Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The Crooked Tree Serves Straight-Up Goodness
6 Train to Astor Place
Mmmm...I love crepes! Accustomed to eating this wonderful delicacy at home in true Eastern European fashion, I was excited when I got invited to a crepe tasting at The Crooked Tree in the East Village. A fan of both sweet and savory crepes, I was happy to explore The Crooked Tree's offering, looking forward to being exposed to their creativity and variety of flavors. My experience went something like this:
Three words I'd use to describe The Crooked Tree are quaint, intimate and cheery. It's very much a Village restaurant, in that it's funky and whimsical and doesn't care about fitting the mold. I like that it offers sparse outdoor seating with a view of their namesake, a tilted tree that grows out front.
The inside, while small is really cozy and endearing. Fun accoutrements such as old books, figurines and even an oversized jar of Nutella (giving you a preview of what's to come) provide sure conversation starters among diners. I almost keeled over with joy when I saw that Nutella!
You'll find that because the tables are positioned closely together, you almost feel like you're dining with close family and friends. And while this sometimes bothers me, it worked well in this atmosphere by creating a strange and wonderful "communal" feel. We got to meet our fellow diners and even exchanged a few opinions about the food.
In addition to trying the sweet and savory crepes, we also had a few Crooked Tree signature appetizers and their house-made sangria. Here's what we thought:
Appetizers - We wanted a little buffer before diving into the crepes, so we tried The Crooked Tree's signature bruschetta and pesto breads. Although they were simple and certainly not new to us, they were made with such delicious ingredients that we devoured them quickly. The tomato in the bruschetta was juicy and sweet, intensely flavored by garlic and fresh basil. And the pesto breads were something else - topped with tangy goat cheese, they were also garlicky and earthy, its flavors rounded out by good quality olive oil.
Another app we tried were the fried zucchini sticks, which I was really looking forward to but ended up being disappointed by. Overall, I thought they were too heavily breaded and a bit on the oily side - there was too much breading and not enough zucchini. I also wasn't in love with the marinara sauce they were served with - it tasted generic.
Savory Crepes - Now this is where things started to turn around for the best, and I could see why they specialize in crepe making - they're great at it. Michelle and I ordered 1 savory crepe each - she tried the classic mozzarella, tomato, basil while I went for the prosciutto, brie, tomato and arugula. Both were delicious and what I most loved about them was the light, fluffy crepe exterior. It was delicate in your mouth but was durable enough to hold all the hefty ingredients nestled inside.
Both crepes we chose were awesome and the cheese melted beautifully in them, melding with the rest of the ingredients. I had a slight preference for my crepe, as it incorporated bolder flavors with the smoky prosciutto, peppery arugula and a salty bite from the luxurious brie.
Sweet Crepes - After gawking at the impressive-looking Grand Marnier crepe that our next-door-table-friends ordered, we couldn't wait to try our own. Even though we were full, we ordered two sweet crepes--the homemade dulce de leche and the chocolate stuffed with tropical fruit such as mango.
The dulce de leche was out of this world, boasting a homemade caramel sauce that was thick and velvety. Its sweetness was set off by the fresh fruit that was tucked inside the crepe and the airy whipped cream, piped around the edges of the plate.
Unfortunately, we didn't feel the same way about our latter sweet crepe - not to say that it wasn't enjoyable, but it didn't share the same pizzaz as the dulce de leche.
A funky variety of the sweet/savory crepe that I'd love to try next time is the Chocolate/Almond/Bacon. Wow - doesn't that just make your mouth water?
Sangria - Michelle and I were intrigued by The Crooked Tree's Peach Mango sangria. It sounded exotic and wonderful, promising a much needed refresher on this very hot day. While it was satisfactory, the flavors didn't really pop and were a bit watered down. I'd like to try the classic red or white option next time.
Service and Cost:
Just as the size of this place is so intimate and personal, so is its service. The restaurant's owners handle service themselves, making you feel comfortable and just like at home. I love that they have a clear command of the menu, being able to recommend sound dishes as well as describe ingredients and cooking methods. It was impressive to see that the minute our glasses were drained, the friendly staff was right there ready to accommodate us.
Prices are wallet friendly and include:
Appetizers: $6 - $11
Sandwiches: $7 -$10
Savory Crepes: $6 -$10
Sweet Crepes: $4 -$8