Thursday, December 2, 2010
Good Luck: Proving Bigger Isn't Always Better
In a city where the prevailing mantra surrounding portion sizes is, "bigger is better," the idea of a restaurant specializing in small plates to share might not be the most prudent decision. Yet that's exactly what Mike Calabrese, Chuck Cerankosky and Chef Dan Martello did when they opened Good Luck in 2008. Originally designed as a wine bar that would offer a limited menu, Good Luck eventually evolved into a full-blown restaurant. Good Luck now serves a promising selection of both original and classic cocktails, homemade pastas and an ever-changing charcuterie plate.
Located in the old Fabrics and Findings space off Anderson Avenue, Good Luck represents just one of the many new and dynamic restaurants to grace the city of Rochester. Living in Brooklyn and working as much as I do affords me relatively few opportunities to return home and visit family. So I often turn to my siblings, both of whom live in the Rochester area, for dining suggestions. Having been mentioned by both sisters and spoken highly of by an old friend in the industry was more than enough to convince me that reservations at Good Luck were necessary.
Arriving at the entrance of an inconspicuous building, we pushed through a packed bar area to check in with the hostess, who then promptly led us to our table in the much quieter dining room. Past the bustling bar was a partially open kitchen with an adjacent room reserved for the Chef's Table. The interior was best described as industrial chic, with reclaimed wooden floors, exposed ceiling beams and brick walls, making it easy to imagine the occupied space was once a home furnishings warehouse. Seated, our server arrived explaining the restaurant's concept - small plates, meant to be shared - and took our drink order. CW, my sister's boyfriend, ordered a Tom Collins - St. Louis, 1850's Beefeater Gin, Sugar, Lemon and Soda. MW and my sister both ordered Gilded Ricky's - Hendrick's Gin, Meyer Lemon, Kava Kava Syrup and Tonic. I ordered a Black Cat Tea - Johnny Walker Black, Cointreau, Iced Organic Earl Grey Tea, Lemon and Orange Bitters. Each cocktail was well crafted and nicely balanced-- an all-around excellent start to our meal.
I was a bit turned off by the fact that our server didn't know what the day's Charcuterie Plate consisted of, and even more so, when she didn't even offer to inquire, however, I was undeterred and ordered a large plate for the entire table. Fortunately, one of the cook's arrived (still in his whites) explaining the contents of the plate: a Celery-Root Rémoulade, Pickled Red Onions, Pickled Hard Boiled Egg with Jalapeño, Pickled Sweet Peppers, Duck Confit, Prosciutto, Salumi, McCadam Cheddar Cheese, Manchego Cheese and a Pecorino Romano with Saffron and Peppercorns. Served alongside some sliced bread, we easily worked through the entire board which offered a conservative (but nice) variety.
The next "shared" plate, was the house-made Gnocchi Bolognese with Béchamel. Set in a meaty bolognese, the homemade gnocchi were light and fluffy. The creamy béchamel seemed a bit overkill to an already rich dish such as this, but was happily enjoyed regardless.
The Braised Oxtail with Tripe and Tomato Sauce arrived shortly. While the dish's title focused on the braised oxtail, the real star of the plate was the perfect bits of honeycomb tripe. Both the oxtail and tripe had been wonderfully braised, resulting in tender morsels of meat and offal that sung sitting in a bright tomato sauce with a faint kick of red chili. This dish required extra bread to sop up the remaining sauce and was my favorite of the evening.
Upon arrival, CW insisted that we "had to order" the Good Luck Burger, composed of 1 lb. House-Ground, Grass-Fed Beef on Brioche with McCadam Cheddar - the burger was appropriately cut into quarters and surrounded a mountain of Fresh-Cut French Fires and a side of Vegetable Slaw. Cooked medium rare, the vibrant red from the meat was apparent. Unfortunately, the flavor of the beef was noticeably absent. Unlike the undeniable grass-fed flavor like the burger at Diner, or the minerally funk from the dry-aged blend used at Minetta Tavern, the Good Luck burger fell short, which at $17 was hard to swallow. The fries and vegetable slaw were fine, but hardly justified the price of the dish. Intrigued over the "special sauce" which accompanied the burger and fries, our server informed us that it consisted of: ketchup, mayonnaise and brandy.
With the heartier courses about to arrive, it was time for another round of drinks for everyone. CW ordered an Old Fashioned - Old Grand Dad Bourbon, Sugar and Angostura Bitters. For MW, a Negroni - Gin, Campari, Italian Vermouth and Flamed Orange. Sticking with gin, my sister had the French 75 - Tanqueray, Fresh Lemon Juice and Champagne - and I had a Corpse Reviver - Dash of Absinthe, Lillet, Plymouth Gin, Cointreau and Lemon. Unlike the previous round where most of us tried the restaurant's original cocktails, we stuck with classics this time around, which were equally as enjoyable.
Coming in a close second as the evening's best dish was the Braised Beef Shank with Ciopollini Onions, Thumbelina Carrots and Polenta. Set atop a mound of creamy polenta was a gargantuan beef shank. The shank contained an intense beef flavor, and like the previous oxtail dish, was braised until the meat practically fell apart. Best of all, the kitchen sent out the shank with the marrow bone intact, for that extra bit of unconsciousness. Unlike the gummy polenta we experienced at Lento, this polenta was incredibly creamy with the vegetables providing some sweet notes.
Our final dish, the Roasted Half Springer Mountain Farms Chicken with Lemon, Olives, Onion and Parsley, happened to be the least successful of the evening. A properly roasted chicken, with moist meat and a crisp skin, is one of the staple dishes I tend to gauge a chef's ability by, and after enjoying the majority of food the kitchen had already sent out, it came as quite a shock to see this relatively "simple" dish gone awry. Although the meat was moist, the skin had not been crisped and remained flaccid. Worse yet was the actual flavor of the meat, which tasted unusually fatty and wasn't aided by the acid of the lemon or brine from the olives.
In addition to the seasonal menu that rotates frequently, the restaurant's website now advertises a Chef's Table option, in which parties of six or more are able to participate in a specially crafted meal dictated by one of three different formats and is a truly unique gastronomic experience throughout all of Rochester. If this past meal was any indication of Chef Martello's talent, then a future reservation at this restaurant will indeed, require a bit of "Good Luck," as it seems the rest of Rochester has already noticed.
50 Anderson Ave
Rochester, NY 14607
To see all the pictures from this meal, please click here.