Send in the Prince

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September 28, 2009 // UPDATED 9:42 am - September 28, 2009
By: Carla Waldemar
Carla Waldemar

Eating at Bradstreet Crafthouse is like devouring an edible seminar at an elite think tank for food.

But, who knew? On a recent Tuesday, we were the sole diners, bellying up to the counter of the tiny, watch-’em kitchen, where a young, super-passionate chef named Jesse (trained in Hibbing, his home town) slid a host of small plates our way, along with explanations we’d cajoled, delivered with the passion of a religious convert.

Bradstreet seems to be the Cinderella of Block E, housed on the main floor of the Graves 601 Hotel in a shadowy, cavernous room forgotten (it appears) by the design team. Make your way beyond it to Jesse’s station in the rear, where the culinary action percolates.

I’d picked up a menu earlier, while dining at upscale Cosmos upstairs. Down here, the food and drink offered are equally, sensationally, creative, yet priced for those of us who need to stretch a paycheck. (Both small plates and wine by the glass run $4–9, many $6.)

First off, let’s hear it for the trio of crab cakes (good things come in threes around here), nicely crisped yet sublimely juicy, set on dual plate paintings. An intense, amber reduction of crab shells captured their very essence, then magnified it about a hundred times, a trail of earthy poblano pepper puree to balance. They’re presented with shards of honey-sweetened phyllo, which my friend inhaled faster than potato chips and cried for more.

Next up, three coins of foie gras pate, poached in chicken broth and cinnamon (says Jesse), butter-smooth and rich and triple-tasty. Then, a take-off on a classic BLT, substantial enough for splitting, composed of (don’t tell your doctor) unctuous, uber-fatty grilled pork belly layered with thick, housemade tomato jam and burly lashes of swiss chard — all crowned with a fried egg, whose golden, liquid center bursts to become a lavish dressing — an ideal way to end a night of club-hopping (yes, the café is open until 2 a.m.).

Next, succulent braised lamb ribs under a complementary sesame-soy glaze, served aside potent rounds of poached daikon (like a radish on steroids) and a path of pungent mustard. And these are just the beginning; the menu lists several dozen savory temptations, from simple, house-marinated olives to satays and sliders. I’ll hurry back.

But first, dessert. (Well, desserts. You know how it goes: Hate to eat and run.) First, an apple fritter in a swell rendition that spotlights sweet fruit rather than an overcoat of batter. Hidden star: the cardamom ice cream at its side. Next, more ice cream — this time, black sesame (less beguiling, both in taste and pasty texture) marshalling a flourless chocolate cake that was close to divine.

Bradstreet Crafthouse
Graves 601 Hotel
601 1st Ave. N.