They say “location location location” is important in the restaurant business, and if that’s the case, 3825 Fifth Avenue must be a bad location. Although thrift shops seem to thrive there, the block between Robinson and University is tough on restaurants. This location has seen two eateries close in two years (Hom Korean and Which Wich).
However, those were fast-casual concepts, built like mini cafeterias where you watched your food made à la an assembly line behind a steel counter.
That counter remains — in fact, most of the structure of the place looks the same, right down to the location of the self-service soda fountain. Except it’s not self-service, and Crave isn’t a fast-causal counter restaurant. And the food was far from fast. I’m cool with slow food, but I thought this place would be another quick bite and I had to run outside to add more time to the parking meter.
Crave serves Persian food, ranging from a variety of kebabs to a variety of stews, with basmati rice being the glue that holds the menu together. My friend ordered a $14 chicken-and-gyro-meat combo, while my attention couldn’t be pulled away from the $12 cornish hen, bone in.
Friendly service ensured nobody complained about waiting for kebabs to properly cook in the open kitchen behind the counter. The time gave us a chance to marvel at the colorful décor, from glittery fringe hanging from the ceiling to a floor painted like a Mondrian block-art tableau. If I had to complain, it would be about the endless, vapid string of music videos playing on a giant block of TVs on one wall. I’m sure it was tuned to a channel devoted to vanity music, paid for by somebody’s rich dad.
The plates arrived, adorned with salads and grilled roma tomatoes, which I thought were a nice touch. The Cornish hen had been chopped to pieces for the grill and made a yellow-orange color with turmeric and other seasonings.
3825 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest
Whatever the combination of flavors, it proved more savory than salty, with a vague, underlying sour note. Not bad, but not great. I tried my friend’s boneless chicken breast, and it tasted the same, though with better texture. In retrospect, I’d have rather eaten that, as the buttery flavor and oily textures that make Cornish hens worthwhile couldn’t break through the combination of seasoning and grilling.
The risky location could make it a tough year for Crave, and I think there’s room to refine that seasoning if it’s going to thrive. That said, fair prices and a comprehensive menu featuring clean, flavorful dishes of fish, fowl, beef, lamb, and vegetable dishes make it worth a visit for fans of Persian cuisine. All things considered, it’s the best restaurant to occupy this space in years.