I have a soft spot for Midtown Crossing’s CRAVE. I first dined there in 2010, the night before my first-ever half marathon, the Omaha Half. I drove up from Lincoln and stayed overnight at the Element, dreading the early 7:30 a.m. shotgun start. I needed something quick and satisfying to soothe my pre-race nerves and CRAVE fit the bill with its eclectic mix of sushi and all-American comfort food.
Now, seven years later I live only a few blocks from CRAVE. The restaurant recently revamped itself with a new executive chef, new ownership and a new management team. I had the honor of being among a group of local bloggers to preview CRAVE’s new signature dishes and drinks – and did not leave disappointed.
CRAVE’s generous staff opened up the night with a tasting of three signature cocktails: The Angry Dragon, White Sangria and Pomegranate Martini. Now, you know I’ll never turn down a cocktail – free or otherwise – so I happily sampled all three before deciding on the Pom Martini. Garnished with a cinnamon sugar rim, which complemented the dark fruit notes of the pomegranate, the cocktail was refreshing and slightly tart. My second favorite was the Angry Dragon, featuring Cruzan rum, lychee liqueur, raspberry-strawberry syrup and a citrus zest rim. The White Sangria, with Torrontes white wine, a sweet floral liqueur and fresh berries, was a big hit with those among the group who preferred their drinks on the sweeter side.
Our second course featured a selection of CRAVE’s signature sushi: a vegetarian roll of carrot, spinach and asparagus paired with sushi rice and a nutty sesame sauce; the spicy Bamboo Bite roll with tempura shrimp, cream cheese and avocado with a sweet unagi (eel sauce); and the Aloha roll, with spicy crab. I’m a sucker for spice, so I loved the Bamboo Bite rolls with their fiery jalapeno, softened by the crunchy shrimp and creamy avocado.
Next up, an appetizer selection that included fresh fried calamari with a jalapeno aioli and the awesome Korean-style Kogi Beef Tacos, featuring tender braised short rib piled high with kimchee and a tangy Asian slaw. These were an instant hit, because I’m currently in love with Korean food (see my Korean-style Hot Dogs for proof.)
I also loved the salads: a bistro-style grilled chicken and balsamic salad topped with flecks of tangy goat cheese atop field greens, and the CRAVE Chopped Chicken salad, featuring pulled chicken, dried cherries, fontina, bacon and almonds tossed in a light citrus vinaigrette.
Are you hungry yet? Next they inundated us with a selection of their diverse main dishes: Sauteed Norwegian Salmon with a mustard crust, Steak Frites, Beef Stroganoff, Lemon-Garlic Chicken and Caprese Flatbread. One standout was the Norwegian Salmon, lightly sauteed until tender, topped with a panko-mustard crust and sided with buttery potato puree and heirloom carrots. I also loved the buttery, creamy beef stroganoff, featuring a bed of fettuccine noodles topped with a creamy sauce of mushroom and meltingly-tender beef. The Caprese Flatbread surprised with its cracker-thin crust, creamy avocado, peppery arugula and tangy balsamic drizzle.
We capped the night with a selection of CRAVE’s desserts. My favorite was a S’mores Brownie (pictured up top) with a graham cracker crust, a torched marshmallow cream and a scoop of creamy marshmallow ice cream. Coconut lovers will be astounded by the light-as-air coconut cake, reminiscent of angel food cake, with a creamy vanilla anglaise, whipped cream and a garnish of fresh raspberries. For something smaller (or extra decadent), check out CRAVE’s miniatures, available in an astounding variety of flavors: French Silk, Tiramisu, Salty Caramel Mousse, Strawberry Panna Cotta, Tres Leches and Blueberry Cheesecake. My favorite of the bunch was the creamy Blueberry Cheesecake, accented with tangy blueberry compote and crushed graham crackers.
So besides the food, what is there to know about CRAVE? They have a kick-ass happy hour, an amazing $60 Date Night Menu and discounts for military and police. If you’re gluten-free or paleo, they have you covered, and the back-of-house staff assured me they could easily accommodate any vegan or vegetarian request. Oh, and if you’re a dad who loves steak, check out their special Father’s Day Menu.
To kick off CRAVE’s new menu, I’m giving away a $25 giftcard to their Omaha location. To enter, post a comment about what CRAVE dish you look forward to trying. And through July 31, if you mention my blog, “Lexi Bites,” you’ll receive 15% off your total bill. Be sure to check out CRAVE’s new menu and connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.
I’ll be hitting up this neighborhood favorite again soon. And when I run my sixth half marathon, the 2016 Omaha Half, it will be on the top of my list for pre-race eats.