Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cincinnati's Number One Restaurant

Hi, it's Sheila.
This past weekend the best husband in the world and I celebrated our wedding anniversary, and we decided to find out why Cincinnati Magazine calls Orchids at the Hilton Netherland Hotel downtown the city's number one restaurant.

Food Editor Donna Covrett writes, "Right from the start, Orchids synergizes comfortable luxury with a seduction ritual." I'm no foodie, but I can see what she means. First, you can't beat the atmosphere of the Palm Court at the Netherland. It's like walking back in time. You can almost hear the jazz era music playing and see the elegant crowd. You really can hear jazz on Friday nights starting at 9, and the crowd these days is more an eclectic mix of young couples, travelers, and groups of old friends catching up with good conversation and an elegant meal. But it's elegance without pretension.

Maitre d' Sean Garner and our wait staff, Steven, Joel, and Michael provided some of the best service I've ever experienced. Steven was schooled under Jean Robert de Cavel at the Maisonette, and it shows. All are friendly and attentive without being intrusive. Joel's descriptions of the food were almost an art form, and we stayed after our dinner was over to watch Steven preparing a meal at a nearby table. Watching these gentleman work is a bit like watching a wonderful piece of choreography. One of the nice personal touches was Sean's presentation of champagne to toast our anniversary.

And then there's Chef Todd Kelly. I've met Todd several times
during his appearances on the Fox 19 Morning News. He's such a regular guy, the father of two daughters who love Asian food (according to Todd). However, tasting his food is anything but a regular experience. Covrett uses words like "luxuriate" to describe it, and says his dishes "stunned us into hypnotic silence." I wish I had her writing skills to tell you about the Maine lobster salad or the New Zealand lamb with Morel mushrooms. They were visually impressive, and the taste of everything from the housemade breads to the passion fruit souffle (by Pastry Chef Kat Kessler) simply blew me away.

Ric and I don't often get to sit comfortably for more than 15 minutes and just talk and enjoy each other's company, and that may have been the best part. Orchids is a perfect spot for a date night. Even if it's not a special occasion, the folks at Orchids will make you feel like it is. Comfortable luxury? Oh yes.

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