04/05/2008 — Dinner at The Palace Restaurant
On Saturday, April 5, 2008, Wendy & I dined at The Palace Restaurant in the Cincinnatian Hotel in downtown Cincinnati.
We were greeted warmly at the door by Maitre D’ John McLean who walked us to our table and helped us settle in for a multi-course menu prepared for us by Chef Romuald “Romy” Jung from the restaurant’s menu. It was exciting not to know what was coming out course-by-course, and we enjoyed the surprise when each dish was revealed as the cloche was lifted.
The first course was Chestnut Soup with Granny Smith Apples, which, before we tasted it, put us in the mind of my own Apple and Chestnut Soup, but upon tasting was entirely different. Romy’s soup was based on beef or veal stock, so the flavor was full and hearty with highlights of sweetness from the perfectly-cut batonnet of granny smith apple. Warming and satisfying, this was a very nice first course. This was beautifully paired with Perrier Jouet.
(I must, sadly, note that the server did not keep track of our wine and food pairings as requested. She provided us a menu of what we ate, and the wines are listed on the receipt but not in order. We enjoyed wines from the following distributors: Perrier Jouet, Irony, J. Lohr, Giesen, and Bridlewood.)
The second course was Risotto with Black Truffles, Black Truffle Butter, Parmesan Cheese, and Mascarpone Cheese. Holy smoke was this delicious! Upon service, a wonderful waft of truffle essense delighted us (and the table next to ours). The risotto was cooked perfectly, and the starch made a wonderfully heady sauce, complimented by the cheeses (and, of course, the truffles!). It was truly a truffle overload… No small flavors here!
Third course was a real standout of the entire meal. It was Oxtail Ravioli with Foie Gras Sauce and a Port Reduction. This was truly spectacular, and the pairing with the J. Lohr Chardonnay (I remember that one!) was outstanding. We experienced richness on multiple levels with the oxtail and foie sauce, accented by the sweetness of the port reduction. It was so good, in fact, that we suggested to Chef Romy that it always be served with spoons for getting every last drop of that delicious sauce (they brought us spoons right away). It is truly an expression of the skill of the chef when he can transform humble ingredients like oxtail into something so delicious (throwing some foie gras in there doesn’t hurt!). It is worth the trip to the restaurant just for this dish, though if you eat only this dish, you will miss out on other delights, like…
The fourth course was an unexpected surprise (even our server was expecting halibut). This was French White Asparagus (lovely fat spears) seared with tomato confit, goat cheese, and balsamic reduction.
When the cloches were removed, Wendy & I both chuckled out loud at the novelty of a simple vegetable course like this — just two beautifully-cooked spears of asparagus, their white color tinged slightly brown from the cooking, and topped with the confit, reduction, and goat cheese. Chef Romy has a light hand with seasonings, so the fresh flavor of the asparagus really shone through.
Our fifth course was a seared Diver Scallop served with organic wild mushroom ragut and dry sherry. Beautifully cooked (ever so slightly translucent in the middle), the scallops were sweet with an accent of earthiness from the mushrooms and sherry.
The sixth course was a beautiful Duck Breast with braised endive (which I adore) and an orange demi-glace. Oh, how I enjoy duck, and this one was excellent. Dotted around the plate were little potato dauphinoise, perfect for stabbing with your fork and chasing around every bit of the demi-glace.
Finally, desserts were presented. We very much enjoyed our Pistachio Creme Brulee (I love pistachios and creme brulee, so this was a real treat for me). Wendy’s dessert (they pegged her perfectly) was their “Inside Out Fondue” with chocolate sorbet and a spicy orange sauce, which looked like beignets until cut with a fork, when they oozed warm chocolate ganache from within the crust.
An exceptional meal! Thanks Chef Romy & John!
About mid-way through the meal, the couple seated next to us leaned over and said, “Okay… Who are you two and why are you surprised at every dish? Didn’t you ORDER your food?”. I explained that I am a culinary instructor, and told them that they, too, could call ahead and ask the chef to select their menu. They were pleasantly surprised at this idea; apparently, they hadn’t thought before of this approach. I really enjoy doing this — calling ahead and asking the chef to show me the scope of his menu through a tasting. Chefs seem to enjoy this as well, especially if you go on a non-weekend night (Wednesday is a good choice) and give them plenty of advanced notice. Plus, it’s a great way to see, well, the scope of their menu. Of course, if you have any food aversions or allergies, make sure you inform the restaurant a> at the time of reservation and b> before your meal begins.