Filling out expense reports. Putting down lame horses. Ordering ramps or soft shell crabs come springtime. These are all tasks that evoke a sense of duty — the ramps and the crabs more so this time of year. So it's with a degree of skepticism that I eyed a crostino containing both at Gato, Bobby Flay and Laurence Kretchmer's Spanish-tinged Mediterranean restaurant in Noho. In fact I'll go even further: it was a dish I didn't want to order in a restaurant that, thanks to a trio of uninspired meals, I wasn't terribly excited to be in. And then I sampled the toast and was briefly reminded that The Iron Chef was once quite good at what he did.
Too many cooks render their soft shells flavorless in the fryer. Not Flay, who sears them on the plancha, adds harissa vinaigrette, places them on a grilled baguette, and anoints the entire affair with charred ramps. The crabs collapse in the mouth with little more resistance than a communion wafer, spilling out their heady oceanic juices, while the bread soaks up any errant liquid, and the oniony ramps reset the palate for another bite. Cost: $15. It is, without question, one of the few interesting soft shell or ramp preparations I've had in the past half-decade.