One restaurant’s cheese steak leads to an at-home version.
GoodFellas (one word) is a restaurant located in the artery of streets bordering Kamuning and the Scout area in Quezon City. It pops up out of nowhere, a disparate entity amidst the beer gardens, barbecue joints, and barbershops. Inside, the restaurant is a consecration to dark wood and framed photos of scenes from the GoodFellas (1990) movie. A bar of sorts but really a large podium holds court in the back and center of the room, serving as a cashier area and tableware repository. Behind it is a glass window separating the open kitchen.
This is a small place, almost constrictingly so. Acoustics don’t allow (thankfully!) one to overhear another’s conversations, but the general feeling is that of cattle cooped in a truck. There’s a larger, more private booth at the back and the glassed-in smoking area that’s opened up when the main room gets crowded.
GoodFellas prides itself on its beef. Burgers and steaks are the main draw here with fish and chips, ribs, and the gratuitous pasta dishes as supporting cast. If you’re blessed with sharp vision, you’ll see a chalkboard on the wall visible at the entrance that advertises dry-aged Prime Angus beef and All-American Wagyu. It’s a tasty alternative for when one is feeling flush.
But we’re here for the steaks and the cheese steak tonight, although it takes some time – a long time – before we get either. I get the impression that the kitchen fulfills the orders per table on a first-come first-serve basis. Thus, 20 minutes have passed before we’re told that our mozzarella stick appetizers “…have just run out”, and shortly afterwards, we’re informed that Boo’s order of fried chicken “… has just run out” also. It’s enough to dampen one’s appetite and we have an urgent situation on our hands in the form of a starving, agitated 8 year old. The servers are harried but polite and recommend the salpicao with rice pilaf (Carlito’s Gang P375) as a dish that can be served quickly. So we order it, we try it, but I don’t recommend it. There are other dishes that GoodFellas does better, I’m sure of it.
Finally, after 35 minutes of waiting, the cheese steak (Pat and Geno’s sandwich; P220, solo/P270, fries + drink) arrives. It’s hefty and dripping gravy, a puddle of juice forming on the butcher paper, a wonderful dip for the thick-cut fries. Only the middle of the faux ciabatta roll has been sliced through, a thoughtful gesture so that the beef doesn’t tumble out the sides on first bite. Paper-thin slices of beef are cosseted in a coat of cheese, perhaps Cheez Whiz or a similar processed cheese sauce, as well as shreds of cheddar that have melted and thickened the cheese sauce quite nicely. It’s all quite satisfying albeit a bit on the sweet side. We end up ordering two of these.
As for the rib-eye (Santino’s, 8-10 ozs. P895), it’s sufficient but terribly thin, its saving grace being its tenderness and smoky notes. I especially like the charred, crispier ends.
It turns out that the GoodFellas cheese steak sandwich leaves more than a lasting impression on my Bin. It becomes the one track soundtrack on constant repeat in his brain that the next day, he’s off to the supermarket to procure the ingredients for his own cheese steak. I’ve written before about my husband’s propensity for the kitchen, his ability to tease out flavors using only his mind and memories past as a recipe. This one is no different.
Only sirloin strips are available today so my Bin uses a mallet to pound the dead daylights out of the beef. Into the hot pan they go where now-translucent rings of onion are caramelizing, imbued in the juices of the rendering shiitake and button mushrooms. It’s all making for a fine funk of aromas. Bottles of assorted origin and contents line the counter near where my Bin works. A scoop of this, a dollop of that, and then a long ribbon of Cheez Whiz trails its effervescent yellow onto the brown beef. The sauce becomes a deep amber, the edges of beef glinting under the kitchen light.
On his request, I grate nuggets from a chunk of cheddar, its addition thickening up the sauce superbly. Coincidentally, I have something similar to the bread that GoodFellas uses, so I get to work toasting it and slicing it partway for our cheese steaks.
We settle at the table. “Wow, this is some craving you’ve got, hon,” I remark, scooping in some beef into my roll. “I couldn’t help but think that I could make a cheese steak as good or even better than the one last night,” my Bin replies.
I take a bite. He’s right.