Monday, May 19, 2008

Lindey's, Columbus Ohio

In the heart of the German Village lies a gem; a gem that has withstood the test of time and a gem that continues to shine with the changing times. While opinions of Lindey's may vary from experience to experience, there is no doubt that the landmark restaurant has earned its 18 straight years on Columbus' "Best Of" list. From the ambiance to the mood to the service to the food, Lindey's is as close to "5-star" as "traditional American cuisine" gets.......mostly because it isn't that traditional at all.

Originally making reservations for nine people at 6pm, our first obstacle occurred when one portion of the group canceled. 6 people instead of 9? No problem said the hostess via phone. Our second obstacle occurred when the Cavs/Celtics game went till 6:45. 6 people at 7:00? No problem. While Lindey's certainly wasn't jam packed, there were very few open tables and none of the open tables were large tables. Considering many of Columbus's "finest" restaurants are not even open on Sundays, it was excellent to have such accommodations made at the last minute, especially since this was a 10-years-post-freshman-year reunion and people were traveling from as far as 3 hours away to be there. As many of my dining companions were not familiar with gourmet dining, Lindey's was selected for its diverse ‘eclectic-yet-familiar’ menu, location, and shining reputation. While parking was a hassle (as always in the German Village,) no other aspect of Lindey’s was disappointing in the least.

On arrival we were seated immediately and our server, John B, provided menus, specials, and offered drinks. While other fancy places tend to ignore a table when wine isn’t ordered, John was on his game throughout the evening and water was refilled rapidly, questions answered quickly, and recommendations were provided when asked. The bread server was top notch, as well, with bread refilled without asking when the basket ran out. Speaking of bread, the pairing of flat asiago and rosemary lavash with a crusty Italian was very Spago-esque, though the plain unsalted butter was a bit of a letdown compared to the amazing flavored butters of Rosendales and BoMa. The lavash was actually better than the version at Spago, which is saying something, while the Italian was relatively plain but plenty crusty.

For appetizers, I selected the Ahi Tuna Tartare with wasabi and gaufrette potatoes and the Lobster bisque while two of my companions selected the French Onion soup and one chose the calamari and shrimp. The Calamari and shrimp was lightly fried and my friend said it was good while the French Onion got rave reviews from both of the people who ordered it. If the huge slab of perfectly toasted cheese was any indication, it looked amazing. The Ahi was pretty standard and though presented very nicely, the dish lacked avocado and was somewhat overseasoned. A huge complaint for me is when the Wasabi is placed directly on the tuna as opposed to on the side and Lindey’s made this mistake which required discarding a few small pieces of tuna that were absolutely saturated. For $13.50 I’d not order this dish again, especially after tasting BoMa’s offering….the best I’ve ever had. Where the Ahi lacked, the Lobster bisque more than compensated with an incredibly complex yet refined taste that didn’t suffer from the overspicing mistake many restaurants make. The olive oil base was additionally refined compared to the traditional butter/cream standard and makes this one of the better bisques I’ve had in quite some time. Spagio’s is the only other bisque in the city that I’ve tried which is on par.

For our mains, two individuals selected the Classic Tournedoes of Beef over toasted brioche with bernaise sauce and garlic potatoes and all three raved the flavor. As I’m not a beef eater I did not indulge, but the presentation was gorgeous. Two others selected the pizza of the day, a delectably flavored and textured BBQ chicken with gorgonzola, oregano, caramelized onions, and peppers. With a perfect crispy crust, succulent chicken, and a tangy yet sweet sauce balanced with beautifully mellow cheese, the dish shined. At $13 the pizza was the steal of the menu and neither individual could finish which allowed me to taste a piece. Highly recommended, perhaps as a sharable appetizer….hey, its better and cheaper than the Ahi.

My 5th companion selected the Portobello ravioli which, although small in portion, was presented nicely and smelled heavenly. For my main, I also went fungal and chose the Mushroom Wellington Portobellos wrapped in Puff Pastry with spinach, goat cheese, roasted peppers and tomatoe. The dish was beautifully presented, tasteful, and a perfect paradox of smooth/meaty, sweet/garlicky, and crispy/creamy. Everything about the dish worked and while I normally don’t opt for the vegetarian option I can say that this dish was truly special and one of my favorite things I’ve tasted in all of Columbus. The price, too, was incredible at a mere $15.

Stuffed with lavash, I still opted for dessert, as did two of my companions. While I make a point of ordering Tiramisu everywhere I go, this is one instance where our waiter may have been TOO honest. When asked “How is the Tiramisu,” his response of “pretty good” was then met with “Okay, I’ll try the bread pudding.” I’ve simply tried too many ‘amazing’ or ‘best in the city’ per-the-waiter Tiramisus to settle for “pretty good.” While 5 of the dessert options had appeal, I simply couldn’t resist the concept of Bing Cherry and Croissant Bread Pudding with Vanilla Whipped Cream and Banana Carmel Sauce, though in retrospect perhaps I should have. While quite delicious, the bread pudding itself was relatively bland and too wet. The addition of the Banana Carmel sauce certainly helped, but in general a bread pudding should stand on its own and then be complemented by the sauce. M at Miranova, Lolita’s Lust in Toronto, and Emeril (all 3 versions I’ve tried) still make the best bread puddings my palate has sampled.

Honestly, perhaps the reason I’m being hard on the Bread Pudding is because one of my companions ordered the Apple Tarte Tatin with carmelized Granny Smith Apples, Puff Pastry, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. If you want to imagine this dish, imagine you could melt an apple into butter, then cool it just enough to make a pudding and place it in a puff pastry…..then add icecream. The texture, flavor, presentation, and everything was smooth. For those who like a crusty pie, this won’t do. For those who like ‘amazing,’ this should be fine. Without a doubt one of my top 5 apple based desserts of all time (along with Spago, Worthington Inn, McCormick and Schmick's, and the Caramel Apple Pie I made for Christmas ’06.)

The third dessert ordered was Lindey’s famous Post-Mortem and although the dish appeared amazing, I simply couldn’t take that much chocolate on top of my already full belly. Those who tasted it noted that if they had finished it, they’d have likely died of a hyperosmolar coma from the sugar. :-)

While my review could very well be 5 stars, a few small points make this closer to 4.0-4.5. While it isn’t really the fault of Lindey’s, the parking situation was cumbersome and although valet was available, I’m not a fan of places that do not advertise their valet price so we deferred and walked 4 blocks. Secondly, the small portion, high price, and pre-added wasabi to the Ahi seemed as though Lindey’s was playing on what is ‘expected’ rather than the idea of being innovative with their tuna. Finally, the single uni-sex bathroom, while quaint, simply is not adequate when the restaurant is full and during at least three instances I noted lines of greater than 2 waiting for the facilities.

All told, the total bill for 6 was less than the total bill for 4 at Rosendales and the food was just as good, albeit less edgy and innovative. The service was great and the ambiance and noise level were perfect, as well. Like the Worthington Inn, Lindey’s is the kind of place where you can go with a group of college buddies just as easily as you could propose to your future wife. The menu spans from easy to challenging and mild to complex and should appeal to all. Quality vegetarian options as well as dynamic meat dishes, a great bread basket, fresh fish, and a myriad of quality desserts…Overall, wonderful.

No comments: