this visit, it appears that Craftsteak is finally delivering on its promise.
Craftsteak (85 Tenth Avenue at 15th Street, Far West Chelsea)