Glory Days Redux

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May 24, 2010
By: Carla Waldemar
Carla Waldemar
Crying while slicing onions, sure, but — weeping over spuds? “I cut French fries here,” a gent teared up as he revisited the Forum, newly risen from restaurant graveyard and reopened in all its Art Deco glory. “I served mashed potatoes on the steam table,” sniffled a graying lady. Another customer confessed, “As a teenager, I didn’t want my parents to catch me smoking, so when they came in, I’d put out my cigarette in the mashed potatoes”— more happy, teary eyes.

The new Forum is the restaurant we all love to love, especially those who cannot testify to its glory days, from 1929 to the early ’70s, when it was dismantled but — thank our lucky preservation stars — not destroyed. So put on your party duds and make like Gatsby: Wander in to admire the cool, ice blue surfaces, slick streaks of ebony, zigzag silver accents and warm, frosted-glass Deco chandeliers, all returned to their spots of honor.

At lunch, the former Forum’s signature chicken pot pie and Salisbury steak rule once more, while the dinner menu reflects “classics made elegant,” attests the chef — in other words, perennial favorites subtly reconstructed to suit the cleaner palates of today — lemon lightening a sauce, for instance — plus unabashed newcomers destined to be comfort classics.

To set the party mood, we slurped oysters on the half shell ($3 each), then put away a pair of Colorado lamb-chop lollipops. These babies are far meatier (and pricier) than most, their full flavor enriched by a spritz of balsamic, then a dusting of pistachios, ready to slide through the accompanying pesto sauce. Two meat-slicked thumbs up (mercifully, a hot towel followed).

Then, because I can never say no to short ribs, a full pound, stylishly presented bone-in, came ready to melt onto my fork. They’re served with those ever-lovin’ mashed potatoes (sans cigarette) and a “vegetable medley,” which is a gross understatement for a terrific toss of sautéed Brussels sprouts and crispy bacon.

As contrast, the pearly halibut, wrapped in smoky bacon and launched in a clean shellfish-white wine broth, made a daintier impression, abetted with roasted root veggies and again, those stellar spuds. (Burgers, pasta and ribs $11–17; other entrees $24–45, if you’re deranged enough to order a 24-ounce Porterhouse).

The sweet-corn bread pudding aside the cider-brined pork chop is reason enough to summon that dish, or throw caution to the wind with an order of lobster mac and cheese, with plenty of both in evidence among the pancetta and truffle-oil that dot the noodles.

Each month the Forum plans to honor another of our country’s culinary cities, and they’ve started out with a toast to New Orleans. The blackened walleye was fine, but I’d stick to the standard menu to get a feel for the place. The weekend breakfast list ($8 range) reads even better, from Eggs Bennie updated with capicola and prosciutto or grits with shrimp and smoked Gouda to simply biscuits in sausage gravy. As our waiter wickedly assessed a diner’s attraction,
“It’s good for ’um.”  

City Center
40 S. 7th St.,