Great name, mixed results
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  August 8, 2007

Crave | 333 Main St, Wakefield
Tues-Thurs, 5-9 pm; Fri-Sat, 5-10 pm’ | Sun brunch/lunch, 9 am-2 pm | Major credit cards | Full bar | Sidewalk-level access | 401.789.0914
Crave has a great name, a great focus (seafood and steak), some creative cocktails, an extensive wine list, and a comfortable space. Stephen Lima, formerly of the Boathouse in Tiverton, has assembled a menu with twists on New England and Italian-American favorites that have been pleasing diners since Crave opened in January.
By adding a comfortable bar area to the dining room, Lima has offered locals an opportunity to gather for conversation during the off-season months. With fresh flowers and crisp linens (the burgundy accent of the napkins picks up the color of the banquette running along the front wall) and with a spare look to the rest of the space, he has made this high-ceilinged room (seating 54) quite enticing.
The waitstaff is helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly. Our waitress mentioned that the crab hushpuppies had been a hit among the appetizers, but we’d just returned from a Southern trip, where we’d eaten our fill of these cornmeal fritters. So we were inclined to consider the lobster “éclair” ($12), sweet potato clam chowder ($7) or, on the specials menu that night, ceviche with red snapper ($7).
Bill chose the ceviche, and our friend Norbert and I the chowder. We definitely won out, with a rich, earthy version thick with sweet potatoes and clams, a delicate orange color. It was scrumptious in every bite. The ceviche was disappointing, since we couldn’t detect the characteristic citrus juice used to marinate the fish. The gooseberries and cucumber were nice accents, but the snapper had little zing.
Bill studied the pasta dishes, which included chourico-stuffed ravioli, rigatoni Bolognese with beef, veal, and pork — a nearby diner praised it as “wonderfully smoky” — fettucine Alfredo with a spicy kick, and shrimp scampi. He and Norbert also pondered the steaks: a 14-ounce New York strip; veal chop “saltimbocca,” with sage gnocchi and prosciutto; grilled ribeye; and the bistro “filet,” with caramelized onion-mashed potatoes and a brandy peppercorn sauce. Our waitress said the latter is a customer favorite.
Bill and I peppered her with questions about the provenance of the shrimp (as we often do), and she had the chef come out to answer our questions. He stuck to “Gulf of Mexico,” without telling us whether that meant Mexican or domestic shrimp, so we assumed they weren’t domestic. Bill ordered the dish ($18), nonetheless, and he liked the three large shrimp that were strategically placed over a bowl of house-made lemon basil pasta that had been tossed with sun-dried tomatoes and bits of red onion. He particularly noted the strong lemony taste of the fresh fettuccine.
I was considering the seafood side of the menu: halibut wrapped in rice paper; Scottish farm-raised salmon; a Brazilian fish, pintado; or tamarind-glazed scallops, another favorite with diners. I was drawn, however, to the special of Nantucket striped bass ($24), and Norbert and I both gambled on this. It was a generous fillet, pan-seared and topped with a papaya-tomatillo relish.
Pan-cooking a thick, somewhat fatty fish such as striper is tricky, and we didn’t find the end result to be very flavorful. The relish had no spark to contribute, and the menu’s promised “roasted paprika vinaigrette” was undetectable. The “baby vegetables” in the de¬scription were undercooked green beans.
Bill and Norbert’s wines — a New Zealand Shiraz and a Sauvignon Blanc — were tasty representations of the list, drawn from 38 reds and 19 whites that span the globe. The cocktails include Wakefield lemonade and a Narra¬gansett “breeze,” the latter with pear vodka and pear and cranberry juices. The former has fresh raspberries with raspberry vodka, Chambord, vermouth, lemonade, and a splash of Sprite.
Desserts include a sweet risotto with white chocolate; orange zest and dried cherries; a chocolate terrine with pistachio brittle; a frozen yuzu souffle (an Asian citrus fruit); and a cheese plate from Milk & Honey Bazaar in Tiverton.
Our disappointments at Crave outweighed our delights, and we found the prices a bit steep ($11-$14 for martinis, and $30 for the ribeye) for Wakefield. This has always been a tough spot for a restaurant, perhaps because it’s off the beaten track of the heavily touristed Narragansett. So let’s hope that Sunday brunches, with stuffed French toast and steak and eggs, can pull in the locals, and that out-of-state visitors love those martinis.

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