Friday, July 25, 2008

Deepwood, Columbus Ohio

Good is good and great is great. What Deepwood restaurant is right now is good with flecks of great. What Deepwood could become is great. Clearly there is talent in the kitchen and the staff, but that talent has yet to be realized in many respects. As someone with no relation to the restaurant or care for its staff's roots, I went into Deepwood with the same expectation I would for any ~$50pp restaurant and what I got was a three star experience with a notable brush of five star flavor that pushes my review ALMOST to a four overall.

Beginning the the decor, all I can say is boring. While it is certainly a restuant with a lot of dark and deep wood, the lack of art on the walls combined with mirrors and stars that look direct from Z-Gallerie create for a relatively drab appearance. Admittedly the routunda style ceiling in the early day was pretty with lots of natural light, but as the night drew on the restaurant got somewhat drab despite the growing crowd. Seating was comfy and drinks were refilled quickly, as expected. With regard to our waiter? He was alright, but I seriously doubt "everything is delicious" was truthful, in fact I know it wasn't. While I'm glad to see he loves his job, when I ask for what is best, I want a real opinion. Additionally, if you want to be a fancy place, unfold the lady's napkin for her and when people get up to use the restroom please refold the napkin. Leaving breadcrumbs on the table and finally scraping pre-dessert is also a faux-pas.

Onto the food. For an amuse we were served a microsalad of grapefruit, olive oil, and fennel. Flavorful but not overpowering, yet a tad too oily for my palate. Next up we received the bread and butter. Three breads is just right, in my opinion, and the butter with granulated red sea salt was very flavorful. The sourdough was a tad dry, but the cranberry walnut was excellent and hearty while the flatbread was buttery and crisp.....yet a tad too crumbly given the lack of scraping.

For appetizers we selected the Scallop Wellington described as a scallop wrapped in spinach & pastry on a bed of wild mushrooms, foie gras buerre blanc as well as the Boston Baked Beans with spiced pork belly, maple crème fraiche, and dough dads.
First off, the beans: While the maple flavor was hearty and the pork belly appropriately fatty and supple, I certainly detected little smoothness from the creme fraiche and the beans were simply undercooked and hard. The dough dads? A fried mini-donut without much flavor. Skip the baked beans.

Next, the While no visible foie was seen on the plate, this incredible dish was a knockout with a perfectly cooked tender scallop wrapped in dainty spinach and phyllo crust with mushrooms intermingled and an amazing sauce that tasted like grade A foie dissolved in butter. Simple in presentation but explosively complex in flavor....possibly the best appetizer in Columbus.

For mains we selected the Roasted Chatham cod with potato risotto, Napa saute of cabbage, grapes & spring onion, the Gnocchiette with petite hand rolled gnocchi, spinach, citrus prawns and vanilla-saffron cream, and the Roasted Chicken with honey glaze, crisped mashed potatoes, glazed baby carrots, and natural jus.

While the cod was relatively basic, as cod usually is, it was certainly driven up a notch by the incredibly rich potato risotto and cabbage/grape slaw. While the slaw wasn't hit with everyone, I found it to be a fresh take on an old dish and definitely think it would serve as a good salad served solo.

Regarding the gnocchi, it is my opinion that this is a dish by which one can truly gauge a chef's talent since it is so hard to do well and so easy to make poorly. Cheers to the chef, the Gnocchi themselves were wonderfully toothsome yet delicate and perfectly cooked through. The prawns too were fresh, tender, and hearty. With regard to the sauce, I personally believe it was somewhat too thick and would be better served either thinner or on a less dense pasta, but the flavor was excellent. More vanilla and less saffron may have helped to tone down the citrus of the prawns, though.

As I did not try the chicken, my second dinner companion merely noted that it was "okay" while the carrots and potatos were very well done.

Plates were gathered quickly and dessert menus were served, yet once again our waiter failed to commit and continued with the "everything is made in house and everything is good" theme. For dessert we selected the Chocolate Souffle with creme anglaise, the Blueberry Brioche Bread pudding with rosemary-thyme anglaise and blueberry icecream, and the Chimay spice Cake with plum ice cream and candied kumquats.

Souffle, like gnocchi, is a risk for the chef and this one not as well calculated as the other. While the cake was indeed warm, dense, and large, the flavor was rather generic even with the addition of the creme anglaise. Having had other souffle's in the past, this one was below average and one of my dining partners remarked "it tastes like that cocoa cream of wheat, but a little better." I'd say that was pretty accurate.

For myself, I tried the bread pudding (as usual) and much like Lindey's was quite disappointed. The blueberries at Meijer are fresher at this time of year and the anglaise here tasted precisely like the Anglaise for the Souffle, but was served in a much smaller portion and as such left the bread pudding relatively dry and without a lot of flavor. I must note, however, that the icecream was tasty and helped when I mashed it into the bread pudding. If the pudding had been served warmer to melt the icecream or with more creme it could have helped.

I did not taste the spice cake, but was told it was very good.

All told, Deepwood is alright and has potential to be great....there is clearly talent here, the location is great, and the menu is off to a good start. More professional servers, better desserts, and more artful execution of both the interior and plating should be made a priority and I'm certain will get better as the restaurant ages. As I said in my intro, this is ALMOST a 4-star review, but as it is not yet on par with Lindey's, BoMA, Rosendales, or Spagio (and lagging far behind M, Worthington Inn, and Dragonfly) it will have to settle for three to three and a half.

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