BY BRITTANY SEEMUTH
Goodkind restaurant is nestled among various homes in Bay View where businesses mingle with residential areas. I would be the happiest girl on the block if my next-door neighbor was Goodkind.
Since opening its doors this past summer, Goodkind has had a constantly changing menu; so constant, new menus are printed daily with the current date.
I walked into Goodkind before 5 p.m., so it had not yet begun table service, which runs from 5 p.m. – 2 a.m. I can appreciate the late night hours that Goodkind offers so graveyard shift workers can still get a meal before heading home.
My guest and I grabbed a couple of bar seats. Goodkind serves small bites there before its regular dining service begins. We were sold on the sweet potato chips as a starter immediately after the bartender informed us that they grow the sweet potatoes out front in bourbon barrels.
I think people are either lovers of sweet potatoes or haters. I’m definitely not a lover, but with a smoky flavor, lightly salted taste and sprinkling of what appeared to be ground red peppercorn, the chips did not taste like sweet potatoes at all.
By the time we finished up our small plate appetizer, Goodkind was open for its regular dining service. I got a good look at the place as I walked over to my table.
The restaurant has an earthy feel to it. Fresh-cut flowers and potted greenery were liberally placed all around the interior with lit tea lights dispersed just as frequently.
I really appreciated that the kitchen was open to the restaurant. I could see the chefs working away. Prominently featured where the kitchen starts and the dining room ends is a roaster, which constantly rotates whole chickens to a perfect brown. Rotisserie meats is one of Goodkind’s specialties, so we knew we would have to try an order of the fennel pollen dry-brined 1/2 chicken.
Once seated, our server told us that the menu lists the food items from top to bottom in accordance with the amount of food served; smaller portioned plates began the list with larger, full meal platings listed towards the bottom. Of course, the 1/2 chicken was towards the bottom, so we selected two more items towards the center of the menu: venison osso bucco, a featured item for that evening, and spicy crab pasta, a regular on the menu.
The server planned for the chicken to come out after the other two because it was the biggest item, so we got the crab pasta and venison first. Everything came out looking beautiful and smelling almost too heavenly to eat – almost.
I tried the spicy crab first. The pasta itself was bucatini, which is slightly thicker than spaghetti, so the center hole of the pasta soaks up the sauce fabulously. There was definitely a crab taste to the pasta, but it was not overpowering. In fact, the most prominent flavor of all was the ghost pepperoni, which gives the dish the name “spicy.”
This is a dish where you will want to pay attention to your bite ratio because the spice keeps you on your toes, but actually does not throw off the other flavors if you get your bite right. I loved the balance of this dish. From the peppery flavor of the leafy rapini greens to the subtle sweetness of the San Marzano tomatoes, this dish was a winner.
Next, I tried the venison osso bucco. In Italian, osso bucco means “bone with a hole.” The cut of meat usually comes from the top of the thigh and is well known for its flavor, especially within the bone marrow itself. This dish was served with potato gnocchi (similar in texture and flavor to a dumpling), carrot top gremolata, butternut squash shavings and cherry sour beer jam.
Even though the venison was served with a steak knife, you could eat the tender meat without, as it just fell apart at the urgency of a fork. You might be wondering about the gaminess of the venison, and I can tell you it was not gamey in the least. I was in love with the gnocchi.
If you’ve never tried gnocchi, especially from Goodkind, you’re seriously missing out on its sweet flavor and crisp outer texture, which gives way to a soft center. The sweet and savory flavor of the dish was well married with the gnocchi.
The butternut squash shavings gave the dish a nice color, but I would not have missed it if the dish were served without. As for that cherry sour beer jam, it’s an appealing idea, but muted in my flavor expectations. I appreciated that it gave the dish sweetness but was not overpowering.
The final dish of our three came out looking very King-of-England-feast-esque. The chicken was served with a wide range of veggies that you probably tried to feed to your dog as a child: brussels sprouts, rutabaga bits, red potatoes, zucchini and summer squash.
But these veggies were seriously great; they were smothered in butter and perfectly cooked. Now for the 1/2 chicken that King Henry would be envious of: the brine had a nice bite of vinegar and the juiciness of the chicken paired well with the buttery veggies. My only qualm was that the white meat was far dryer than the dark meat. This is a pretty obvious statement, but it was night and day between the two, so I opted for the dark meat over the white.
I left stuffed and already planning my next trip to Goodkind. If you have not been to Bay View itself, shame on you, and if you have not been to Goodkind, you ought to make your next dinner trip there.
The pricing is moderate, and the dishes contain ingredients from more than 20 local farms and suppliers. Do not miss out on what I now know is one of the best local restaurants in Milwaukee.