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The Handshake Is Still A Great Calling Card at Craig's Restaurant


My Deifying references to the Dashing George Clooney are part silly, part Dream and all metaphor.  Celebrity crushing in Los Angeles colors outside of the lines. Typically a closeted fantasy. After all, there are good chances you may encounter your crush at some point - and then what?! (Having shuddering flashbacks.) Publicly, Angelenos barely acknowledge the awareness of their close proximity to the famous. 
I had Dined at Craig's Restaurant a few times in 2011, its first year, and Didn't get Drawn in by the food or its ambient ode to the past.  I Decried its imminent Doom.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  I am now not only eating crow; I am eating their Honey Truffle Chicken regularly.

Craig Susser spanned Decades mastering FOH at Dan Tana's and achieved legendary status.  When Dan Tana's was sold and not to him, he surfaced at Craig's in 2011 and at first, while it held its own, it lacked magic.  Word on the street suggested it was Dated, an LA term synonymous with the kiss of Death. Craig is a pro and I should never have counted him out.

Craig Susser

Enter February 2012.  Oscar Night and more importantly, Oscar After-Parties.  The. fun. begins. While international photo hounds were lurking at the Vanity Fair and Elton John's legendary fetes, the gabbed-about party that gave my adrenaline a Dramatic boost was George Clooney's private after party at, you guessed it, Craig's.

Within 48 hours of George and company's alleged tabloid Debauchery, I returned to Craig's joined by my frequent Craig's companion, Ed, who has lived a grand life for over nine Decades (yes nine as in 9).  They treat Ed Deferentially as though they sense he was George in his Day.  The energetic volume at Craig's had turned up though the food was still emerging and clinging to the past. 

By 2013-14, Craig's and I have become well-acquainted.  Craig's is a happening, a fairly glam one as restaurants go these days.  Not glam as in tacky tinsel, Soho House chic or Mastro's makeovers.  And it's not The Ivy with its former posh pretentiousness.  Craig's offers more of a "paisan" (pie-zahn) feeling, the Craig's-got-your-back-if-you've-got-his feeling.  Comrades shake hands as if there's something in them. Old school low glam with high celebrity. Style, baby. As with Dan Tana's, your grandmother's birthday party with infants through elders can be alongside a table with Ellen Paige, Sandra Bullock and Minka Kelly.  (Oh, have I mentioned George Clooney?)

The food has gotten Dramatically better since Craig's original opening and first chef.  Keeping in mind that Craig's isn't pretending to be something trending loftily, it is not seeking the progressive foodie. The kitchen is now steered by Kursten Kizer (formerly Saddle Peak Lodge) who is gently adding specials that Dare beyond Craig's original comfort zone.  Last week with Dear friends Julie and Eric, we sampled two starters: the poached pear salad topped with arugula Dotted with toasted pecans and the tuna tartare. The tartare might make Top Chef judges cringe for lack of originality, but if taste is the leveler, no complaints.  Both apt and appetizing, we were well set up for our three entrees.  
Poached pear salad

Tuna Tartare

First, my ever-lovin' Honey Truffle Chicken that for some is too sweet, though none could Deny the moist tenderness of the boneless breasts.  Two fish dishes hit the marks Divinely.  Though not out of the box in conception or execution, Chef Kizer earned our high praise for the Delicate treatments of the salmon and the whitefish (haddock on our night), both menu items.  The mood was festive throughout the meal and in my effervescence, I forgot to photograph our Desserts.  The chocolate bread pudding is rich and heavenly.  Its polar opposite was the house-made Vegan peanut butter ice cream. So much for Dated.

Honey Truffle Chicken - Southern fried with truffle honey

Salmon with beets and horseradish creme fraiche

Whitefish Almondine broiled with almonds and brown butter atop mashed potatoes
One final note and a worthwhile one, the service Deserves Decorated commendation. From Day one to the present, the servers Demonstrated focused training, no Doubt under Craig's tutelage.  The throw-back quality of mostly male servers gets a pass as a period piece.  Each server each time I've Dined has made our table feel as though we're the ones to watch.  Oh and that's saying something considering George Clooney is at the next table. 

Craig's Restaurant
8826 Melrose Ave
West Hollywood, CA 90069