Now that flammable mixologist Albert Trummer has retired his Zippo, he's got a lot more time to focus on the finer things in life, like dinner. His funky yet swank watering hole Theater Bar has just partnered with the popular and eclectic Upper West Side eatery Tolani to turn the bar into a legit restaurant. It's only going to last three months, but Trummer says don't call it a pop-up... because he hates that word. So let's just call it Tolani Tribeca at Theater Bar.
The menu from Tolani Executive Chef Luis Ulloa is grouped into theatrical "acts," from Act I through Act V. But unlike an actual play, you don't have to sit through every boring act. The show starts, if you so desire, with a raw bar and seafood towers ranging from a $45 "plateau" to a $110 Plateau Royal. Act II consists of Cold Plates, including a Green Papaya Salad ($14) and Tolani Ceviche Plates (three for $24). During the media preview last week, we tried each ceviche, and were triple impressed with the Smoked Bay Scallops, the Tiger Shrimp with pickled jalapeno, and the Florida Red Snapper with Cantaloupe (we survived!) and roasted poblano.
Act III features small plates including a refreshing Spaghetti Squash and "Meatballs" ($18), and Pannekoek: a housemade crepe, slow braised pork shoulder, and apple-ginger chutney. During the climactic Act IV, you can choose your own adventure from an array of options including Rabbit Fricasee ($17) and the highly recommendable Peri Peri Prawns, made with Mozambique Tiger Prawns. They're big boys, and there's no better climax to a night at the theater than seeing someone get decapitated and eaten.
Spoiler Alert: Charcuterie and cheese round out Act IV, and of course Albert Trummer's exceptional cocktails are available. If you're lucky, you'll hear some live music bubbling from the stage behind the bar, or a burlesque show, or a woman riding in on white horse. But in our biased opinion, Ulloa's menu is compelling enough on its own without such gimmicks! [Disclosure: the Gothamist holiday party was at Theater Bar last year, and we love this place.]