Res­tau­rant Re­view Vi­o­let Crown Cin­ema

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Lau­rel Glad­den For The New Mex­i­can

Few things can spoil a nice meal more than hav­ing to rush through it to get to a movie on time. The new Vi­o­let Crown Cin­ema in the Rai­l­yard at­tempts to elim­i­nate that prob­lem by al­low­ing you to carry your food — whether it’s a snack, a sand­wich, or an en­trée — to your seat, which in­cludes a deep cup holder and a re­tractable tray built into one of the arms. When you pur­chase your ticket, you choose an as­signed seat, so there’s none of that scur­ry­ing to make sure you se­cure a prime spot. The theater’s web­site does rec­om­mend that you ar­rive 45 min­utes prior to the start of your show if you plan to eat, though.

Tra­di­tional movie snacks like pop­corn and candy are avail­able at the con­ces­sion stand, as are some “grab ’n’ go” items like prepack­aged sand­wiches and pasta sal­ads, but gone are the days when you end up just hav­ing pop­corn for din­ner at the movies. You can slurp down an ice-cold soda in any stan­dard mul­ti­plex in Amer­ica, but here you can carry a frosty pint of beer — Vi­o­let Crown has a ro­tat­ing se­lec­tion of 30 brews and ciders — or a glass of wine into the theater if that’s your pre­ferred thirst-quencher.

If you wait to en­joy your meal af­ter the movie has ended, you can re­lax in the open, loun­ge­like din­ing area or on one of the pic­nic-bench-inspired ta­bles on the pa­tio, which looks out across the rail­road tracks. This is lit­tle like air­port din­ing — as you eat, peo­ple are dash­ing to var­i­ous door­ways, and a voice on the loud­speaker of­fers a gen­tle re­minder that seat­ing for a par­tic­u­lar movie has be­gun.

Vi­o­let Crown serves a few sal­ads, in­clud­ing a lovely but sim­ple med­ley of mixed greens with a tangy bal­samic-based dress­ing, rings of red onion, and Parme­san shav­ings. I added tofu for a pro­tein boost, but I ex­pected more than three tri­an­gles for a three-dol­lar up­charge. Any­way, there’s a rea­son sal­ads aren’t com­mon movie-theater nosh — they’re not easy to eat in the dark, es­pe­cially when you’re try­ing to fo­cus on the big screen at the same time.

Fries, though, are an easy-to-eat (and quick-to-pre­pare) op­tion. On one visit, ours were al dente (I sus­pect they hadn’t been “dou­ble-fried,” as the best of their kind are). On another visit, they were per­fect, with soft starchy cen­ters and crisp tawny skins. Fries doused with truf­fle oil and gar­nished with cheese, a widely pop­u­lar trend that has al­ways struck me as gild­ing the lily, are an op­tion here as well (and called Crown Fries); the kitchen ap­plies the distinc­tively aro­matic oil ju­di­ciously, but our fries weren’t hot enough to cre­ate that de­sir­able melty bond with the grated Parme­san, which tum­bled right off.

Brus­sels sprouts are a bit of a sec­ond-run menu item these days, but they make an ap­pear­ance at Vi­o­let Crown. They’re flash-fried for crispy outer leaves and lightly lac­quered in a sweet-tart ap­ple-cider gas­trique, but ours needed some par-cook­ing — their tough, overly firm cen­ters made for oner­ous chew­ing.

The menu fea­tures two hot dogs, one an ac­cept­able Chicago dog with all the req­ui­site top­pings. The all-beef frank was large, juicy, and plump, but my purist din­ing com­pan­ion pointed out that the bun had been grilled rather than steamed, which caused it to fall apart af­ter only a bite or two. In the dis­tract­ing state of a dark theater, this could get very messy very quickly.

Vi­o­let Crown’s kitchen in­cludes a stone-hearth pizza oven that seems to be con­stantly ablaze. We tried two pies — one topped with crumbly, sweetly sea­soned pork sausage and mild but no­tice­able green chile, and a margherita, topped with fresh basil and slices of col­or­ful lo­cal or­ganic tomato from Grow­ing Op­por­tu­ni­ties (this may have marked the first time I have eaten any­thing lo­cally grown at a movie theater). With their thin, crack­ery crust, these piz­zas are more snack­like than sub­stan­tial, but they’re easy to eat and will sat­isfy a rum­bling tummy.

You’ll have a few other hand-to-mouth foods to choose from. The chicken flau­tas are crisp and crunchy (though not enough to an­noy your fel­low the­ater­go­ers), but the meat in ours hadn’t been thor­oughly chopped — with each bite, it pulled out of the shell in large chunks. The carne asada skew­ers were in­cred­i­bly tough — I felt like an In­domi­nus rex, tug­ging to get a bite. The juicy-fruity pineap­ple salsa of­fers an ex­cel­lent con­trast to the smoky, chile-dusted grilled meat, but you’ll need a fork to en­joy it.

Vi­o­let Crown is a welcome ad­di­tion to the in­creas­ingly lively Rai­l­yard. Whether you’re spend­ing two hours speed­ing through a postapoc­a­lyp­tic desert, run­ning from di­nosaurs, fight­ing bad guys with Ant-Man, or let­ting Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer tickle your funny bone, you’re prob­a­bly go­ing to work up an ap­petite. It’s nice to have de­cent, var­ied food and drink just a few steps away.

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