By Alex Brown
Pre-theater dining options can be grim. Many restaurants in the theater district offer food that seems as rushed as diners trying to get to the curtain call but with a bill to match opening night ticket prices.
Enter Triomphe stage left to the rescue. This elegant restaurant is a bit further from theaters than many of its competitors but easily beats them in the quality of the food and the casual elegance of its dining room.
Situated on the ground floor of the Iroquois Hotel, Triomphe might fool patrons at first into thinking it’s just another hotel dining room. But another look reassures that the cream-colored walls and dark walnut floor are far more elegant than most.
Appetizers were served by a well-honed crew intent on getting patrons to their 8 p.m. curtain calls. Standouts included English Pea wontons in broth flavored with herbs and Parmesan cheese.
Main courses emphasize hearty fare. Lamb was given a new twist paired with prunes stuffed with foie gras. The meaty flavor of the foie gras was perfectly offset by the fruit. Another foie gras dish is equally successful: pan-seared sea scallops with porcini mushroom butter and shaved fois gras.
Chef Steve Zobel emphasizes game, often adding fruit to the mix. His specialties include maple glazed, pepper crusted venison leg with caramelized pears, sweet potato puree and Brussel sprouts. Pan Roasted Muscovy duck comes with blackberry compote. Not all of the dishes are adventurous. Zobel tends to stick with tried and true recipes with many offerings. But the quality of the ingredients makes up for any lack of adventure and the restaurant is clearly playing to an older, sometimes less adventurous crowd. A chicken cordon bleu in creamy sauce was satisfying as any main 50 years ago.
Desserts are solid but not as inspiring as the entrees. Worth trying here is the bittersweet chocolate truffle cake which is served with fresh whipped cream, berries and pomegranate molasses. Crème brulee is given a latin flare with the addition of dulce de leche flavoring. And for those whose dinner left room for it, a caramel Nutella bread pudding is as richly satisfying as it sounds.
49 W. 44th St.,
between Fifth and Sixth Aves.