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From this week's Counter Intelligence on Craftbar: “Craft of a Top Chef” by JONATHAN GOLD: “One of the most pleasant meals I've eaten this year was a spring lunch at Craftbar, the small-plates bistro tucked into the front bar area of the restaurant Craft in Century City. Most small-plates joints, including such good ones locally as AOC or Lou, follow a kind of pattern, a loose, tapas-inspired matrix designed more to compliment the wine than to provide a specific aesthetic apart from lubricated conversation, but this lunch seemed like a different thing entirely, like the Craft experience distilled into a tasting menu: lovely, translucent slices of pressed pigs head served with pungent bits of fresh marjoram; a salad of shaved fennel and apple; baby leeks, stewed down until they resembled ramps, the emblematic wild onion of the East Coast spring, moistened with a vinaigrette and tossed with toasted Marcona almonds from Spain.”

Belly of the lamb: Eight dollars well-spent.; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Belly of the lamb: Eight dollars well-spent.; Credit: Anne Fishbein

“My favorite dish was a strip of lamb belly, the fatty cut that has become newly fashionable in the era of maximum meat, presented in a manner that was vaguely Middle Eastern, arranged with dates, roasted beets that had been cut to resemble the scarlet pickled turnips so common in Lebanese cooking, and a bit of thick yogurt that had been flavored with sumac, the reddish, sour spice you've probably seen sprinkled on kebabs. Did the chef lose his nerve at the last minute, substituting the sweet beets for the pungent turnips, the Western yogurt for the caloric lebneh? Perhaps. But the lamb precisely reflected the season, the end of winter slouching into the gentler flavors of spring, and it was delicious — eight dollars very well spent.”

Continue reading JONATHAN GOLD's “Craft of a Top Chef” at laweekly.com. But first, here are some web-exclusive photos of Craftbar by ANNE FISHBEIN. For more Fishbein photos of Craftbar, check the slideshow “Craftbar: Maximum-a-la-Carte.”

A bowl of fresh fava beans with shards of pecorino; Credit: Anne Fishbein

A bowl of fresh fava beans with shards of pecorino; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Duck sausage with cherry mostarda; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Duck sausage with cherry mostarda; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Mozzerella and more; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Mozzerella and more; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Server Kelly prepares for dinner.; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Server Kelly prepares for dinner.; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Caramel popcorn with macadamia nuts; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Caramel popcorn with macadamia nuts; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Watch the doughnut hole.; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Watch the doughnut hole.; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Hot from the oven: chocolate-chip cookies; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Hot from the oven: chocolate-chip cookies; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Cool It: Ginger Mai Tai; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Cool It: Ginger Mai Tai; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Toby checking the night's menu; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Toby checking the night's menu; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Kitchen in transition: Head sous chef John Keenan hones his Craft.; Credit: Anne Fishbein

Kitchen in transition: Head sous chef John Keenan hones his Craft.; Credit: Anne Fishbein

LA Weekly