Snow has arrived here in the northland and so approaches the holiday season with its many celebratory dining opportunities. Your calendar, like mine, is likely filling up quickly. And if you’re contemplating which of Edina’s many great restaurants would top off a successful shopping day or make a special dinner date destination, it’s come to our attention that Crave has a brand new menu.
Crave was a sensation when it originally opened at the Galleria in Edina, but as the company expanded, its focus on consistency may have resulted in a bit of commoditization. This realization inspired Crave’s executive chef, Stewart Woodman to lead a collaborative effort with eight other company chefs to take Crave back to its roots of what they do well. Woodman comes from a fine dining background and rejects the idea that a restaurant chain cannot deliver a high quality dining experience. He hopes his expertise can bring a fresh breath of excitement to the brand. “We can do better, even though we’ve been doing well,” Woodman says during a guided tasting of new menu items that the restaurant provided to the media last week. Here are some highlights from the experience.
First of all, the sushi menu has been pared down to allow for greater focus on quality. But don’t worry. A few of Crave’s signature dishes, loved by its regular diners, are still available.
An expanded cocktail menu emphasizing herbs, infusions and purees is sure to be a hit. At least it was at my table. The drink menu includes several non-alcoholic specialties that allow anyone to raise a celebratory glass of tasty elegance. I ordered the Roger Rabbit, which is essentially carrot juice and soda. It sounded healthy and may be, but tasted mostly like soda. Others at my table raved about the non-alcoholic Blueberry Mint Fizz and the Cranberry Sage Refresher. For imbibers, the Blueberry Lemonade and Pear Collins, ordered from the crafted cocktails section of the menu, also received rave reviews from samplers.
Our two starters were the Jumbo Shrimp and the Chicken Strips. The shrimp is marinated and then flash fried to a pretty good crunch, and topped with tzatziki sauce. It’s a bit spicy for the average Minnesotan, but I found it quite tasty. And the chicken strips were a very pleasant surprise. As a mother of two, I couldn’t fathom anything called chicken strips to be considered anything other than kid food. But this appetizer doesn’t look or taste like any chicken strips my children have ever ordered. Seasoned with coconut milk and gojuchang sauce, which I’m told is the trending ingredient of the moment, these spicy glazed chicken strips are deliciously grown up.
Of the four Chef Signature items that I sampled; Duck Confit Flatbread, Grapefruit & Jicama Salad, Lamb Meatballs and the Grilled Mahi Mahi, the salad was a table favorite and chef Woodman admitted it was also one of his favorite menu creations.
The fig marmalade on the flatbread made it a bit sweet for my tastes, but still good. The meatballs and Mahi Mahi were well balanced and delicious dishes I'd highly recommend.
From the grill, the Half Roasted Chicken with coconut jasmine rice, the Grass Fed Burger with fois gras butter and the Bison Burger topped with pork belly and Harissa cilantro mayonnaise are savory selections we all raved about! I also sampled the scallops with butternut squash risotto. I love scallops and this dish is creamy, rich and a divine indulgence.
Speaking of indulgence, there is a pastry chef devoted to each Crave location offering up desserts like s’more brownie and rum butterscotch pudding made with bits of crunchy ginger cookies.
What became evident during conversations with other lunch guests during the tasting event was that it had been a while since many of us dined at Crave. With so many great dining options available to Edina restaurant goers, maybe the folks at Crave recognized a need to reignite some excitement around its culinary expertise. That said, the new menu certainly provides a good reason to take a fresh look at a local favorite.
Look for special offers on holiday gift cards available November 17-December 31 at craveamerica.com/giftcards