This past weekend, The Wife and I were supposed to meet up with a friend downtown to dine at Saffron. However, after a last minute cancelation we found ourselves with a sitter and no plans. The Wife, always the resourceful one, looked for something fun to do and came up with the relatively new comedy club at the Mall of America as an option. I offered several suggestions for dining including The Nook, Andiamo, and even Red Rossa, however The Wife suggested we try CRAVE at the Mall of America instead.
The Wife made reservations for 6:30 and we arrived with just minutes to spare and found an hour wait for those poor souls who were hungry but refused to eat at such illustrious dining spots as Taco Bell, Buffalo Wild Wings, Hooters, and Dick’s and instead were lured in by a vast menu offering everything from pizza to sushi. We were seated right away in the very busy restaurant and were quickly greeted by our server who appeared to have a training shadow for the evening. She took our drink orders, a peach iced tea and a Lime Agave soda, and left us to look over the various menus they had for the evening.
The Wife almost immediately decided on the Crab Crusted Filet Mignon described as “creamy crab gratinee, garlic mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, lobster cream,” for $36.95. While she had been waffling between other items, she said her heart was set on that one. I guess she was just jealous of the excellent filet I had only a few days before at Copper River in Lakeville.
While The Wife gravitated towards steak, I was intrigued by the Kogi Beef Tacos which were listed as, “Beef short rib, kimchee, sriracha mayo, green onions, cilantro,” for $11.95. Being that I love sushi and The Wife is not really a fan, I figured I should get it while I could before having to wait several more months before dining on my own. I ordered the Eel and Octopus nigiri ($8.95/$5.95 respectively) and, at the suggestion of the server, the Mexican Roll (Tuna, escolar, jalapeno, avocado, cilantro, spicy mayo, soy citrus sauce) for $17.95.
We let our server know that we realized it was busy but we had 8 PM tickets to a comedy show and anything she could do to help us make that show would be excellent. Without batting and eye she replied she would take care of it and take care of it she did. Soon after ordering my Kogi Beef Tacos (yes, I realize this is in the in-thing in the street food scene in LA, having experienced it first thing somewhat recently but ‘Meat Beef Tacos’ just sounds stupidly redundant) were out. Missing the kimchi and coming adorned with limp and flavorless cilantro, these appeared to be dead before they even hit my mouth. However, as soon as they did, the soft and chewy taco shell coupled with the tender and incredibly flavorful beef made paying $11.95 for 3 tiny tacos almost worth it. However, the lack of any noticeable Sriracha flavor from the mayo and the surprisingly flavorless, too-old, and dried out limes (something I experienced in all of my drinks that evening as well) really made this one a little too expensive and quite a bit under-performing for me to want to order it again. Yet, if they had taken the time to deliver a completed product with everything in fresh and completed form, I think these would be a show-stopper.
The Crab Crusted Filet and Sushi were out almost as soon as we were done trying the tacos. While I abhor the idea of anything adorning a beautiful cut of meat like tenderloin, The Wife was lost in ecstasy from the first bite. Ordered medium rare and coming a little too close to medium for my liking, the crab was flavorful but really took away from the star of the show, the 8oz filet in the middle of her plate. It’s clear there is a market for menu items which douse filet mignon in sauce and top it with crab but clearly that’s because the general public, The Wife included, can’t seem to appreciate the simplicity of the meat. Her sole complaint of the dish came from the asparagus which were stringy and undercooked. She noted, “they really could have used some help.”
The nigiri didn’t come with any wasabi between the fish and the rice and it was too loosely packed for my liking (I sometimes do like a little extra soy sauce on the fish, especially when the fish doesn’t appear to be seasoned from the chef) however the eel was seasoned appropriately as delivered and provided an excellent flavor which I shared with The Wife hoping to entice her to eat it more often with me. While the eel was great, the octopus was nearly tasteless. Not a fan.
The Mexican Roll was disastrous. It was poorly constructed, rice was sticking out all over the place, and the flavors were totally messed up. Gone were the subtle flavors of the tuna and the fatty and tasty escolar and in their place was only heat. Now, as someone who can’t get enough heat and has tried every spicy thing he can get his hands on, I know when a chef can properly deal with spicy flavors. Being that the sushi chefs couldn’t even bother to present me with a clean cut roll, it’s no surprise to me they couldn’t deliver on one that didn’t just have one flavor–burn. However, based on the others around me eating sushi, some using forks and knives and others literally pouring the soy sauce on their rolls straight from the bottle, it’s clear CRAVE caters to those who wouldn’t know sushi from a hole in their head. Maybe it was a one night thing–they were backed up I was told, but seriously, take some pride in your work CRAVE and deliver a product which is worthy of your guest’s time. That said, I hadn’t tried any sushi since April and it was a mostly-welcome respite from the sushi desert I’d found myself in for the last 6 months.
After our dinners we ordered coffees and desserts. We ordered a slice of “The Original” Coconut Cake with vanilla anglaise, whipped cream for $6.95 and their Caramel Pot De Creme (also $6.95) which came with dark chocolate apricot cookies. The Coconut Cake was excellent and the two raspberries in creme served on the side were just the right amount of tart to balance out the sweet. However, the Pot De Creme, while good, came with four plain dark chocolate cookies with no discernible apricot flavor at all. Not bad, just another little thing which wasn’t delivered.
After tax and tip our bill came to a whopping $150. That’s right: One Hundred and Fifty Dollars. For dinner. For two people without any alcohol. Yes, we ordered an appetizer and filet mignon but this was our most expensive meal ever reviewing. And while the food would have been fine for half that price, it just didn’t cut it for a $150 meal. I could name 10 other restaurants where we’ve spent ~$100 that would have blown CRAVE’s quality out of the water. That said, there were plenty of little things which could be improved (seriously, get fresh limes already especially when you’re serving them with two of my dishes and all of my drinks) which would bring up the quality to a point where one could forgive the extra cost due to the Mall of America rent.
My overall impression of CRAVE at the Mall of America was a resounding, “meh”. If I had been at Applebee’s and paying Applebee’s prices, this would have been a very acceptable meal. However, I was spending $150 on what could pass muster at most mall-crazy chain restaurants for a lot less. If this had been Applebee’s, I could have ignored the lack of freshness in the fruit and vegetables but my expectations jump quite a bit when you’re heading north of $100 for a meal. CRAVE has some work to do to meet its price point, however considering the hour long wait and the packed restaurant, you wouldn’t know it.
Have you ever eaten at any of CRAVE’s locations? If so what did you think? Do you find their menu a little too big and their execution a bit too sloppy for the price point? Whatever you have to say about CRAVE, go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
CRAVE at MoA
368 South Avenue (3rd Fl Near Macy’s)
Bloomington, MN 55425
See all the pictures from CRAVE MoA on Flickr here.