23 January, 2010

The Duchess Dines . . .

Craft Los Angeles

Every so often the Duchess migrates to her Century City office for work, and when she does, she is bereft of appetizing dining options. So close to Beverly Hills, she can easily zip home (or thereabouts) for her local comfort food courtesy of Spago or Dominick's.

Once before the Duchess joined a friend at the bar at Craft for a post-work libation (yes, it's true -- the Duchess works for a living). The Duchess was unimpressed by the viognier and found the bar menu's substance did not compensate for its style. The Duchess suspected the same of the surrounding bar patrons (in fairness this latter observation remained unconfirmed).

But last night, overcome with that old familiar Friday urge, the Duchess wandered across the rain-drenched lawn in the shadow of sparkling, glass-enrobed towers that are the hallmark of Century City to Craft for her usual poison. Finding the bar (again) chock-full of young, hip, ironic talent agents and lawyer-types (forgive the Duchess's self-loathing, dear readers), the Duchess and Duke requested a table, and were promptly seated.

Service was swift, pleasant, effortless. The staff and menu are both understated -- they do not have to announce their excellence. The Duchess's mouth watered over every single item on the menu; the classic American fare was right up the Duchess's alley. Starting with warm pumpernickel bread and a glass of Chardonnay, the Duchess and Duke negotiated seemingly endlessly over what to order. Finally settling on two salads (hearts of palm with avocado and baby beets), the beef short ribs (melt-in-your-mouth tender), several sides (sauteed broccoli with lemon, roasted brussels sprouts with bacon, and lightly buttered baby carrots), the duo struggled to save room for dessert. The Duchess believes the desserts at Craft, exemplified by their homemade, creative ice cream flavors (last night's menu boasted caramel, cacao chip, cinnamon, mexican vanilla, black walnut and huckleberry yoghurt), are among the top few, very best in the city. A belief shored by the warm, crispy and light huckleberry cobbler and toasted, nutty German chocolate trifle that soon arrived at table.

Craft succeeds because it doesn't attempt to be anything that it is not. It is unapologetically East Coast in its flavors and presentation, and it is also unpretentious. The waitstaff and bartends are not embarrassed to be friendly. It's the kind of place one can settle in for a nice, relaxing meal, to be pampered by people who appear to truly enjoy the art of dining, and to be restored by perfectly prepared "comfort food," in the best sense of the term.

Thus the Duchess dines, and recommends . . .

10100 Constellation Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90067
Tel. 310.279.4180

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