Crush is a sexy, sexy spot. The location, at the no man's intersection of 23rd Avenue and Madison Street, is sexy. The supermodern, understated interior is a sexy surprise—Crush is in a turn-of-the-last-century house, which always makes me fearful of the anti-sexiness of floral wallpaper. But no: The all-white tables and banquettes and Philippe Starck-style chairs (which have a sexy little bounce to them) are sexy. The tigery, delicate orchid on the table: sexy. The other patrons? Possessed of a sort of badassed affluence, sexy-style. Even the black-painted hardwood floors are sexy.
My threesome talked helplessly about sex all through dinner. Granted, one of us was torn between two lovers, one was saying adiós-to-the-old hola-to-the-new, and one had enjoyed sex in an alley the night before—but Crush is a fucking inspiration. Our bread plates were sexy white undulations of ceramic with a little well of elaborately herbed butter, and our wine (the Vina Santurnia rioja, $37) was bizarrely musty and naughty and fabulous. When I ordered my appetizer and main course, the waiter gave me a private little smile. I blurted out, "You're smiling," and he said, "That's just a great combination," which made me feel like a genius, and, yes, sexy.
We were discussing the whys and wherefores of insane magnetic attraction when the appetizers came, which shut us up momentarily. My wild mushroom and duck confit tart ($9) was topped with an oozing poached egg (topping things with oozing poached eggs is a trend I wildly salute), and it was stacked and smoky and offered little peppery pockets among the general greatness. I bounced in my seat in celebration. A salad of grilled asparagus with goat cheese ($9) was tarted up in a pretty pile; the textures (including chips of crisped prosciutto) took to each other instinctually. The third dish—tender cauliflower-filled agnolotti ("priests' caps" of pasta; no comment) with delicate pieces of smoked sturgeon, currants, and walnuts ($11)—provoked the remark, "I never want to eat anything else ever again."
When the entrées appeared (and if there was very slightly too much lag time between courses, call it anticipation), a debate about the merits or lack thereof of sleeping with two people at once was under way. Our waiter feigned deafness with total aplomb. I picked up my plate of braised short ribs ($21) and inhaled the unmistakable dirty-delicious aroma of truffle. "SMELL this," I said, and held it out. The taste—melty, buttery meat, pillowy gnocchi, cute tiny carrots—did not disappoint, and food envy was rampant. My consorts' grilled duck ($19) and chicken breast ($17) were both unimpeachably moist and flavorful, but less than thrilling. The duck's bed of sweet, creamy parsnip purée was very nice, but just very nice. The chicken's wrapping of bacon turned out to be paper-thin, which caused much grumbling, but not as much as the ricotta stuffing, which had a mealy yet wet texture and looked like something so deeply unsexy I don't even want to think about it.
We were, however, all entirely sated, and absolutely in agreement that we'd go back for more—an entrée of big lollipop lamb chops looked especially alluring, and word on the street is that Crush does fish amazingly well. Because I wanted more than life itself to sit at the curvy bar that looks directly into the intimate kitchen, I took another willing victim for dessert a few nights later. The place was quieter, but still charged. The blond hostess/co-owner's cleavage beckoned. The view of the kitchen was, if you're like me, better than porn. The chef/co-owner (they're in love, hence, Crush—thanks, Cupid) was gently handling beautiful, hot food with another man in the kitchen, prompting the completely wrong but awfully hot observation that they looked like they were about to make out. The owner of nearby Harvest Vine was ensconced in a corner behind me, twirling his sexy Dali-style moustache. God!
Then there was dessert: dense buttermilk doughnut holes ($7) with an espresso cup full of cappuccino-flavored cream for dipping and a spoonful of huckleberry jam; a warm apple tart ($7) set off by caramel ice cream sliding off to the side, a layer of almond savoriness, and Calvados syrup; coffee in its own mini French press ($3.50), with the task of pushing slowly down. Sexy.
A back patio scented with lots of lavender is in the works for sexy summer dining. I can't fucking wait.