You have survived a few weeks of school and you have finally built up enough courage to ask that cute girl in your class who you have been sneaking glances at on a date. If you are looking for a new, trendy, modern eatery to wine and dine your Juliet, I have found the place.
Crave Restaurant and Lounge, located at 201 West Gorham, is a great place to go for special occasions such as a first date, birthday, anniversary, and the like. I found the restaurant to have a very intimate setting and warm atmosphere, with a twist of spark and trend.
Marble tables were accompanied by tea light candles, paper lanterns hung from the ceiling, mirrors and green hues accentuated the walls. Although it was very dark from the dim lighting and dark grey walls, I felt like I was no longer in Madison; but neither was I clicking my heels and thinking, “There’s no place like home.”
Crave opened on August 7, and its popularity has escalated ever since. The restaurant and lounge currently close at 11:30 p.m. due to restrictions on their liquor license.
I began my Saturday night in a room detached from the main dining area, most likely due to the size of my party. Perfect for a large crowd, the room has a suede curtain, which can be pulled for complete separation. I was very appreciative of the non-smoking policy, which applies to the lounge and restaurant.
After pondering over a very eclectic menu, we ordered a few starters, but were disappointed when the Hot and Sour Calamari was sold out. Aric Cansler, one of the managers, attributed the shortage to an unexpected wave of diners and said, “There is no way to account for how much food you will need to prepare on a given night.” Agreed, but this was a Saturday night. Also out of the Teriyaki Beef Satay, we concurred upon the Rare Ahi Tuna ($15), the Peel ‘N Eat Shrimp ($12), and Just Broccoli ($4).
The tuna was seared and of sushi grade, accompanied by mango-papaya salsa and topped with onion rings. Prepared to perfection and finished with wasabi, this was a perfect starter to a fantastic meal. The Peel ‘N Eat Shrimp consisted of a huge plate of jumbo sized shrimp served over a bed of ice, seasoned with Old Bay for a spicy kick. Served with cocktail sauce and Crab Louie dip, the portion size was perfect for a large party.
Even though the appetizers tasted great and I was impressed by the fabulous presentation, it took thirty minutes for our appetizers to arrive. When I questioned our waitress and manager about the delay, they sympathetically apologized. The rest of our meal still took a long time, but our waitress was very accommodating and frequently checked up on our table.
The menu at Crave is very diverse, and it’s a great place to try something new or maybe an old favorite with a creative twist. They serve traditional hamburgers and sandwiches, but also challenge your taste buds to an unusual treat. The Cheeseburger in Paradise is bedded on sprouts with scallions, all covered with avocado and Colby cheese ($9). Other unique sandwiches include the Chili Bacon Burger, Teriyaki Burger, Seared Tuna and Cucumber, and The Portobello (ranging from $9-$11).
All sandwiches and burgers are served with fresh fruit and your choice of sweet potato fries, jalapeno slaw, waffle fries, coconut scallion rice, sweet sticky rice, sesame spinach, steamed baby carrots and asparagus or fruit salad with berries. I think this is a very impressive selection of side dishes, not just your average baked potato, fries, and vegetables.
Also on the menu is a nice seafood selection, including oysters on the half shell, prawns, stone crab, lobster, and mussels. “The seafood selections are always of highest quality because the chefs order from the freshest places, which quite often vary in location according to the time of year,” said Cansler.
If you are thinking on the lighter side for dinner, the build-your-own-salad option may be preferred. You begin with your foundation, a choice of romaine, iceberg, spinach, field greens, or mixed lettuce ($6). For another two dollars, you may add shrimp, steak, chicken, turkey or tuna. Parmesan, Colby, Blue or Provolone cheese is another dollar; and any other extras that you can imagine are 25 cents each. The salad I ordered was of very generous size; in fact, I had a hard time finishing it. I received six jumbo shrimp atop my salad that were very filling and rewarding for their price. Salads are tossed and served with cayenne polenta croutons, which have a cornbread-type texture.
Another impressive touch is that all of the breads, sandwich buns, dressings, and sauces are made in-house. Crave tackles issues of quality and freshness with ease.
Crave offers eight desserts on their menu. My taste-testing team sampled the New York style cheesecake, Crí