AT the new Craft Los Angeles, I can't believe all the suits. I've never seen so many in any restaurant in L.A. And they definitely didn't come from Men's Wearhouse. The look is metrosexual, $300 haircuts and serious watches, Barney's suits and dueling Blackberries. It's the world the Ari Gold character in the HBO hit "Entourage" inhabits, along with entertainment and corporate lawyers. And Craft is conveniently a 30-second sprint from the gleaming new CAA headquarters in Century City.
The restaurant is actually a New York import, the third with the same name from Tom Colicchio (the second is Craft Dallas). I'm willing to bet that nobody except the most avid foodie recognized Colicchio on the street when he was chef at Gramercy Tavern. Or even just after he opened the original Craft in 2001. But after a couple of seasons as head judge on the Bravo show "Top Chef," his mug is practically as familiar as Mario Batali's, the other New York chef to recently open a restaurant here. In fact, Craft and Osteria Mozza opened on the same day in July — Friday the 13th. That takes some kind of New York chutzpah.
But already at Craft Los Angeles, all 300 seats are taken. Outside, junior agents schmooze in a series of sleek cabanas. Inside, it's strictly dinner at the moment. Just like at Craft in New York, the menu is do-it-yourself. It's something that takes studying to ferret out the appetizer you want, the meat or fish, the sides and other extras. You could start with oysters on the half shell at $3 apiece, silvery local sardines with a jolt of Espelette pepper, or fat Peruvian octopus tentacles with tiny "rice" beans and spicy Merguez sausage. The very hungry might like to begin with a delicious fried duck egg with confit duck gizzard and duck cracklings.
As I'm taking a bite of spaghetti alla chitarra (cut on a wire device resembling a guitar) in garlic chive carbonara, which I highly recommend, a familiar face swims up. Is it? Yes, it's our mayor seated in the corner back booth. And during the evening, various fellow diners pay court.
One fellow comes back to his table to announce, "This is the hottest place in town." And the staff is feeling the pressure. One server spends long minutes adjusting the silverware and setting at the next table, soon to be occupied by a bona fide power couple. It takes a while to get the wine we've ordered, longer to get our first courses. There's a very long intermission between the first and the second courses.
But when the baby Sonoma lamb for two arrives, it is worth the wait and enough to feed three or four. Good thing too, because it costs $92. My dining companions are more interested in nibbling on the tiny tender chops or the braised shank than finishing their steaks. Compared to a big hunk of meat, this is such a lovely variation on a theme.
The menu also proposes some interesting-sounding fish dishes as well as roast guinea hen and a farm chicken. Then there are the sides. I went for the roasted hen-of-the-woods mushrooms I always enjoyed so much at the New York Craft, a potato gratin and local long beans.
Now the mayor is up, working the room. Some people won't let him go, but he's a past master at extricating himself. When he gets to our table for a 30-second handshake and a schmooze, it's already past 10. He's got a meeting somewhere else. Unlike most of the crowd, who are taking a meeting right here at Craft.
Craft Los Angeles
Where: 10100 Constellation Blvd., Century City
When: 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Lunch starts Wednesday and will be Wednesdays through Fridays; after Labor Day, it will be Mondays through Fridays. Full bar. Valet parking.
Price: First courses, $12 to $23; main courses, $28 to $60; side dishes, $10 to $21; desserts, $4 to $12