When the Baricelli Inn in Little Italy closed, I was quite sad since I knew I would never eat at one of my "must eat here" restaurants. I would run past the the inn this past summer into fall while training for the Columbus Half-Marathon and wonder what was going on inside. Soon, a sign was posted it was going to become Washington Place Bistro and Inn. Since opening it's doors in December, 2010, I have read nothing but rave reviews from my fellow food bloggers (Alicia, Brad, and Katrina namely). Scott Kuhn's new establishment in Little Italy quickly topped my "must eat here" list and I kept mentioning the restaurant to my boyfriend. Usually, I let him pick where we are going for special occasion dinners since we both love the Cleveland restaurant scene. Since we began dating back in fall 2009, we try to make it a point to go somewhere where one or both of us have never been. When we were discussing Valentine's Day plans, I said that I really wanted to go to Washington Place and now I am sharing our fabulous dinner with you.
Scott Kuhn broke away from the neighborhood standard of really good Italian food by offering "Classic American Cuisine, featuring produce from local growers, hand-cut steaks, fresh seafood, house-made soups and grilled sandwiches." Washington Place is open for lunch and dinner along with a 7-room inn. Once a month, they also offer wine dinners which I hope to attend in the very near future. Also, they run other promotions such as their lunch club and 2 for $40 Wednesday night. Our waitress made it a point to stress Kuhn's use of local ingredients such as veggies from The Chef's Garden and pasta from Ohio City Pasta.
Once we were seated, we offered two types of bread. One, was a cheddar bread made with Great Lakes Dortmunder, the other a peasant bread. Of the two, my favorite was the beer bread. As much as I love cheddar, the bread was not overwhelmingly cheesy. The peasant bread was very simple and I loved the crispy crust. A great opening while we selected our wine (a 2004 Niner Syrah) and decided on our appetizer, the oxtail pierogies.
As any other Clevelander, I love a good pierogi, my personal favorite being potato cheddar. I also am not a big red meat person, so I figured this would be an adventure in itself with the oxtail. I figured since it was in the ragout I could easily eat around it. We were presented with two perfect looking pierogies filled with truffled potato (you had me at truffle). To my liking, the oxtail in the ragout was mainly on one pierogi while the other had a bit more of the horseradish creme fraiche. However, being the curious foodie I am, I did try a bit of the oxtail and it was quite good. Not overly gamey and very tender. The pierogi itself was amazing. The outside was perfectly cooked, not too doughy, yet a slight crisp in the center. The truffle added a great "something extra" to the creamy potato filling. Usually, I am not one for sour cream on my pierogies, but I may be attempting to make my own horseradish creme fraiche to go with them in the future. A little of the creme fraiche really complimented the truffle potato. For an appetizer, it was the perfect portion for two. My palate was now ready for what was to come next.
Since I have been studying the menu for quite sometime, I knew exactly what I wanted for my entree. As I probably have mentioned at some point, I love seafood, specifically scallops. They are probably one of my "go to" dishes. The entree menu had something for everyone from a few seafood dishes, steaks, and even a vegetarian option. Aside from my love of scallops, the fact that they were served over a butternut squash risotto made my decision that much easier. I had 5 pnice sized dayboat scallops arranged in a star around the risotto. There were also four pearl onions on each corner of the plate. The presentation alone already made me happy. The scallops were cooked to perfection. Scallops can easily be over or undercooked leading to bad texture and consistency. Around the plate, there was a drizzle of apple cider demi which really brought out the natural sweetness of the scallop. I could have easily ate all five, but wanted to save room for dessert. Now on to the risotto. I like a risotto with a smooth texture and a flavor that will compliment the other components of the dish. The butternut squash seemed like it was made to go with the scallops. Texture-wise, I have nothing but praise for the risotto. Silky and smooth, just how I like it. My boyfriend went with the 14 oz. ribeye, which he also enjoyed.
Since we both decided to leave room for a dessert to share, we decided to go with housemade chocolate brownie. For me, a perfect meal ends with a little something chocolate. I also was excited to finally try Jeni's Ice Cream, even though it was not one of their eclectic flavors like Queen City Cayenne. This dessert will please any chocolate lover. The cool sweet ice cream is a great contrast to the warm brownie drizzled with a bittersweet chocolate. The brownie itself melted in my mouth with every satisfying chocolate filled bite. It was worth saving two scallops and some risotto for lunch (which was still awesome) on Saturday.
I cannot wait for my next visit to Washington Place Bistro. For anyone who has yet to go, just do it!! I left very pleased with my ridiculously high expectations met above and beyond. The overall atmosphere of the restaurant is cozy yet chic. We were seated in the sunroom which hopefully will be opened in the warmer months. I noticed a room off to the size that would be perfect for a gathering of 15-20 friends that had a little fireplace in it. My favorite part was how open the kitchen was to the rest of the restaurant. I loved walking past it on our way to our table watching the chefs prepare their masterpieces. It was the perfect ending to our perfect Valentine's Day celebrations.
Until next time...follow your heart, fulfill your hunger!