Crew Kitchen & Bar succeeds Aix en-Provence, refreshing the site and the appetite, going from semi-French to mainly New American. The restaurant is under the same management and chef, Gene Defreitas. But the flavors are bolder and clearer. So is the look of the place, with blazer-blue walls, striped seats, and artful black-and-white shoreline photos. Focused and bright, this Crew knows where it's going.
Defreitas takes an eclectic approach here, starting with the warm popovers in the bread basket. Tender baby back ribs get a passion-fruit glaze. She-crab soup has an undercurrent of Kaffir lime. Duck confit hides inside the steamed buns with hoisin sauce and pickled fennel. Scallop scallopini breads and crisps the shellfish, which lands on smoked pasta with poached garlic. Golden tea sauce and oregano spark the ground turkey-and-mascarpone agnolotti. They're all very good. Likewise, the whimsical soup & sandwich, a grilled cheese classic with a hint of black truffle, plus a cup of carrot-and-coriander soup.
Main dishes stamp passports, too. Tandoori fried chicken, with coconut rice and pickled green mangoes; and the mustard-accented, juicy duck breast paired with spaetzle and red cabbage go in different directions with equal skill. The open-faced, pulled-pork pie with sweet potato and roasted corn is the sort of down-home dish you'll remember. The best finales are gelati, especially chocolate and pine nut, a lush panna cotta and flourless chocolate cake.
Aggressive five-spice seasoning upends the appealing lobster lasagna. Tiger prawn-and-scallop "cassoulet" never harmonizes with the duck confit and andouille sausage. Artichoke tempura with whipped tofu, parsnip chips, basmati rice and a vegetable roll: less than its parts. Pasty lemon bread pudding; beignets more like sugared versions of the popovers.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Row this way.
Reviewed by Peter M. Gianotti, 3/12/09.