Saturday, September 8, 2007

Cincinnati Restaurant Week 2007

I live in Cincinnati, Ohio. It's a large city, but not exactly on the cutting edge. Mark Twain once said : "When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it's always twenty years behind the times."

For years now, many cities in the country have something called "Restaurant Week" where a group of restaurants offers a wonderful meal at a low price. It's a celebration of great food at great restaurants, and it brings people out. This week, Cincinnati has decided to join the rest of the foodie world. 25 restaurants took the plunge and did their very own version of Restaurant Week, September 4 - 8.

Each restaurant's mission was to provide a delicious three course meal for the low price of $25.07. Why that price? There are 25 restaurants in the group, and it is 2007. Don't ask how much it would have been if there were 40 restaurants in the group...I fear the price next year if their membership continues to grow!

Perusing the list of restaurant options, I happened upon Jean-Robert at Pigall's. Jean-Robert (everyone knows him by his first name), is Cincinnati's uber-chef. He has three amazing restaurants in Cincinnati, but the grand dame of them all is Jean-Robert at Pigall's, which is also a member of the Relais and Chateaux group. It is "the" restaurant in town for the best French food money can buy, and both restaurant and chef frequently appear in national magazines.

So I gathered some girlfriends and we took off to Jean-Robert's, where we had an INCREDIBLE three course meal for the low low price of $25.07, plus $15 for wine pairings (that's right, only $15). The meal was a set menu, so we had little choice, but what we were offered was little bits of nirvana:

Amuse Bouche: Miniature vegetable quiche served with a watercress vichyssoise. The quiche exploded with flavor and the crust was incredibly thin and had the perfect amount of crunch. The soup, served in a beautiful porcelaine tea cup, was so good I wanted to lick the bottom of the cup, but I restrained myself.

First Course: The best chevre salad of my lifetime. I usually shy away from chevre, in spite of living in France and having chevre at almost every meal, I never really acquired a taste for it. But Jean-Robert's chevre was light, it almost tasted whipped, and the taste was just right, not too strong. He paired it with a smearing of apple butter on the plate, and peeled grapes. There was a bed of frisee salad under the chevre.

Main Course: There were two options for the main course, one was duck, which I passed on. The other was salmon served on a bed of rice pilaf and a medley of vegetables (tomatoes, mushrooms, paper thin green beans). There was a fabulous basil sauce poured on the fish, at the table of course, which blended all the flavors of the dish perfectly.

Dessert: The dessert course was actually three mini desserts: a creme brulee on a spoon (I love this idea, it makes you feel like you're only having a taste, and it looks beautiful) which was light, creamy and with the perfect amount of burnt sugar on top. Next was a mini key lime tart with a blueberry perched on top. This was not my favorite, but it was beautiful to look at with the light green and blue colors. And a dollop of raspberry mousse that was near perfection, light, airy, creamy, delicious.

With wine, tax and tip,my total came to $57, which is less than half of what it would have been had we ordered off the menu. We left the restaurant hoping that Restaurant Week was a huge success for the Cincinnati restaurants who participated. And we will be back, it was an incredible bargain!

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