Hubby and I celebrated our anniversary recently with a trip to Cincinnati—well, we were celebrating our anniversary and visiting with some friends. The first night (on our own) we went to Orchids at Palm Court (this was the big anniversary dinner).
First of all, wow, what a cool space—hubby and I have a soft spot for deco things-- décor, buildings, whatever-- and this place is deco to the extreme and just overall impressive. The restaurant and bar is set in a huge two story room that just transports you. The whole hotel is like that actually. You can really feel what it must have felt like to stay in a place like this back in the day. And it makes you grateful for keeping historic buildings and rooms true to their original character.
They first brought us out bread service with butter and olive oil with big chunks of soft, rich roasted garlic and an amuse bouche. All were outstanding. As soon as I saw the little egg shell the amuse was served in, I was already pretty sure I was going to like whatever was in there—and I did. It was a cauliflower and saffron custard that was baked in the egg shell with a little piece of house made bacon. That bacon was really good, and the little crunch was awesome. I would have loved more of it.
I started with the sweet corn soup ($11) with polenta angnolotti, summer truffles, and roasted corn. It was a very nice soup, with a nice flavor of truffle (although I think it was coming from truffle oil)—the dumpling was maybe a little dense for me, but it was nice to have something in there to give some texture to the soup. The corn was also interesting—it seemed almost freeze dried and then slowly rehydrated as it sat in the soup.
Hubby started with the sweetbreads ($12) which were some of the best I have had. The sweetbreads (which were thymus) were lightly fried and were nice and tender, but what made them shine was the sauce and accompaniments. They were served with chanterelle mushrooms and little fingerling potatoes and the most amazing sherry vinaigrette. It wasn’t just a standard vinaigrette either—there was a little bit of chili in there giving it even more flavor. I thought I really liked my soup and then I tried this dish—it had so many layers of flavor, it made my soup seem kind of boring. This may have been the best dish of the night.
For a second course we shared the blue cheese beignets ($8) with tart greens, apple, almond tuile and spiced honey gastrique. This was also a great combination of flavors—I love some sweetness with blue cheese and the tartness of the apples and greens made for a wonderful mix. The little beignets were crisp and warm and very blue cheesy. The little bits of almond tuile added a little crunch factor too. It was a great salad course (the picture is a half order, because the kitchen split it before bringing it out).
For my main dish, I had another appetizer, the lobster salad ($13). This one was really good as well. There was a lightly seasoned lobster salad at the bottom topped with a fried egg, and served with crème fraiche and caviar cream. There were also some little dots of caviar around the plate and some crispy phyllo-type “noodles” on top. I liked it when the yolk broke into the lobster salad giving it extra richness—my only complaint here is that the egg was fried a little too hard and there wasn’t much runny yolk there. I would have preferred a softer egg overall. I did like the crunch from the ribbons of phyllo on top—gave it the right variation in texture. Hubby would probably say this was his favorite.
Hubby had the lamb loin with parsnip puree, maitake mushrooms, onions and a mustard sauce ($38). Again, very good. The sauce had a nice mustardy flavor and the entire dish tasted like fall. The lamb was very tender.
They have an old school dessert tray that they wheel over to show you all the desserts, we went with a chocolate banana combo that was very, very good (and you always gotta love when they write things on your plate). It had an intense dark chocolate filling that was delicious. And the caramel ice cream on top was really good too (if there is a dessert with chocolate, caramel and bananas, it is almost a sure bet with hubby and I.)
Top to bottom, it was one of the better fine dining experiences I have had in awhile. The food, the atmosphere, the service—all of it was very, very good. Exactly what you want in a fine dining experience, and exactly what we wanted for our anniversary.
Orchids at Palm Court
35 West Fifth Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202