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Rolling the Dice: Craftbar and Craftsteak

Every week, we take our turn with Lady Luck on the BruniBetting odds as posted by Eater. Just for kicks, we track Eater’s bet too, and see who is better at guessing what the unpredictable Bruni will do. We track our sins with an imaginary $1 bet every week.

The Line: After last week’s gross dereliction of duty, Frank Bruni is back in action tomorrow with reviews of two real restaurants: Craftbar and Craftsteak. Eater’s official odds are as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars:
One Star: 2-1 √√
Two Stars:
Three Stars: 20-1
Four Stars: 25,000-1

Zero Stars:
One Star:
Two Stars:
3-1 √√
Three Stars:
Four Stars: 25,000-1

The Skinny: All the critics in town pummeled Craftsteak after it opened last year, with Herr Bruni awarding just a measley star in July 2006. Tom Colicchio’s steakhouse did everything right except the one thing at which it had to excel: steaks. I visited twice, and wasn’t wowed either time. Colicchio publicly admitted that he had goofed, fired the chef de cuisine, and bought new cooking equipment—including a broiler, inexplicably not part of the original plan.

In three years on the job, Bruni has just one self-re-review to his credit (Eleven Madison Park). I don’t know what would possess him to re-review a steakhouse just ten months later, but the improvement must surely be significant. I suspect that in Colicchio’s mind, Craftsteak is a three-star restaurant, and if he’s finally got the steaks right, it’s not an unreasonable aspiration. After all, it is built on a similar model to Craft, which has three stars. But two stars is the most that Bruni has given any steakhouse, and after a two-week losing streak, we aren’t prepared to dare the Eater oddsmakers.

Craftbar is getting its first rated review, after receiving the $25 and Under treatment from Eric Asimov in 2002 and a Diner’s Journal piece from Sam Sifton in 2004. Since then Chef Akhtar Nawab has moved on to The E.U., and according to FloFab in the Times, the new menu is “less elaborate and expensive.”

It’s not unusual for restaurants promoted from $25 and Under to get two stars, and casual places like Craftbar are right up Frank’s street. When train wrecks like Morandi and Cafe Cluny get one star, it almost seems like there’s no longer any such thing as a “good” one-star restaurant, leaving two-stars as the minimum rating that represents any kind of compliment. But with Craftbar lurking pretty much under the foodie radar these days, we have to agree with the oddsmakers that a deuce is unlikely here.

The Bet: Tomorrow could be a wild day, but we aren’t taking any chances. We agree with Eater that Frank Bruni will award one star to Craftbar and two stars to Craftsteak.

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