Aria

100 N Tryon St. Charlotte, NC 28202(704) 376-8880 • ariacharlotte.com

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Depending on how you enter you might have two entirely different impressions of the décor. From the street it’s very nice. Heavily influenced by Craft in New York City I’m guessing. But if you cut through the Bank of America building, the entrance from that side is very unfortunate as you enter through a rather unappealing indoor mall, with an even lesser appealing entrance to the restaurant.

But either way, once you sit down, you are in for a treat. The menu really has some wowsers on it. At the top of those wowsers would be the lamb shank with tallegio polenta. Three of my favorite things one plate, served moist and stanky. I regrettably offered to share so I only had about half of it, but at least it afforded me the opportunity to sample a number of other dishes.

A very close second to the lamb was the fettuccine carbonara with pancetta. Perfectly done and as good as any place I’ve ever had it. Highly recommend it as a shared dish, because it’s as rich as the bankers on the floors above.

And speaking of rich, the peanut butter and chocolate dessert was another crowd-pleaser. And I don’t usually dig on peanut butter desserts, but this one was undeniable.

Other highs would be the scallop crudo. Very fresh, with a nice touch of heat to complement the sweetness of the mollusk. The salmon entrée. And the Crostada, which was basically a blackberry crumble.

From there the drop off to goodsville was steady, marked by a rib eye special which was a touch too fatty to be great, the NY strip, which was too hyped and too overcooked to live up to the hype and a kale salad that was, well, a kale salad.

And while there were a few misses, none of them were severe. For example, the gnocci with pear and prosciutto was great if you had a bite with all three ingredients at once. The problem is that it’s served with only enough of everything to do that for about five or six bites and then you’re left stranded with a bunch of boring potato dumplings.

Another hyped miss was the eggplant parmesan. It was honestly nothing better than you’d get at an Olive Garden for half the price. And same goes for the Tiramisu.

But after so many highs, it’s hard to complain too much about the food. Service, on the other hand, is definitely worth picking on. They simply aren’t up to the caliber of food they are serving. They are too slow and disorganized for such a seemingly high-end experience that boasts touches like a table in the kitchen and a wine list with bottles north of $500. All they need to do is weld the back entrance shut and hire new waiters and Aria would easily reach a full four knives, but as of now, I’m going with a strong 3.5.

3 teeth

Craftbar

900 Broadway New York, NY 10003 • (212) 461-4300 • craftrestaurantsinc.com/craftbar-new-york

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I’ve actually been here at least 3 times prior (probably spanning over 10 years), but for some reason I just assumed I’d already reviewed it. Well, apparently not. So, making up for lost time, let me first say that all three visits were between good and great. But because I don’t even remember what I had the other times, I’m only going to talk about my last visit for lunch.

So, based on a friends resounding commendation of their veal meatball parm (sorta pictured), I found myself once again at Craftbar, prepared to like it, but… That said, the “but” never came. I mean, these meatballs are so moist and delicious you almost want to go around punching every other meatball parm in the face for daring to share its name.

But that was only the half of it, and I mean that because I only had half of the sandwich. Yes, that’s right, I did splitsies. The other sandwich was the Cubano. And ¡Dios Mio! Is it fargin awesome! Haven’t had a Cuban this good since West Branch closed down (RIP).

Even the cheese plate app was a nice beginning (and end) to the meal.

Plus, service was solid. Accommodating and quick. And the décor is nice. Not quite as nice as Craft, but that’s kind of the point, to be a step down from the flagship- which is even more awesome if you’ve never been. One of my favorites in the city for years.

Great to see this place is as solid as ever over a decade later.

4 teeth

The Ultimate Fish

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La Chevre D’or – Eze, FR

If you’re going to pay 90 Euros for a piece of turbot, it had better be the best friggin’ turbot you’ve ever had. And so it was. Flaky, moist and cooked to perfection. Yet more flavorful than you would ever think a white fish could be. Plated in such a way that even your eyes feel like they are getting in on the action.

Craft – New York, NY

Chollicio is the man. There’s no denying it. Ever since Craft hit the scene over a decade ago it has been one of New York’s finest. And it does so through very unconventional means, simplicity. He doesn’t go crazy with the sauces and accouterments. He doesn’t try to get all techy with foams and shit. He keeps it clean and let’s the fish shine in all its fishy glory.

The Ultimate Mashed Potatoes

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Craft – New York, NY

I don’t know how they do it, but Craft’s mashed potatoes are so brilliant they rival the discovery of uranium. Okay, so I know how they do it. Lots of cream and butter and whipping, but stay with the fantasy for now, because these taters are truly the stuff of fairy tales. Whipped so light and so smooth you would almost swear they figured out a way to make silk edible.