The Foodie Report
Ruminations on food, cooking in and eating out in our area.

It's entirely possible to be a vegetarian in Porkopolis. Pop culture reporter Lauren Bishop blogs about products, recipes and restaurants she's tried for others who eat meat-free. E-mail her at lbishop@enquirer.com.

Nicci King is an unabashed foodie and the Lifestyle/Food editor in The Enquirer's features department. She loves to discover new food faves, and she's on a daily quest to answer one burning question: What's for dinner? E-mail her at nking@enquirer.com.

Enquirer Weekend editor Julie Gaw tends to order the same dish every time she eats at a restaurant, but periodically ventures out to discover something new and fabulous. After living in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand for more than 8 years, she craves tasty Asian food. E-mail her at jgaw@enquirer.com.

Food/dining writer Polly Campbell loves every quirk and secret of Cincinnati's food personality, and is on a constant lookout for something good to eat. Keep an eye out for her restaurant picks, or see how she's progressing toward becoming famous for her apple pie. E-mail her at pcampbell@enquirer.com.

Communities reporter Rachel Richardson is on a mission to prove vegetarians eat more than lettuce. She shares both her graduate work on American food culture and food-related news.. E-mail her at rrichardson@enquirer.com.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hugo for Restaurant Week

Five friends and I checked out Hugo for Restaurant Week 2008, part 1. Part 1 was last week, and thanks to the really fun blizzard, part 2 is this week. (Yes, the blizzard was fun for those of us who don't have driveways to shovel and had friends who let them crash downtown!)
Are you taking advantage of Restaurant Week, part deux?
(Because of private parties, Daveed's and Hugo aren't participating on Thursday. They have good reason: David and Sean are swapping restaurants!)

Anyway, back to Hugo... we broke the rules: Our party was so large that we couldn't eat together in the lounge. Not all of us wanted the Restaurant Week menu, so we ate in the Magnolia Room off the dining room. I was out with the leadership team of a YP group, and we lingered a long time. This dinner was one of the first times we've gone out without having a project to discuss, and we really get on well. We were a bit louder than the other diners, so I'm glad that we had our own room. We're well-behaved, just energetic and eager.
The staff was more than accommodating, and chef/owner Sean Daly stopped by while we were still having drinks at the bar. He told me all about the aforementioned restaurant swap. (Back in the day, he worked at Daveed's, so he knows that galley kitchen well.)
I had the fried green tomatoes with crab and tomato confit. Perfectly crisp and firm on the inside, with a bright, creamy sauce. I swear off tomatoes in winter, but even the tomato confit had good tomato flavor and color.
Course two was the Hugo salad: romaine, potato, onion, goat cheese and smoked sherry vinaigrette. Another good dish, but I like salads to be really exciting. This one was a bit demure.
Course three was king salmon with Savoy cabbage, butter beans and Dijon cream. Wow! I'm a big fan of butter beans, and the cabbage had just enough bite to it. The salmon was rich, bright and full-flavored -- nothing worse than an anemic piece of salmon. Absolutely delicious!
Most of the table had the tomatoes or the sweet corn fritters (accolades from all) and the free range chicken with greens and bourbon glaze. The chicken was a huge hit, I'm told.
The only thumbs-down came from a guy who "had to have" the macaroni and cheese from the bar menu... then realized after it came that it wasn't what he expected. "It's not like Grandma's," said the waiter, who was right. White cheddar mac with herbs, pancetta and foie gras. Others who tried it deemed it excellent.
Hugo was good, though if I didn't eat fish I might have been hard-pressed to find a dish for me. (Lack of vegetarian entrees is why I'm not a full-on vegetarian, though that could soon change, I've decided.)
Overall, Hugo was great. Two of my friends who live in Hyde Park decided that they would come back often just for drinks -- and the eye candy.


at 4:45 PM Blogger Duke Danbury said...

I went to Jags with some friends last Tuesday. Food was excellent! Drinks were priced too high, but that seems to be common for Cincinnati these days ($11 for one glass of wine? Give me a break).

We didn't have reservations..didn't know we needed them. The website wasn't too clear that you needed them (in fact I was disappointed a lot of restaurants didn't have their special menus on the website). But they had a last minute cancellation, lucky us. The crowd was...mostly older, until we left around 9ish when the younger generation starting coming in.

I had never eaten there before, I'll probably take my wife at some point (she was sick and couldn't go). But the normal prices are pretty high and we usually hit a Ruby's or Jean Ro spot instead (getting all dressed up..to go to West Chester seems weird to us).

We had wanted to go to Chalk on Saturday but they were filled so we made reservations for Tinks but then the snowstorm hit. But Chalk did call us back Monday telling us that they are still doing the deal for this week. Now that is superb customer service and we'll try and get down there this week.

On another note, we had initially picked Red for our Saturday dinner but when I called them they (rather stuffily too) said they weren't doing the special menu on Saturday night. What a crock. Restaurant week is just that, a week. Boo to Red. They lost a future customer by telling me that (and the tone of voice didn't help either).

All in all, a great idea. I think that they need to make sure all the menus are listed on the website (and not in PDF format) and that the emails and website mentioned that reservations are necessary (since some of the place only serve in the lounge we thought we could walk in). I wish more local restaurants would participate!

at 6:38 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

great review of hugo...um, what eye candy? ;-)

at 8:05 PM Blogger Cin Twin1 said...

I agree we have some more great local restaurants that are not a member of the Cincinnati Independent Restaurant group like Jeff Ruby's restaurants, Nada, Boca, Nicola's, Via Vite, Honey, Slims, on an on and on...now I am hungry!

at 4:30 PM Blogger Stepf said...

Yikes! Duke, it sounds like you got the best and the worst in terms of customer service. I fully understand that the restaurants are giving us a great deal and the rules are in place to help them balance new business with regulars, keep their costs low, etc. But... you're right: A week is a week, and Saturday would be a great night to try a new restaurant. (I'm guessing they don't do it because they're so busy.)
$11 for a glass of wine is steep, and I tend to order cheaper wine. (I can't afford $11 glasses of wine on a regular basis!)
I know that it's a lot of work to get the restaurants' info on the Web site, but it would help.
Overall, I've had excellent restaurant week experiences (at Daveed's last year and Hugo last week).

at 7:21 AM Blogger Duke Danbury said...

So get this. I came home Wednesday night to find out my wife had made reservations on Thursday for us at...Red 8-) She had forgotten that I wasn't happy with them but said the person she spoke with was very nice.

Of course I caved in and we went. And I'm glad I did! I didn't realize it had been open two years already. I used to live/work right around the corner from there many moons ago and went to JB Winberie's a lot for lunch/dinner. Man, the remodeling looks GREAT! A lot of Red, of course, but tactfully done. They made it into a real classy joint.

The menu was two choices for a salad and two entrees, Beef Tenderloin and Mahi Mahi. We had one of each and both were fabulous. The dessert, a Banana Bread pudding/ice cream dish was superb..one of the better desserts I've had in a while. We washed it all down with a nice bottle of wine.

So after the bad service I went through we ended up having a wonderful dinner. I'm glad I caved in..we'll go back there again for sure.


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