Thursday, October 12, 2006

Dish on Dining: Crave in The Castro (Update: Closed)

Not exactly what the Castro’s craving for
2367 Market St., San Francisco (The Castro)
Sun.–Thu., 6–11 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 6 p.m.–1:30 a.m. PH: (415) 865-0192
Major credit cards accepted.
UPDATE: This restaurant closed in 2007.

Executive Chef Matthew DuTrumble’s name is listed prominently at the bottom of the small-plates menu at The Castro’s latest dining establishment—Crave (owned by the same people behind the well-established Café on Market right next door). So I’m not the biggest foodie because I admit that I’ve never heard of DuTrumble. A quick Google search uncovered that he was named one of San Francisco’s sexiest chefs by Citysearch and that he taught at the California Culinary Academy. Hmm, after tasting some of the dishes recently, I started to wonder if DuTrumble hired some of his recent students for his kitchen.

Crave aspires to be a hot spot for bar crawlers, with its late hours, lounge feel and pulsating club music. It’s a smaller version of the equally loungey Lime down the street but has yet to catch on with the Castro’s picky-and-rightfully-so diners since it opened this summer.

And in case you’re not convinced that Crave is more a bar/lounge than a restaurant, one of its specialty drinks is called Patron Pole Dancer. Enough said.

The menu offers the common Americanization of tapas, which means you have small plates of things you’d normally order as an entrée: roast chicken, slow-cooked short ribs, pork tenderloin. The menu is pretty extensive, with a long list of choices, including a selection of street tacos (that’s the soft tacos) and flat breads.

I started off with a lychee martini. Worried that it might be overly sweet, my drink was perfectly balanced and topped off with a lychee fruit. Buoyed by my satisfaction with the bar (and probably the vodka), I decided to continue my alcholic theme and ordered three dishes: Grilled Malibu Prawns (with Malibu Rum), Drunken Mushroom Fettucine (with a white wine sauce) and the salmon special (made with tequila). Saturday night party, baby!

Being a fan of tapas while traveling in Spain, I am all too aware of the size of the dishes and the attempts to experiment. So I wasn’t shocked by the tiny morsels that came to my table. But did it have to come swimming in sauce? First came the Malibu Prawns—three nicely grilled shrimp on a skewer floating in a sauce with a light coconut scent. I was so thankful the shrimp came in a boat-shaped dish to carry all the sauce. Then came the salmon that was pepper-encrusted and cooked just partly rare, which didn’t bothered me and I actually found quite pleasing. But as I attempted to cut the large pieces of vegetables under the salmon, which again came in a boat-shaped dish filled to the rim with broth, my boat tipped over and out poured the abundance of sauce all over my table. This was when I ordered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I needed to drown my tears after the overly drowned dishes.

Finally, my Drunken Mushroom Fettucine came out, and I found something other than the lychee martini to make me happy. The pasta was cooked to perfection—just the right tenderness with sauce sticking to the pasta and thus warming my insides. Now this is comfort food. My only gripe is that for the price and the fancy settings, you’d think the chef would use something more than just sliced button mushrooms. What? Did they run out of shittake or even brown crimini in the kitchen?

The service at Crave was pleasant, with your typical cute young boys dressed in black. (That’s actually a requirement for opening a restaurant in the Castro, just like how you get a membership card when you come out.) And the cozy lounge fits in perfectly with the bar and club music from The Café. But Crave is more a quick-stop in between dinner and hitting the clubs than the neighborhood food haven it hopes to be. It’s a great place for a drink and snack before a night of dancing. But stay for dinner and you’ll be craving more. (How many saw this pun coming? Well, apparently not executive Chef DuTrumble.)

Single guy rating: 2 stars

Explanation of the single guy’s rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy’s dream dinner

No comments: