During an interview that will appear in next week's issue of New York, Tom Colicchio told us, As much as I love what I do at Craft, I dont want to be known for putting a piece of fish on the plate with olive oil and salt and pepper. That's why last year, missing the creative call of the plated dishes that won him a name at Mondrian and Gramercy Tavern, he created Tom: Tuesday Dinner. Hes enjoyed his return to form so much that in the next weeks, hell open a new venture in the Chelsea space that currently belongs to his steakhouse, Craftsteak. Current chef Shane McBride will stay on, but Colicchio, for the most part, will create the menu, and though hes now the father of a 4-month-old boy, he plans to put in a good deal of time in the kitchen. We asked him what to expect from Colicchio & Sons.
Why close Craftsteak? Did the steakhouse trend bottom out?
I dont really follow trends, so I dont know. The excitement for me has kind of worn out there, but mostly its the neighborhood. It has changed with the High Line, and with the economy people arent really coming out for $100 steaks. That aside, its a space I love, and I wanted to do something just a little personal there.
So personal that youve named it Colicchio & Sons.
Part of that is looking backward at what Ive done in the past and doing some of those dishes I did at Mondrian and Gramercy; but now after having a second kid, Im also looking to the future. When I first started doing the Tom: Tuesday Dinner, some of the old dishes came back the cod with the boulangere potatoes and cider vinegar; the monkfish wrapped in pancetta and served with truffle vinaigrette and braised red-cabbage; and the sea-urchin-and-crab fondue. It also sparked a lot of creativity and a lot of new things.
What are some of the dishes youll carry over from Tom: Tuesday Dinner?
Recently, Ive done baked gnocchi with Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, chestnuts, and white truffles. Or roasted octopus, pork belly, and chorizo vinaigrette.
Will the menu be your traditional mix of appetizers and entres?
Im 90 percent sure (I say that because I think Ive sold myself on it) that there will be no difference between appetizers and entres its all the same kind of portions. I find that when I go out I want three appetizers instead of an entre. The prices will range from $12 to $14 and $38 to $40.
To what extent did the economy factor into the creation of the menu? Did you have to cut back on pricey ingredients?
We havent changed our focus at Craft at all. If you want to serve an Elysian Fields rack of lamb, you cannot put it on the menu for less than $50 because youre losing money its expensive because its small production, and [farmer Keith Martin] feeds the animals organic feed. One way of doing it is possibly doing a two-chop rack for $30, so you can still get flavor and taste without spending $50 for a full rack of lamb.
Besides the reservations policy, what will be the difference between the dining room and the front taproom?
I wouldnt use a rack of lamb in the front room, but I would use a breast of lamb. Itll be more of a bar menu. Prices will probably range from $12 to $20.
Youre replacing your raw bar with a wood-burning hearth there. How do you plan to use it?
Weve been messing around with pork loin stuffed with chorizo. A lot of wood-roasted meats. Ive messed around with pizza at home were not going to do a pizza program, but well probably do a pizza-type dish on the menu.
Do you feel obligated to use local ingredients?
Id never label myself locavore, or I wouldnt be using olive oil, lemons, artichokes, or other ingredients you cant get locally. Theres a woman in North Carolina outside of Chapel Hill, Eliza McLean from Cane Creek, whos doing everything right she grows grass and feeds animals grass, and thats what she does. And I cant buy from her because shes from North Carolina? No, thats crazy.