Offal at Craftbar
Always on the lookout for offal-loving chefs, I dropped by Craftbar last week to try the Charcuterie and other nose-to-tail dishes of Chef de Cuisine Lauren Hirschberg. The tongue was tender, the head was flavorful, the sweetbreads were juicy, and the rilletes were battered and deep-fried (just the way we like them!).
My favorite texture from the lunch goes to the beef tongues ($10) served with horseradish aioli and thin slices of raw radish. After the lunch, Chef Hirschberg confirmed that the beef tongues are brined with brown sugar, salt, clove, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, bay leaf, fresh ginger, and mustard seed; after that brine, they're confited in duck fat, then rolled in a cheesecloth to shape the tongues into a cylindrical form. The tongue, like all confited items, was fork-tender and unctuous with an intensely beefy flavor.
Sweetbreads ($12) were the best all-around offal dish. Each section of sweetbread was bursting with meaty juice. Tender and subtle, the sweetbreads were flanked by gently sauteed rutabaga and onion chutney. Pan-fried to golden perfection, they were a fine exercise in leaving well enough alone.
Our other selection from their Charcuterie offerings was the pig head terrine ($11), served with a hefty portion of citrus mostarda (candied orange). The terrine was appropriately marbled with hefty chunks of smokey white fat, a welcome change from fat-fearing terrines that end up tasting like Spam.
The rilletes ($9) were made from pork shoulder: moist and porky, the battered and deep-fried cubes were served with a large strip of sweet red onion. The coleslaw slathered on top of the rilletes was mixed with plenty of brown mustard seeds—each bite of the coleslaw came with the grainy surprise of the seeds.
Feeling in need of greens, we ordered the frisee ($12), tossed with smoked bacon, large chunks of gorgonzola, and a poached egg. The smoked bacon was extremely porky and laced with some of the sweeter-tasting fat I've had on bacon.
Our token seafood dish, white anchovy bruschetta ($9), came with a soft-cooked egg that was smothered all over the crisped garlickly bread. Braised leek was mixed into the egg. The anchovies were pleasantly briny; the surface of the bread was a sponge for the moist egg and leeks. Take altogether, a really balanced appetizer so generously portioned that one serving could easily suffice for lunch.
I've yet to try the chicken liver pate, the rabbit ballotine, the country pate, or the other confited items on the menu (confit of pork shoulder and confit of Peking duck), but if the other offal selections are any indication, Craftbar takes its nose-to-tail eating very seriously.