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Crave Satisfies With A Seasonally Evolving Menu

By Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts
 

In January Crave American Kitchen and Sushi Bar, a Minnesota-based chain, opened its newest outpost in the Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda.  The restaurant is living up to the ambitious expectations set for it by its Twin Cities parent company, Kaskaid, Inc.  Kaskaid has created four restaurant concepts since its inception in 2007 and Crave may be its most successful, with four branches in Minnesota and a total of ten nation-wide so far, popping up in locations from the Las Vegas area to Austin, to Coral Gables and more.

At a recent dinner featuring some of the newest additions to their seasonal menu, the able staff proved that American and Japanese cuisines can fit together as comfortably as cherry trees at the tidal basin in Washington. Each course seemed like a natural precursor to the next.

The evening started out with a few specialty cocktails.  The ‘Crave’ is a blend of Stolichnaya ‘Razberi’, Chambord, pineapple and Domaine Chandon Brut.  If you are going to name a cocktail after your restaurant, you may as well pour my favorite California sparkling wine in case the Russian vodka and the fine raspberry liqueur don’t make enough of an impression.  The ‘Angry Dragon’, a happy combination of Bacardi Dragon Berry rum, lychee, cranberry and citrus zest, was another option.  In addition to these Crave creations, Bar Manager Jordan Harrington is in the process of concocting specials just for the Bethesda branch, such as a Sweet and Spicy Mojito and an Egg White and Blueberry Fizz.

Crave General Manager Michelle Went has a firm grip on the Angry Dragon

Crave General Manager Michelle Went has a firm grip on the Angry Dragon

Our cocktails were followed by an exquisitely crafted sushi platter, that I pondered whether to devour or leave as an undisturbed work of art.  Among the choices presented were the ‘Rainbow Roll’, the sushi chef’s version of a California roll, topped with four different types of fish, and the ‘Bamboo Bite’ which had tempura shrimp wrapped in sushi rice, crowned with overlapping slices of avocado, and decorated with a thin cross section of jalapeno.  Adorning the platter were pieces of pickled ginger placed together like rose petals and wasabi molded into the shape of a leaf.  Hand-sliced cucumber and apple slices were shaped into fans.

Sushi platter

Sushi platter

‘The Caterpillar’, sporting a fuzzy top made of bits of fried batter soaked with cranberry and beet juices, features spicy tuna, roe, cucumber, mango, avocado and sweet ‘Unagi’ sauce made with soy sauce, sugar and sake. Its whimsical appearance did not detract from its fresh and complex flavor.

The Caterpillar

The Caterpillar

Even after this delightful introduction, the main courses easily held my interest.  Seared scallops with curry, caviar, arugula and papaya gastrique, showcased large scallops sliced horizontally.  Grilled Mahi Mahi came served on a bed of red rice, with red pepper curry sauce, and banana fig butter.  Medallions of certified Angus beef (which amounts to less than 8% of all beef produced in the U.S.) were accompanied by potato purée, pencil-thin grilled asparagus and a smooth demi glace.  Each course was expertly paired with a wine chosen from the glass enclosed wine room.

Medallions of Angus beef

Medallions of Angus beef

Executive Chef Joel Hassanali, a Trinidadian, explained that the chef at each Crave restaurant can create 25% of what goes on to the menu.  Look for dishes that will reflect the chef’s Caribbean origins and his experiences growing up in the restaurant owned by his parents.

Executive Chef Joel Hassanali

Executive Chef Joel Hassanali

Small tastes of a number of desserts were brought to the table – – fluffy coconut cake, enhanced by an infusion of coconut syrup and fresh coconut, and small parfaits presented in a decorative serving piece that held them up like horses on a merry-go-round.

Coconut cake and parfait-like dessert choices

Coconut cake and parfait-like dessert choices

These delicious bites included French Silk Chocolate Mousse, Tiramisu, Lemon Meringue and Salty Caramel Mousse.  Everything is made in-house, down to the artistically decorated dark and white chocolate candy pieces atop some desserts that looked as though they popped out of a Godiva box.

I opted for the lemon meringue, a newcomer to the regular menu, and a particular favorite of the chef’s.  I thought I noticed shreds of toasted coconut in my first spoonful, but soon realized my taste buds were not confirming what my mouth was feeling.  Thin shreds of lemon zest were punching up the tartness to balance out the sweetness.  Digging deeper into the glass cup, I discovered another surprise – – cheesecake filling.

Negotiating with the other guests for a taste of their desserts, was not an option.  Clearly my dinner partners had fallen in love at first bite.  Seems as though I’ll have to return for more taste testing.  As if I needed an excuse…

www.cravebethesda.com.

Photo credit: Cary Pollak

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