The theatre district is what it is, and it's an ongoing struggle to find tolerable eateries in the vicinity. I thought I'd probably happened upon the best of them, but a recent encounter with Geoffrey Zakarian and his lovely wife reminded me of The Lamb's Club in the Chatwal Hotel. I didn't get the full experience, taking the pre-theatre/pre-fixe route, but given that, I was impressed- and surprised I actually hadn't heard more commendations about the place- but then again, Times Square is a blessing and a curse.
For me, it is a blessing. I hate the hunt for quality eats just because you are restricted to a certain neighborhood... one with slim pickings at that. The room does feel a little hotelly, but it is sleek and contemporary- dark and glossy with silver finishings and long, padded cabernet banquettes. The Lamb's Club was historically the first prestigious theatrical club, and the room and prix-fixe menus reflect a classic sensibility. The pre-theatre menu limits your selections somewhat, but shaves twenty bucks off the lesser priced menu (a five course is available for $105). And your choices are good, three in each category, and entrees were a chicken, a fish and a meat, they were prime specimens. You don't get second-classed for ordering the pre-theatre: promptly
after ordering we were treated to a lovely amuse, compliments of the chef. Actually, I was initially a little concerned when the waiter gave its description: a fois gras mousseline with tart apple- it sounded a potential gut-bomb that might actually detract from the meal. Instead, it was an ethereally light foam rich with the flavor of fois, but brightened with a crisp dice of tart green apple. Even the cocoa dusted atop added depth but not heft. If my dining companion had been fois-averse, I would've happily relieved him of his. Unfortunately, he liked it as much as I did. After that, we tried the signature salad, a tumble
of bitter and soft greens, crisp endive and apple, in an herby, summery tarragon vinaigrette lightly applied and creamy. The leaves in their whole form demanded cutlery (no microgreens here), but the presentation was impressive and fitting of the old-boys atmosphere. I ordered the chilled corn soup, a smooth, sweet puree riddled with kernels and spiked with lime and espelette, highlighting knobs of slippery, funky huitlacoche to complete its Latin signature.
There is a Creekstone Delmonico, which would've really fit the ambiance, but we went for the fricasee' and a New Zealand Snapper. The fricasee, tasty as it was, was disappointingly unfricassee-esque. Instead, tender breast meat was rolled with Jamon Serrano and sliced into discs, sided with a silky puree of cauliflower, grilled fonds of artichokes and showy squash blossoms stuffed with couscous. The
request to swap out one of the menu-inclusive desserts for a side instead was acquiesced (although he did have to consult the chef), so a side of chilled pole beans stood in for the vanilla panna cotta- and was probably a poor decision. The beans were a little tough, very lightly steamed, and dressed simply... although when we reached the bottom of the ramekin, there lie all the sauce, a yogurty cream that might've actually made the swap worthwhile.
My steamed snapper had a good veggie component, though, and the silver skinned medallions shone like medals, studded with grilled pearl onions and tiny chanterelles in a rich jus of beef tongue that made me glad mine was still intact and functioning on all levels.
If you didn't have a show to get to after dinner at The Lamb's Club, a fitting finale might be to veer east out of the Chatwal for a stroll through Bryant Park, its famous carousel in the shadows of the Forty Second Street NYPL- some of the few remaining institutions of classic New York. On the other hand, there's little more "New York" than Broadway (at least historically), so if you've tickets to Mormons or Newsies, etc., this too would sustain the vibe. Although, following the meal with "Bring it On" certainly did irrevocably affirm dinner as the highlight of the evening.
132 West 44th Street (btwn 6th Ave and Broadway)