Hail Goodfellow's, Well Met


40 S. Seventh St., Mpls.; 332-4800

To be metaphorical about the whole thing, I might bed with a lot of restaurants, but I've only truly loved a couple. I'm not sure if I love Goodfellow's; I'd have to visit it more than once, and I can't really afford to court such an expensive date. But my crush on Goodfellow's is fervent.

I'd heard about Goodfellow's before; Goodfellow's this, Goodfellow's that. I'd just never been there, which is why I didn't understand the grave, worried tone in people's voices as they wondered out loud about the impact of Goodfellow's move out of the Conservatory to another location. Would Goodfellow's lose anything during the move, perhaps a fork, a plate, signature dishes, its grandeur? I need not address those who worried, for they have probably, in their panic, already rushed to see for themselves how things turned out. Newcomers like me have to be content with the zeal of the newly converted.

I bounced in with a friend one evening last week, laughing just a little at having the doors opened at our slightest move toward them by strapping lads sporting Goodfellow's T-shirts. Once inside, I realized immediately that this was definitely not a place where one "stops in." "We don't have reservations," I volunteered, my mouth having a bit of trouble forming the words that I don't think I've ever used before in these cities. Sure enough, nothing was available for a couple of hours, but by this time we knew we had fallen into someplace special; we waited.

The waiting is most painless in the lounge area off to the side of the main dining room. Lounge is the operative word because that's what you have to do in the plush sunken armchairs and couches that feel more like luxurious nests than furniture. Nearby are glass tables topped with thin glass fishbowls, each containing a single lilly. Waiters, a few of them smiling that mock-obsequious smile that says "I'm better dressed than you, I know more about etiquette than you, and I make more money than you," float by checking up on drinks, though you're welcome to make the trip to the carved, underlit glass bar yourself.

Opulent art-deco is the presumption here, as everywhere you turn there's an elegant lamp, a chandelier made of tiers of iced glass, a shaped glass bowl for matches, or some such delicate touch. At the proper time, we were led through the dining room, set on various levels that gave the room plenty of hidden corners for trysts with movie stars and the like. Notable as well was the attention given to each table to make it beautiful, including small glass vases stuck with fresh spring flowers, silver, a variety of long-stemmed glasses, and individual pepper grinders. (That last item might seem a small detail to you, but I for one have never liked the fuss of someone standing over me and sticking a phallic-shaped object in my face, waiting for a command on what to do with it.)

Once seated, we were presented with an extremely fat wine list, which appears to be maintained on a weekly basis ("As of February 7, 1997"). This list of more than 600 bottles is the best in town that I know of, at least if you have some money at your disposal. Our waiter was friendly and relaxed, not foisting formality, but happy and plenty able to answer our questions, which prompted a detailed explanation of the differences between unfined, fined, filtered, and unfiltered wine. He graciously steered us away from a $22 bottle of the 1995 Hogue Cellars, Columbia Valley that I had selected solely by virtue of price (most moderate wines here are $30-$50, the high end rearing its costly head via a $350 bottle of 1969 Robert Mondavi, Napa Valley), toward a very tasty bottle from Markham Vineyards, Glass Mountain, Calif., priced at $23, and, according to our trusted waiter, infinitely superior to my first choice.

Before appetizers, we were brought out a starter, a small taste of something dreamt up by the chef on that particular day, i.e., a nicety. On this evening, the starter was a delicate portion of pheasant pâté on a crouton, sauced over with an apple and rhubarb chutney, and spiked with a fresh sprig of thyme, all magnificently presented. "Does one eat this with their fingers or with a fork?" whispered my friend. I had no answer, and those were basically the last words we spoke to one another, aside from a very few, guarded invitations to share; we were too busy being amazed to speak. The pâté tasted fresh, hinting of herbed vinegar, the chutney perfumed with cinnamon and flecks of sweet onion; it didn't seem so small in our mouths as it had looked on the plate. The food here forces one to eat slowly, to appreciate its curves and nuances, not to mention its physical beauty. Those who love and care deeply about cooking and eating would do well to come here to learn new tricks.

Despite the menu's brevity, you will have a very difficult time choosing; everything sounds extraordinary. Here are a few things that turned our heads: the pre-set menu, $49 per person for tempura fried shrimp with lobster-cucumber salad and lemon conserves, molasses roasted pheasant with poblano-corn mashed potatoes, and chocolate hazelnut crunch cake with roasted banana ice cream; the Hudson Valley Foie Gras with crushed blueberry chutney, thyme and 25-year-old balsamic vinegar ($12); the eggplant crusted lamb chops with cous cous risotto and green and black olive tapenade.

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