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in the MGM Grand

Everything about Craftsteak screams money. As in corporate money, casino money and New York celebrity chef money. It's too big for my tastes, the bar's too long and the menu tries too hard to do too many things to impress too many people.

But let's give the devil his due, because that devil is uber-chef Tom Colicchio, and his disciple, Christopher Albrect, is knee deep in the details. By details I mean ingredients.... And at Craftsteak, those ingredients are the best beef, fish, poultry, veggies and shellfish, that money can buy. Eating them will cost you a lot o' lettuce, but if forty-two dollars for a steak doesn't make you blink, then you'll discover why this place goes toe to toe with Prime and Charlie Palmer's for the heavyweight steak championship of Vegas.

I've eaten at Craftsteak four times: alone at the bar, with a large group, on a busy Saturday night, and on a slow Monday....all so I could take the full measure of the place...which is what restaurant reviewers are supposed to do. Each time I paid with my own money, or depended upon the kindness of strangers (or at least some well-heeled friends), to pick up the tab. Twice I was spotted by the ever-vigilant staff and given the full VIP treatment...minus the comps mind you...meeting everyone from the chef to the busboy. As gracious as they were, they only distracted me from the food.

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And what food it is: perfectly grilled hangar steak...English peas the size of marbles...short ribs that melt in your mouth - and grilled quail that is best devoured alone at the bar with a glass of good Pinot Noir (the better to suck on the tiny bones and the wine without embarrassment). Some of the cheapest things at Craftsteak are also some of the shaved fennel salad that's a marvel of acidic licorice-like pungency, and vegetables that are so good even you vegans should put down the patchouli, and tank the tofu for a taste of what good chefs can do with great ingredients.

Cost or no cost....Craftsteak is a restaurant that even a vegetarian can love.

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Thursday, November 21, 2002
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