Our visit to Cru Oyster Bar last Monday showed how careless kitchen work can drop our opinion of a once fine restaurant in just a few minutes. Eight of us (5 adults and 3 children) dined at Cru, and while there were some marvelous dishes, there were all too many misses for a restaurant whose prices have crept up every year with a previously deserved reputation.
We started with appetizers, including 2 oysters, ($3.50 each) Blue Crab Cocktail $23), Lobster Bisque with Hushpuppies ($26), Local greens ($14), and a cheese platter. And of these, the oysters excelled. The local greens salad was prepared with sunflower seeds, goat cheddar and medjool dates, and was fine although not all of us thought the dates fit into the salad.
The Lobster Bisque was quite good, although truly a bisque with no lobster evident. The accompanying Hush Puppies were glazed with Aleppo-Honey Butter, making them essentially donuts. As donuts, they were very good, but didn’t seem to belong with the Bisque.
The Blue Crab Cocktail was a large dish of crabmeat, decorated with chives, and sitting in what seemed to be ordinary bottled seafood sauce. There was so much crab there that you had to eat down a layer before you discovered the cocktail sauce.
The three cheeses on the platter were fine, and we each snacked on bits of cheese and cracker-like bread while we waited for the main course.
Two of the children had the children’s meal of pasta and broccoli and both devoured it assiduously. The third ordered the Butter Poached Lobster (Market Price, about $50). The lobster was delivered as completely shelled lobster meat over a bed of vegetables and it and the vegetables were very good indeed. We don’t know if this was the way the lobster is always served, but not having to shell the beast was ideal for our young diner, who greatly appreciated it.
Our other main course selections included a Lobster Roll ($32), Strozzapreti with Tuna Bolognese ($30), Fluke Meuniere ($35), Grilled Harpoon caught Swordfish ($35) and Pork Schnitzel ($32).
Let us note first that the Lobster Roll was excellent, with a tender, buttery brioche roll and ample lobster meat. And the Strozzapreti dish was simply outstanding. Strozzapreti is made of two twisted tubes of pasta, which easily hold a lot of sauce. The Bolognese was made by cooking rare tuna in a spicy tomato sauce until it fell into little Bolognese-like piece. This was not only delicious, but quite an inspiration.
We’ve had the Fluke Meuniere before in 2012, and it is instructive to compare the photos of the earlier version with Monday night’s version. It is served with string beans, brown butter and hazelnuts, and topped with some salad greens. However, every single component was much less evident that two years ago: fewer salad greens, fewer hazelnuts, fewer beans and a thinner piece of Fluke that was necessarily dried and much less flavorful.
The Swordfish was served with Roasted Zucchini Salad, Chickpeas and tapenade, and while the accompaniments were good, the swordfish itself was dry and overcooked, with a burned taste near the grill marks.
But worst of all was the Pork Schnitzel. It was presumably attempting replicate Wiener Schnitzel, made with veal, but it was tough, dry, greasy and flavorless. However the sweet corn and Savoy cabbage, pecorino fondue and salsa verde was actually pretty good. We ate those and left the pork more or less uneaten on the plate.
You would think, seeing that, that the waitress would ask if everything was all right, but no one asked at any time how our meal was.
The children’s meals came with a tiny little whoopee pie for dessert which they ate eagerly. A larger portion was available on the adult menu but we didn’t try it. Instead we had a key lime pie, interestingly served in a sort of glass jar with crust at the bottom, and pronounced delicious. Our other dessert was a chocolate pot du creme topped with salted hazelnuts, and while the topping was terrific, the rest was just a jar of pudding.
The bill for this evening was astonishing. Including a $100 bottle of wine and 3 other drinks, the bill was $692 because they added the 20% gratuity ($108) automatically for parties of 8 or more. Even children.
There are good meals to be had at Cru, but clearly the kitchen and staff are coasting. These are really talented people and they can do a lot better.