I always seem to find clients in Cincinnati, and have just acquired a new one, so I’m on a quest to find the best restaurants in town…
Orchids at Palm Court
Bouquet Resturant and Wine Bar
713 Vine St, 513.621.4777
Chef Jean-Robert, three-time James Beard nominee, has his hand just about everywhere these days, but nowhere more so than inside his eponymous Table. There’s that ruddy portrait in the main dining room, replete with a robin chirping on his right shoulder, not to mention bottle artwork from his Moerlein-collaboration beer released two summers ago—his mad scientist coiffeur only slightly exaggerated. This chef has a big presence, not unusual for his profession, but his restaurant is steeped in such a singular personality. Don’t miss the surf and turf tartare of steak and salmon, or his “haute pocket” (a.k.a., a vol au vent), cramming obscene amounts of lobster and succotash into airy layers of buttery puff pastry.
501 Race St., downtown, (513) 421-6482,
Upon entering Mita’s, Jose Salazar’s downtown restaurant, diners are greeted by cards bearing a stately black-and-white portrait of his Colombian grandmother, the restaurant’s namesake. Start with happy hour of high-acid caipirinhas or a dos caminos—a drinkable homage to nice girls who crush on bad boys, combining a safe house red with cult tattoo-legend Sailor Jerry’s spiced rum. Both pair exceptionally well with razor-thin slices of acorn-fed Iberico ham that melt on the tongue; warm marinated olives tossed with cubes of drunken goat cheese; and the braised short rib empanadas—steamy, savory meat pockets. But you’d be remiss to avoid the entrées; the pozole with lobster, shrimp, squid, and red snapper or the paella, which feeds four. Then sip a glass of the 2013 Mayu, a faintly floral Chilean white made from sherry grapes. Like many choices on the list, it tastes like it was designed explicitly for Mita’s menu. Salazar’s zealous dedication to detail shines through.
5889 Pfeiffer Rd., Blue Ash, (513) 791-8687
A special place where you can dine on uni sashimi or tanshio (thinly sliced charcoal-grilled beef tongue). Don’t miss the rich and meaty chyu toro, or the umeshiso maki (pickled plum paste and shiso leaf roll). Noodles are also well represented here, with udon, soba, or ramen options available. Ask about the specials; owners Ken and Keiko Ando always have something new, be it oysters, pork belly, or steamed monkfish liver. The only thing you won’t find here is sake, or any other alcohol, so don’t forget to bring your own.
Thanks to the NYT travel section I found a great article “3 Hours in Cincinnati” that talks about the new, hot Over-the-Rhine district “where culture and breweries thrive”.
- Sotto – 118 East Sixth Street – sexy Italian restaurant, which is the casual counterpart to Boca, specializing in wood-grilled dishes. Try the bread rubbed with garlic, quail, porterhouse steak, homemade pastas ( the ravioli short rib cappellacci), and the ricotta doughnuts.
- Salazar – 1401 Republic Street – chef Jose Salazar, a James Beard nominee for best chef in the Great Lakes region, opened this bright store-front bistro featuring locally sourced and playful dishes. It only has 40 seats so reservations are a must.
- Findlay Market – 1801 Race Street – for a progressive feast stroll the market and sample the tastes from barbecue to gelato. Or sample the offerings with Barb Cooper, the owner of Cincinnati Food Tours, during a 90 minute walk for only $20, cincinnatifoodtours.com
- 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati – 609 Walnut Street – stop and have drinks at the bar at this hotel with a contemporary art collection befitting a art gallery. Try the vodka-grapefruit Sunrise in Florence or the tequila-lemon Juarez.
- Sundry and Vice – 18 West 13th Street – a corner bar modeled on an old apothecary. Try the Night Cure with bourbon, lemon, honey and grapefruit or an old-fashioned on draft.