First bite: Crú Food & Wine Bar offers a welcome respite at Clearfork

Crú’s fig and prosciutto pizza ($15), topped with fig jam, peppery arugula leaves and creamy fontina and Point Reyes blue cheeses
Crú’s fig and prosciutto pizza ($15), topped with fig jam, peppery arugula leaves and creamy fontina and Point Reyes blue cheeses Special to the Star-Telegram

As The Shops at Clearfork continues to fill in, one of the upscale shopping center’s many restaurants opened quietly on Nov. 17. Without any fanfare, hoopla or soft-opening jitters, Crú Food & Wine Bar simply opened the doors and got right down to business.

Located at the corner of Marathon and Gage avenues, Crú Food & Wine Bar offers a cozy, warm atmosphere to sip more than 300 selections of wine by the bottle. Around 80 premium wines are on hand, and currently Crú offers 42 by the glass or to sample in a flight.

General manager Kyle Smith says that Crú currently is not open on Sundays, but will be in the next couple of weeks. Sunday brunch will be added soon thereafter. “We want to be welcoming for the advanced wine-drinker as well as the novice. We want to provide a comfortable place for our guests to enjoy the world of wine,” he says.

Crú Food & Wine Bar is a chain with 15 locations across the country, including two in Austin, two in the Houston area, one each in Dallas, Plano and Allen, plus locations at Dallas Love Field and DFW Airport.

If you are not a wine drinker, there is also a scant selection of five beers on hand (don’t expect anything craftier than a Community IPA — not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Here’s a first look at the Crú Food & Wine Bar’s Clearfork location from my visit on its second day of business.

The vibe: My husband and I noticed the lights on and few people wandering in the door, so we quickly altered our plans to check out the new kid on the block. We chose a two-top by the wall, where we could take in all the action.

Crú scored a prime corner spot in a block where the other corner tenants include Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, rise n°3, and Burberry. It is positioned perfectly to take in a Texas sunset on the patio with an unobstructed view of the Shops’ central artwork “Windmill” by Tom Fruin.

The interior has seating along the linear bar to the right. There are a few banquette-backed seats along the opposite wall, with a mix of tables and high tops in between. The palette is clean and crisp, with black wooden tables and chairs, caramel tones on the seating and a café au lait hue on the walls. The lighting is warm. The acoustics are nice, too; you can actually hold an intimate conversation, without overhearing your neighbors.

The back wall features wooden shelving decorated with wine bottles and a wooden arch passing through to the open kitchen beyond. This is Crú’s “wine wall library,” displaying all the bottles in stock. Crú has a classy, urban atmosphere.

The food: The wine menu is the place to start. Bottles range from rare and pricey to budget-friendly in the $30 range and are organized by varietal and region.

Currently, there are 14 flights to sample. Flights consist of three 2-ounce pours, presented along with an information card including tasting notes.

The kitchen is just as busy as the bar, and for good reason. You can seriously “wine and dine” on some interesting entrees such as cast-iron skillet sea scallops or Barolo-braised short rib. Or you can choose shared appetizers, cheese plates featuring a selection of imported and domestic cheeses, or crusty gourmet pizzas. We went this route.

The collection of shareable small plates is vast, from Prince Edward mussels ($13) steamed in white wine, lemongrass, Campari tomatoes and Thai basil, to lamb lollipops ($17) flavored with Point Reyes blue cheese, crispy prosciutto ham, with a red wine demi-glace and fresh mint.

We shared a cheese board ($16). There are four collections to choose from (including imported and domestic, goat and cow’s milk varieties), and all come with a bread basket filled with rustic slices of baguette, a crisp seasoned cracker and slices of dense fruit-and-nut bread. The board is arranged with thinly sliced apples and pears, along with a cluster of grapes and a bit of honeycomb glistening at the center.

I can also vouch for the individual-size pizzas. The fig and prosciutto ($15) had a crispy crust and was topped with fresh fig jam, peppery arugula leaves and creamy fontina and Point Reyes blue cheeses.

The verdict: Although we wandered in on its second day open, the staff was well-trained and enthusiastic. Our service never lagged. Crú is a nice respite from power-shopping or serves as a leisurely stop for a light meal or full dinner. The menu had so many interesting options and the Big Plates entrees are affordable ($20-$27). We’ll be back to sample more.

Crú Food & Wine Bar

The Shops at Clearfork

5188 Marathon Ave., Fort Worth


Hours: 4.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Sunday (when Sunday service begins in a few weeks); 4.-11: p.m. Friday and Saturday;