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Red Roost Tavern
151 W 5th St, Cincinnati, OH 45202
Red Roost Tavern, is the hottest topic in the city (aside from the uber-stupid street car debate). What can you expect? The concept is farm to plate fresh food. “Sustainable seafood” and so on. Simple but Chefy descriptions litter the menu. Someone’s put some thought into this. Local yocal ingredients and Cincy based staples. Do they deliver? The proof is on the plate. The Devil is in the details. After skipping the $8 parking garage, I opted to walk the block and a half and park for free. I came at an odd hour and the place was nearly vacant. Just to my liking. The host had no choice but to greet and seat me quickly. “Table for two?” He asked. “Yes, out of the way and off the beaten path” I replied. Promptly we slid across faux grey leather seats into just such a corner table. The menus hit the table and we studied it’s every nuance. Flat breads beckoned at our cheap side. But we were on CV’s dollar and would settle for none of that.
Of the 10 apps we agreed on the crab cakes. Always a good test. Entrees are divided in three sections; Garden & Grain, Barn & Prairie and Sustainable Seas. My guest was torn between the veggie strudel and the orange marinade shrimp. She went with the shrimp and I couldn’t resist a fine sounding halibut dish. The server appeared in an instant. He answered our questions quickly and vanished with our order. He was well skilled in suave. We could see the open kitchen but not see into it enough to know what was going on. Whatever was going on it took a toll on our crab cake time, it didn’t arrive for a good 20 minutes. The server noticed the wait and stopped our criticism in it’s tracks with a plate of pretzel bread with a nice horseradish sauce. Well played.
When the crab cakes finally came, I immediately tore one apart, to study it’s ingredients. What I found was 90% crab chunks with the rest being fine diced peppers, seasoning and a slight binder. The lightly dusted crust was nicely browned. Worth the wait and obviously high quality. The 3” cakes were served along side of a sesame dressed lettuce & pepper salad. A mild mayo based sauce offered a bit of brightness. It was an ok sauce but lacked any wow factor. The fine crab cake deserved better.
We were concerned about our entrees as after our order, several other tables around us were sat. Those tables were served their food, yet our table still remained vacant. The food didn’t take long in reality. It was just odd we ordered first and were served last. Alas, the food did come and it looked professional. My halibut was lightly dusted on two sides, browned beautifully. Poised pretty atop a nice portion of wide homemade egg noodles so delicious I could have ate a big bowl of them and been happy with just that. I also included herb roasted potatoes that were certainly roasted but lacked any herbs (or seasoning of any kind). Decent if not plain. In hindsight I should have went for the “crunchy cauliflower” with raisins and pine nuts. It sounded interesting. Although cooked just slightly “over”, the fabulous fish more than made up for the plain potato. Under a slight melt of cheese across the top there is a buttery garlic sauce that forces you to make that ooh and aaah sound as you eat it. One of the top 3 fish dishes I’ve had in Cincy to date. The noodles were on a short list of bests as well.
My guest’s shrimp dish looked well presented. A half dozen plump shrimp were situated around a pile of sauteed mushrooms atop mashed potatoes. She took one bite and said “These are ruined! It has to go back.” I snagged one and she was right. Tough as jerky. Hard to believe the Chef could have screwed these up so bad. The ever-attentive server came to check and whisked it away. A few minutes later the dish re-appeared and looked much better. Surprise! Again the shrimp were tough as leather (but looked perfect and not over-cooked). The server returned and was faced with the horror of a second failed attempt. Again it was taken away.
A manager (Tatiana) came over immediately and explained that she had talked to the chef and they realized an acid marinade had toughened the raw shrimp. She was awesomely apologetic and offered a replacement dish at no charge. Then she removed the dish entirely from the menu, until the marinade can be perfected. We went with the vegetable strudel and found it delightful. Fluffy delicate pastry dough concealed strips of zucchini, squash and mushrooms. Mildly seasoned with pesto the light flavors complimented the screamingly flavorful quinoa side dish. This course grain dish featured explosively flavorful fresh cherries and a touch of almonds. I stole most of it (and that wasn’t enough to quench my addiction). In the end, we were both very satisfied. I’m glad the shrimp was a total strike out as I prefer to see how a restaurant handles the bad rather than the good. Red Roost Tavern came through in fine fashion. Perfect pros. Everyone makes mistakes or suffers from set backs. It’s how they handle it that makes them pro or amateur. Tatiana and the staff showed serious tact and skill. Not to mention true consideration for the customer’s satisfaction. Even the server tried to refuse a tip, we had to basically force a $20 on him and he deserved every penny.
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