Like it or not I am usually the one tasked to choose a restaurant for my regular dining posse of 6 and I thought that suggesting GoodLife was going a bit out on the edge ( I had been there once before).
It does have a funky vibe and the dining room gets loud due to the adjoining bar and the vodka bar downstairs once you approach 9 PM or so.
Some of us arrived a little early and had a drink at the bar, then we were seated promptly for our 8:30 reservation, the dining room was maybe half full. We had an attentive waiter who made us comfortable and liked to joke around a bit which is sometimes a welcome change.
We began with a few apps to share, based upon the recommendation or our server and each one was a hands down winner. Mac & Cheese, deliciously rich and should be served with a side of artery stents. Calamari with jalapeño, arugala,pine nuts, garlic and lemon aioli, this was nicely presented in a small paper lined bamboo steamer. Sweet crab and bacon tacos ( which were more like wraps,) and the smokey carnitas quesadilla. Of the choices, I was least looking forward to the quesadilla, but in the end it turned out to be my favorite. Having been victimized by so many mediocre quesadillas ( which seem to show up now on menus of almost every cuisine) this was a wonderfully rich tasting treat that was nicely crisp, nice presentation with a small pool of avocado puree. The pork was something you might expect to find at Angela's.
This was a pretty substantial amount of food in and of itself, but we soldiered on and ordered entrees. After the apps I was looking for something light so I chose the roasted farm chicken with buttery mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus ( done to perfection) and fresh herb pan sauce. This was just what I was looking for albeit a bit salty, and I'm a salt guy. A nicely roasted breast and wing section with crisp skin and very moist. This would have been the perfect "light" choice, however I could not stop myself from laying to waste that mountain of awesome mashed spuds.
Also ordered was the potato and short rib gnocci, the cubano with great homemade potato chips, which were a table fave, the seared rare tuna and two orders of the overnight braised lamb shank.
The gnocci was similar in preparation, but not quite as good as the Grotto standout. The cubano looked good and was enjoyed by my DC, it looked as though after it was pressed that it was slid into the pizza oven to give it a nice char, which would have been fine by me if it were my dish. The seared rare tuna was just that, with a hint of sesame and was a generous portion and the most expensive dish on the menu at $24.00.
The braised lamb shank was something out of Fred Flintstone and was fall off the bone tender. I tried it and liked it but It did not receive stellar accolades, it was mild and I think both were hoping for something "lambier" but both did comment on really enjoying the roasted eggplant and fennel accompaniments. It also comes with a grilled garlic "crostini" which was the size of a half of loaf of french bread, bringing the portion size towards the absurd and for $21.00 a dish you could certainly get two to three additional meals out of.
Don't know what my wife and I were thinking, but we chose to split the tuna tatar app on top of everything else. Everyone at the table got to sample this and it was enjoyed by all, although I can see how this preparation might not be everyone's cup of tea if you are tatar purist. It was a cylindrical presentation the fresh cubes of tuna bound together with an avocado kewpie ( the Japanese style) mayo and served on a bed of seaweed salad with some of those home made potato chips to eat it with. Yum.
I was settled in with a good Dark & Stormy, but some folks opted for wine and chose a bottle ( well, actually 2) of a shiraz, they seemed to really enjoy and at a very reasonable $30.00 per bottle.
While we all enjoyed the meal, we agreed that our next time there would be an appetizer-fest.
Folks who have been to GL know it's a little quirky, I initially wanted to order the onion soup, but was told that only one was prepared for the evening but it had already been sold (huh, we're not talking beef wellington here). No salt and pepper was on the table which I sometimes interpret as a bit pretentious, but it didn't bug me here. As mentioned the portion sizes were more than ample but when we asked our waiter to prepare the leftovers to take home, a kind of ashen pale came over him... "that could be a problem, we only have tiny Chinese takeout containers and pizza boxes." Our waiter was able to improvise and wrapped two of the entrees in foil and put them in a pizza box and the other entrees were wrapped in foil and presented in a white handled paper bag. From a practical perspective, having the food double wrapped in heavy foil, was probably keeping the food fresher than many other styrofoam and other such travel packaging, but it seemed weird, I couldn't tell if they were out of standard to-go packaging or of that was the norm.
Certainly I wouldn't want my personal comments above to dissuade anyone from trying GL for the first time or going back. It may just not be your run of the mill dining experience, but often that's OK if you know that up front.