Monday, July 20, 2009

Yummy Food East and West

By "east" and "west" I'm not actually referring to cuisines, but instead to two restaurants' locations relative to downtown Cincinnati. My parents visited this weekend, and it was the perfect excuse to try a couple of restaurants I'd been meaning to check out. So armed with map and compass, we headed outside the friendly confines of downtown a couple times this weekend.

The East: Saturday night, we had dinner at Cafe Mediterranean in Anderson Township. I'd heard good things about it for some time (and had read Julie's review a few months ago). And the restaurant lived up to the praised it had been paid. We started with appetizers: hummus and stuffed grape leaves (my favorite dish of the Mediterranean), both of which were terrific. I had iskender kabab for dinner. I'd not had (or even heard of) it before; it's lamb and beef, piled high over chunks of pita bread and yogurt, all covered in a simple tomato sauce. It was delectable. For dessert, I had to try the baklava, which might have been the best I've had. It certainly gets my vote for best in Cincinnati. The phyllo incredibly flaky. And I learned something: while the traditional Greek baklava uses honey (I knew that), the Turkish version (which is what's served at Cafe Mediterranean) uses simple syrup, making it just a bit lighter. On top of that, the service was terrific. I'll definitely be back to the AT.

The West: Ever since Taste of Cincinnati, I'd been wanting to get out to Vitor's Bistro. For Sunday brunch this weekend, I finally got my chance. My mom had the corned beef hash, which looked great. My dad had an omelet, equally scrumptious. I chose to be adventurous, opting for the three-course tasting menu Vitor's now offers for breakfast. You tell the server about any allergies or dealbreaking ingredients and what spiciness level you'd like, and the chef serves you based on his whim--although they promise that one of their dishes will be their now-famous french toast. The first course was, for me, the show-stopper (since I knew what to expect with the french toast from Taste). It was a clever variation on Eggs Benedict, served with croquettes instead of an English muffin, capicola ham, and a spicy hollandaise sauce. The second dish was a Mexican omelet: good, but not as awesome as the first dish. When you go, don't be afraid to go high on the spicy-meter. I ordered 8 on a scale of 10, but wasn't at all blown away by the heat level.

Back Home: For those of you worried that I ignored downtown this weekend, don't worry. We ended my parents' stay with a meal at Arnold's. I've been there lots, of course, but they hadn't, so it seemed time to introduce them to Cincinnati's oldest bar. I've always stuck with burgers, though, so following through on the adventure theme, ordered the Hot Brown. Yummy.

No, this was not a heart-healthy week. At least not in the physical sense. But it was in the metaphysical sense!

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