Sunday, November 05, 2023

The Craftsman 1904 (Anaheim, CA)

The Craftsman 1904
549 S Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92805
Sun 11/05/2023, 07:45p-10:15p

The Craftsman 1904 Exterior

Given that I was generally a fan of the brewery's beers, I was bummed about the closure of Modern Times Leisuretown last October. After the shutter, I was very curious about what would happen with the sprawling space, especially given what a pain the place was to build out. Well, I found out earlier this year, when it was announced that the people behind the Smoke & Fire mini-chain, in concert with brewer Brad Kominek, would be taking over the site.

The Smoke & Fire group is led by principals Isaias Hernandez and Josh Bentrem. Their burgeoning restaurant empire started back in May 2020 with the opening of Smoke & Fire Social Eatery in La Habra, a casual spot focused on regional American comfort food. Its success resulted in the debut of three other locations in Paramount (March 2021), Pomona (June 2021), and Riverside (May 2022). The partners then branched out with Craft by Smoke & Fire, a BBQ-focused concept first launched in Anaheim in October 2021. It was also a smashing success, and has since given birth to outposts in Arcadia (April 2022), Pasadena (June 2022), and Downtown LA (November 2023).

In any case, the bulk of the old Leisuretown property has been converted to Villains Brewing Company, while the former Modern Times Cafe has been transformed into The Craftsman. Grand-opened on September 15th, the restaurant is set in an early 1900s Craftsman home, and represents Hernandez and Bentrem's highest-end offering to date, one that serves as a sort of "passion project" for the team.

The Craftsman 1904 Lounge
The staff seemed to have an issue locating my reservation (probably because I made it by phone prior to the restaurant's Resy account going live), so I was asked to take a seat near the entrance while they figured things out. Pictured above is the bar/lounge area, which I believe is meant for walk-in guests.

Weapon of Choice
Weapon of Choice | Nikka Days Whiskey, Sake, Umeshu
A small welcome cocktail was served during the wait, and did an admirable job combining the plummy sweetness of ume liqueur with the trademark characteristics of the Japanese whisky.

The Craftsman 1904 Main Dining Room
The Craftsman 1904 Side Dining Room
The actual eating happens upstairs. The first photo shows The Craftsman's main dining room, while the second depicts a smaller area located off to the side.

The Craftsman 1904 Menu The Craftsman 1904 Cocktail List The Craftsman 1904 Wine List
Here we see The Craftsman's $110 eight-course tasting menu, as well as the restaurant's cocktail list--created by Jarred Dooley (Detention, Playground, The Bruery Provisions) and Louie Tinoco--and selection of wines. Click for larger versions.

Start Me Up
1: Start Me Up | Wild-Caught Pacific Imperial Ahi Tuna, Cold-Smoked Tossed in an Island inspired Poke, Served Over Blue Maize Tortillas
Large-ish cubes of tuna conveyed saline, smoke, and savor in a restrained manner, accented by the pungency of onion, while a dollop of honey at the bottom lent a sugariness that actually worked surprisingly well. The toasted tortilla provided a welcomed crunch, but also broke apart super easily, making the dish rather difficult to eat cleanly.

Devil's Waitin' (Flaming)
Devil's Waitin'
Devil's Waitin' | Appleton Estate 8yr Rum, Passionfruit, Grapefruit, Allspice, Lime
The night's first cocktail arrived with some tableside theatrics, and showed off the citrus and sweet spices that I'd expect from something tiki-inspired. My concern here was that the drink seemed overly diluted, watery almost.

She's So Cold
2: She's So Cold | Scottish Salmon and Grilled North Atlantic Lobster tossed w/ Roasted Macadamia Nuts and Fried Maui Onions, House-Made Chili Garlic Sauce, Served w/ Lotus Root Chips
The fatty, smoky nature of the salmon was well conveyed, and the fish certainly made sense with the chili-garlic sauce, though I didn't taste much at all from the advertised lobster. The nutty crunch of those macadamias was appreciated, but my favorite thing here were those crumbly bits, which had a super familiar savoriness that actually reminded me of Calbee-style shrimp chips.

Let The Day Begin
Let The Day Begin | Old Forester Bourbon, Passionfruit, Hops Tincture, Lime
My next cocktail came out looking like beer, and actually tasted like it too due to its mix of subtly spicy, hoppy, and fruity flavors, backed by the kick of that whiskey.

Waiting on a Friend
3: Waiting on a Friend | Kumiai Oyster Grilled Over A Mesquite Live Fire and topped with Garlic Butter, Freshly Ground Pepper, Oregano, Parmesan Cheese, Pecorino Romano and Beef Tri Tip Chicharron
A lone grilled Kumiai was definitely a standout, and one of the best grilled oysters I've ever eaten. I loved the sheer smokiness present, and how that worked with the dish's cheesy, beefy, and garlicky flavors, all while the brine of the oyster wasn't lost. I wouldn't have minded popping a few more of these guys.

Salvation | Aviation Gin, Dry Vermouth, Sherry, Cilantro Oil, Chili Oil
A riff on a martini managed to be a smart take on the classic cocktail. The nuttiness from the sherry integrated particularly well, and I enjoyed how all the herby, savory nuances meshed with the drink's generally dry character.

Sweet Virginia
4: Sweet Virginia | SRF Short Rib Ravioli slowly braised in a Chianti Wine reduction with herbs, spices, vegetable mirepoix, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, wrapped in egg pasta
Pasta duties were handled by a single, healthily-sized, well-textured raviolo. Flavors were satisfyingly cheesy and mushroom-driven, but the actual beef was a tad overshadowed.

Beat The Devils Tattoo
Beat The Devils Tattoo | Pineapple Infused Rum, Mint Amaro, Campari Fluff
The fourth cocktail of the night was quite agreeable thanks to its effective marriage of sweetness, spice, bitter amaro, and the softness of that Campari foam.

5: Satisfaction | Kurobuta Pork Belly Brined in House and Smoked Low and Slow Over Oak, Topped with a House-Made Ajitsuke Tamago
The pork belly was spot-on, displaying a great mix of lean and fat along with a lovely sear and smoke, as well as just a smidge of sweetness. It melded easily with that beautifully-textured soft-boiled ramen egg, which was a joy to eat just by itself. Another favorite.

Housemade Vermouth
A complimentary taster of The Craftsman's housemade vermouth showcased a bracingly citrus-forward, floral, astringent nose. Taking a sip, I found the aromatized wine thick and palate-coating, with a marked bittersweetness and an unabashedly spicy kick.

Beast of Burden
6: Beast of Burden | SRF Tri Tip Finished on a Bed of Hot Coals Paired with Pureed Parsnips and a Chipotle Cherry BBQ sauce
Tri-tip was cooked more than I'd prefer, but still demonstrated an appealing smoke that worked with the prickly, tangy spice of the barbeque sauce. The parsnips, however, were overly sugary for me, and I would've preferred a simple potato mash.

The Knife
The Knife | Blackened Bourbon, Sweet Vermouth, Luxardo Fernet, Luxardo Maraschino
This Manhattan-ish cocktail was to my liking. Think boozy and bitter, with lots of dark fruit countered by a palpable mintiness.

Sympathy for the Devil
7: Sympathy for the Devil | SRF Short Rib Paired w/ House-Made Chimichurri and Grilled Oyster Mushrooms
The night's final savory course was another highlight. The beef arrived utterly tender and juicy, with some deeply gratifying flavors and just the right amount of char. The 'shrooms were similarly smoky, and I liked how that zippy chimichurri helped lighten things up.

Espresso Martini
To go along with dessert, a miniature espresso martini was provided gratis.

Let's Spend the Night Together
8: Let's Spend the Night Together | A Modern Twist on a True American Classic, We Use Rockenwagner Fresh Baguettes To Create A Creamy And Indulgent Cajeta
Closing out the evening was a pretty commendable bread pudding, one that wasn't too heavy, and came loaded with sweet spices and a touch of citrus for contrast.

Tonight's dinner was enjoyable, albeit a bit rough around the edges, and though some tweaks may be called for, there's still plenty to like about this place, and I certainly appreciated the team's distinctive approach to fine dining. It's pretty ballsy to open a tasting menu-only restaurant in Anaheim, so hopefully they can stick to their guns and keep growing and evolving.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home