Goodfellow's pre-theater dinner: filling up with artistry before the play even begins

Share this:
March 12, 2002 // UPDATED 1:16 pm - April 30, 2007
By: D e a n J . S e a l
D e a n J . S e a l

\"Theaters and restaurants

make good bedfellows,\"

observed Bain Boehlke,

artistic director of the Jungle Theater.

He was referring to the blooming

of upscale eateries that grew up

around his Lyn-Lake stage-space like

delicious mushrooms after a spring

rain.

Restaurants that understand the theater

crowd know they are looking

for something delicious and speedy,

but ideally not maximum-priced,

because diners are also buying a

couple tickets for the show. That\'s

where the Prix Fixe (fixed-price)

pre-theater dinner comes in.

And another way of saying good

bedfellows is, well, Goodfellow\'s.

Now in its fifth year, Goodfellow\'s,

40 S. 7th St., inherited its swank interior,

which is as glamorous as anything

you\'ll find in Manhattan. The

design was originally unveiled in

1930, and is still one of the last great

examples of authentic ZigZag Moderne,

the first phase of the Art Deco

movement.

Goodfellows is always good to know

on those nights when someone else

is buying and they only care about

getting something great. Maitre d\'

John Day estimates the average food

tab is about $60-70 per person

before bar tab, tax and tip.

Knowing the regular rate makes the

three-course pre-theater dinner so great.

For $39 per person plus drinks, you get a

choice example of how they do things,

are waited on hand and foot, and you\'re

out by 7:15 p.m. You don\'t really have to

go to the theater - you can just use this

as an opportunity to sample and enjoy.

There are only two catches: you have to

place your order between 5:30 p.m. and

6:30 p.m., and you have to choose

between two offerings. That works for

the restaurant, because they can take

care of you before the dinner rush. And

it works for customers, because they

can take care of us before the dinner

rush.

I can confess to a previous life in New

York City, where I worked as associate

editor for a Japanese trade magazine

that covered restaurant design. A large

part of my job was to find cool trendy

restaurants, take pictures of the designs

and eat their food. I would place my

experience here with the best of any of

them.

The fact that you only get two choices is

not a problem. Just do what they tell

you. The two things they do are made up

that night, after the chef gets inspired.

5:45 p.m.

After I ordered, the staff rolled out a little

starter in the form of a piece of wokcharred

marlin, medium rare, on a wonton,

with egg plant puree, roasted

shiitake mushroom, and some papaya

with daikon-sprouts. About the size of a

large piece of sushi, the marlin was a

refreshing little burst of flavor to kick

things off.

A bread basket with fresh cornbread,

wheat bread and sourdough (all delicious

and made on premises) is slid surreptitiously

onto the table with butter

and beverage by one of the three staffers

who lavished me with attention without

ever overdoing it.

The service was prompt, courteous and

effective without ever being intrusive. I

was not undercover or anything, but

while you can fake politeness, you can\'t

fake competence. They were just right.

5:55 p.m.

My meal began with a consomm of rabbit

breast, wrapped in pheasant thigh

and a thin phylo pastry, which is then

baked. This Wellington is then topped

with more rabbit, garnished with black

Oregon truffles and a touch of thyme. To

keep the pastry from getting soggy, the

game consomm is applied tableside -

a nice touch. And after it is served, you

have the chance to splash on some dry

sherry and white Italian truffle oil.

This rabbit and pheasant was a tender

and flavorful combo, warm and rich like

the dark meats that they are, gamy in the

good sense that it has more flavor than

tame, weak stuff like turkey or chicken.

The pastry was still crispy and not besotted,

because of the last minute application.

The consomm was a wealth of flavor,

good body with a blend of different

touches coming at you all at once.

6:10 p.m.

My main course arrived: two pieces of

Atlantic salmon wrapped in rice paper,

each about the size of a rather weighty

bread stick. They were sauted in a neutral

oil, like sesame, and then accented

with unagi, which is a soy and mirin

(sweet rice wine) reduction. The garnish

is a set of four tempura-fried shrimp,

Thai-style, on a bed of bibb lettuce with

papaya, mint and cilantro. The whole

thing is finished with a curry and

coconut sauce, which was perfectly balanced

to my taste: spicy, but not so hot

that it drowned the other flavors. The

papaya is a fresh little addition that cuts

through the curry with a cooling touch,

and is not out of place.

6:30 p.m.

Your choice of desserts is more extensive

- with eight out of ten of the items

on the regular menu (exceptions are the

samplers of desserts and cheeses). I had

the Banana Bread Pudding, a great innovative

touch right there. It was warmed

and sitting in a puddle of coffee-toffee

sauce, decorated with a small scoop of

dark rum ice cream, dressed out with

pecan brittle, in the company of some

bananas that had been bruled - that is,

clad in a sheen of caramelized white

sugar that had been melted with a blowtorch.

What\'s not to like? I was ready to roll

before 7 p.m. and I never once felt

rushed.

Maitre d\' Day says that while there is no

dress code, a lot of the customers do

dress up, and sometimes you may have

that special outfit in the closet that

demands the proper setting.

It\'s the mark of a civilized city when you

can go to a place like this and have a

meal like that.