Crú Food & Wine Bar aims to satisfy the sophisticated palate. I have been several times, and each occasion is equally tantalizing. With locations on 2nd Street and on Century Oaks Terrace (in the Domain), the restaurant is located in easily accessible and highly trafficked locations.
By Ashley Fleming
On my most recent visit, I patronized the downtown location on a Friday night around 7:00. The restaurant had seven tables full in total, with a few people sitting at the bar. I was greeted immediately by an employee standing near the door. He asked if he could take my umbrella. Unloading my wet umbrella was exactly what was needed. He then told me I could sit anywhere.
I looked around. The seat that seemed most inviting was a big leather sofa directly in front of the kitchen. It had no silverware or place settings, and was most likely a decorative waiting area. I thought, as I sat down, that it probably wasn’t even registered in their computer system as a table.
Nevertheless, Crú accommodated my desire to lounge my way through dinner. They set the coffee table in front of the chair for me. The manager said hello in a welcoming, grateful manner, and his hospitality went beyond lip service.
Shortly thereafter came a perky blonde waitress with a menu. I began with the goat cheese beignets, which came with honey and cracked pepper. The cheese was a mild, creamy variety and the beignets were fried to perfection, with just the right amount of dough around the cheese. The cracked pepper was delightful. The honey was high quality—I even tasted bits of honeycomb.
I questioned my decision to eat this as an appetizer, as the overall effect was sweet and creamy, rather than savory. These beignets, lacking a savory component, would have done well as a dessert. One could speculate that a balsamic reduction would have been a better accompaniment for this appetizer. The first course was, however, perfectly executed. Despite the fried component, the beignets did not feel overly greasy and heavy. I attribute this lightness to their slight stature. The honey and black pepper helped to balance the heaviness of the cheese and fried dough.
For dinner, I chose the Barolo-braised shirt ribs with polenta and a wild mushroom jus. Barolo wine is a fine red Italian wine with high acidity and tannin content. It has a very concentrated flavor. It is not an ideal wine to braise with, and will not make a dish taste appealing. From a culinary standpoint, the decision to cook with Barolo could easily lead to disaster, and a meal that tastes exclusively of wine.
Why cook with it? Barolo is considered one of the best wines in the world. It was used, one may speculate, to appeal to the wine lover, the individual who knows Barolo as one of the finest wines on the market. In other words, it’s about snob appeal. The dinner did lean towards bitter, and the wine flavor in the wild mushroom jus was quite strong. That being said, the food was still delicious and well cooked. The mushrooms in the jus were tender, not overcooked, and the sauce was not greasy at all. The polenta was creamy and flavorful, but not overly heavy. It was perfectly seasoned. The short ribs dissolved in my mouth they were so tender.
Dessert, unfortunately, was disappointing. I ordered a molten chocolate cake. It came fully baked—no moist, gooey center whatsoever. Instead, there was only dough on the inside. The dessert menu also featured goat cheese fritters and honey. Isn’t that a repackaged appetizer? Odd.
So what about the wine? Let’s start with glasses. Each glass was decorated with a grape design. The server filled up my wine glass to the bottom of the design each time she filled it (which was three times). One can safely assume, in that case, that the design was set at the 6 ounce mark, and servers do not have to guess at the appropriate amount of wine to pour into the glass. I found this to be a simple, tactful way to measure one’s wine intake.
I asked the server what she recommended to accompany the goat cheese beignets. She asked me what I liked, and I was too embarrassed to say “sweet whites”. Yes, when left to my own devices, I still choose the wine of a teenager on Valentine’s Day. Instead of saying what I wanted to, I just stammered. Then I grew silent. The waitress picked up the slack. She suggested a Pinot Blanc. I chose the Albert Mann Pinot Blanc from Alsace, France. It was wonderful. Not only that, but it went well with both the goat cheese beignets and the braised short rib.
All in all, the experience was well-executed, efficient and welcoming. My meal was well cooked, the server was friendly and attentive, and the wine was enjoyable. What drew me to Crú was it’s wine bar that also serves delicious dinners and appetizers. The food here is not an afterthought, as is the case in some wine bars. The experience was one worth repeating.
Crú has several wine tastings throughout the year. Every Thursday, they offer half-off bottles of champagne. Every Monday, they offer a free pizza with the purchase of a bottle of wine. These incentives are worth checking out, and I look forward to experiencing more of what Crú has to offer.