Krave Café & Caterers
102 Sparta Avenue
Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey
When I last reviewed Krave, nearly five years ago, the restaurant was domiciled in a slightly fatigued, out-of-the-way strip mall, sharing humble space with an appliance store and pizzeria. The interior, however, was entirely prepossessing; simple yet sophisticated.
Several months ago, however, Krave relocated… Yes, the restaurant is still in a strip mall – this time joined at the hip to a Quick Chek – but, situated on the main drag into Newton, the new venue is infinitely more desirable and a good deal more accessible to potential diners. And if I considered the old décor to be simplistically sophisticated, the new interior design is positively chic; exceedingly stylish but exuding a decidedly comfortable air. There is also a wall-enclosed patio for al fresco dining.
In my opinion, however, it is the superlative eclectic American cuisine that constitutes the big story here. Evening appetizers and desserts were always excellently prepared & presented, and lunch a distinct pleasure. On the other hand, my initial review found the dinner entrées somewhat disappointing… But that minor faux pas has certainly been remedied. Proprietors Rich and Kate Hashway have obviously done a splendid job of fine tuning, and that is readily apparent in every aspect of their extraordinary fare. Dining here – for a variety of reasons – has become a truly memorable experience.
To start things off, if you happen to be a bivalve fan (like my wife), the Prince Edward Island mussels are something of a must. During our evening visit, the mussels arrived at table accompanied by black beans & chorizo sausage and swimming in a sea of chipotle-lime broth. At lunch the following day, artichokes, roasted red peppers, and a saffron-lemon broth played strong supporting roles. In each case, the various accoutrements were a perfect match, and the bivalves themselves were plump, succulent, and at the very peak of good health.
The presentation of three “Savory Spreads” also proved an exceptional prelude. Served up with grilled flatbreads, the dish consisted of ramekins of roasted eggplant & feta cheese, smoked trout, and lentil hummus. Both the eggplant and hummus were first rate… but it was the smoked trout that stole the show. Usually a presentation of this ilk is entirely too fishy for my palate. Here, however, it is sent forth with just a hint of trout and a subtle, ingratiatingly smoky countenance.
Salads, as I mentioned in my first review, always make superb starters. And at the very top of my list of favorites are the Asian Napa and spinach & Brie. The former is a blend of soba noodles and Napa cabbage, mangoes, julienne carrots, red peppers, and crushed peanuts… all commingled with an exotically spicy peanut vinaigrette. In the latter, one discovers haricots verts, slices of roasted golden beets, diced eggs, red onions, and generous slices of Brie reclining on a pillow of pristinely trimmed spinach. The catalyst is a light but assertive lemon-caper vinaigrette. For a slight extra charge, diners may add a bit of protein to the proceedings, opting for chicken, shrimp, tofu, steak, or salmon grilled au naturel or Cajun style.
Pasta is also a viable possibility, either as a main course or as an appetizer. And that’s one of the things I like about Krave: The restaurant offers ½ portions at reduced rates. While the full size pastas are either $17.00 or $18.00, small plates will only set you back $10.00 or $11.00. You may choose from such appetizing offerings as duck ravioli with spicy herb brown butter, summer shrimp orecchiette, penne with grilled chorizo sausage & zesty Creole broth, and grilled chicken gemelli.
Pastas may be ordered at lunch and dinner; entrées proper, on the other hand, are only available after 4:30 p.m. And while main courses run the gamut from Indian-spiced pork loin to Asian skirt steak to chili-grilled French breast of chicken, to duck and risotto, matters piscatorial, which are always prominent on the list of dinner specials, are particularly impressive. And this is certainly noteworthy, as I recall that, during my initial visits of several years ago, they left something to be desired. Now, however, they are impeccably prepared and beautifully presented.
The halibut, for example, was pan-seared to a golden brown and snow white at the core, just as it should be. It reclined on a wild rice/whole grain pilaf and was companioned by an olive, caper, and yellow pepper compote. A feast for the eye as well as the palate.
And the same could be said for the cayenne-seared grouper. There was just enough spice here to invigorate rather than incinerate the taste buds; and the subtle red tinge of cayenne added a great deal to the presentation’s eye appeal. Accompaniments included the aforementioned rice pilaf, baby carrots, and a marvelously complementary peach beurre blanc.
Lunches here have always been a distinct pleasure, and they remain so. My smoked turkey & slaw sandwich beguiled the senses with a lovely combo of tastes and textures. Presented on a multi-grain baguette, the thin slathering of goat cheese added a smooth earthy dimension, while the curried slaw atop the turkey provided a contrastingly crunchy hint of spice. The southwestern turkey burger was thick and luscious, topped off with slices of avocado, roasted tomato, and smoked Gouda and spruced up with a zippy chipotle mayonnaise.
Desserts, as I mentioned at the outset, remain outstanding. The chocolate “silk,” a smooth-as-silk chocolate pudding topped with a dollop of strawberry gelato is as decadently delicious as ever… On the other hand, I find it difficult to resist anything constructed with Key lime; and Krave’s kitchen turns out a tart that is as close to perfection as it gets. It reclines on a luscious blueberry-rum compote and is garnished with an artistic splash of coconut anglaise.
Equally recommended is the frozen white chocolate peach torte. This is a sweet ending that does, literally, melt in your mouth. The vanilla-pecan crust provides a scintillating textural contrast; and the blackberry compote and carved ripe strawberry add an assertively flavorful note and attractive splash of color, respectively.
Service continues to be Krave’s strong suit… Just how strong? As a dinner appetizer, my wife ordered the steamed Prince Edward Island mussels. The menu listed the ingredients as artichokes, roasted red peppers, and a saffron-lemon broth. The mussels that arrived, however, were rife with chorizo sausage and black beans. It hardly mattered, as the mussels were benchmark. My wife indicated to our server that she thoroughly enjoyed them, but that the menu listed a different presentation. The server returned, indicating that the chef had made an error… The next afternoon when we arrived for lunch, she remembered us, informed the chef, and out popped a bowl of complimentary PEI mussels with the aforementioned artichokes, roasted red peppers, and saffron-lemon broth… Now that is service!
If you reside, or are visiting anywhere in the Newton area, Krave Café & Caterers is a restaurant that is highly recommended on all counts!
The Artful Diner
Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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