Nitehawk opened a few weeks ago in Williamsburg. It’s a movie theater with table service and a full menu. The chef’s other restaurant has a Michelin star. What we have here are the makings of something fun and possibly really special, I thought. So, we went on Saturday night to watch “The Trip.”
We arrived really early–about 40 minutes early–so we could check out the place and order while the lights were still up. On their site, they encourage anyone who’s interested to submit a short film for pre-show entertainment. This one was my favorite:
We ordered a lot of food. Both the movie tickets and the food were reasonably priced, for the most part. But the menu lacked any interesting options, and some of the uninteresting things we ordered weren’t very good. I guess I was underwhelmed. Why would you open a movie theater that serves food if you’re just going to serve kinda OK food?
We started with something that no sentient being should ever eat: chips and a very large bowl of nacho cheese.
I ate a lot of this because it’s nacho cheese, but I really don’t recommend it. I hate myself for loving you, mediocre nacho cheese.
The movie started. (Luckily, they left a little light on underneath each table, which allowed me to photograph the rest of the food.) The plot revolves around Steve Coogan, playing a fictionalized version of himself, who has set up a food tour of Northern England to impress his girlfriend, and to write it up for The Observer. Except his girlfriend decides she needs “a break” a few days before their scheduled to shove off. So, Coogan calls his friend Rob Brydon, also playing a fictionalized version of himself, to come along instead.
I really enjoyed the role the filmmaker carved out for food. It’s not the focus, but it’s always shot beautifully. Food serves as pretty decoration, much like the vast, lovely northern English landscape. Neither of the main characters even pretends to care about food or cooking, so they mostly enjoy their fancy meals bemusedly and bit confusedly, being polite to waitstaff and trying not to say anything too stupid about the food. They ate their meals at real restaurants, including Michelin-starred L’Enclume. They finished the movie meals with a traditional English breakfast eaten outdoors, where the two travelers could enjoy the brisk, hint-of-spring weather. You could almost feel your own cheeks getting ruddy!
Some of their comments on the meals could have been send-ups of my (and plenty of other) food blogs. At L’Enclume, Coogan eats a “duck-fat lolli,” and they both sip a starter whose consistency “is a bit like snot. … BUT, it tastes great!”
Back to our food. … Alan ordered a very juicy burger with gruyere. It was actually excellent–so was the sweet pickle. The fries were gross, though: foamy and saltless. I was pretty disappointed that they used the frozen sports bar/diner kind of fries, rather than peeling and cutting up their own potatoes. Again, why you would open a movie theater specifically to serve food and then go on and serve so many generic things?
I had the fish tacos, which came out cold. I am not trying to hurt this restaurant’s feelings, but these fish tacos were bad. The fish was tough, and it couldn’t seem to decide if it wanted to be fried or grilled. The tortillas were rubbery; the raw cabbage, carrots, and radish added on top tasted like the salad that comes with your typical sushi lunch (but with no yummy dressing), and of course the chef squeezed on that ubiquitous chili mayo over everything, to no avail. The whole thing had very little flavor.
We had a Steve’s key lime pie for dessert. I’d heard a lot about these pies, which come from Red Hook, and this one didn’t disappoint. It was totally delicious–the key lime custard was fresh and tart, the whipped cream provide a lovely accompaniment to it, as did the graham cracker crust. It smelled good, too. At $8, it was expensive, but I just had to try it, and I’m glad I did.
I liked the experience of eating at Nitehawk. The service was very organized: the servers were attentive but totally unobtrusive during the show. I enjoyed the novelty and the service was so well-executed that I think I’ll go back. Hopefully the food will be better next time.