The Wine Guy Wine Shop, Wine Bar and Bistro occupies the space formerly known as the Smith & Hawken garden store in Rookwood Pavilion. Parking is a challenge at Rookwood, so after stalking shoppers walking to their car only to find they were just loading the trunk to rid their hands before heading back to another store, there was a slight crook in my neck. The décor of the Wine Guy Wine Shop is calm and relaxing, and, with the knowledge that in three minutes I would have a liquid muscle relaxer, my neck felt better.
Owner Craig Decker was mingling with guests the evening we were there. He has three Wine Guy locations: two in Columbus and the newest one at Rookwood. The dining room is quite large but feels cozy with the farm-like wood tables and candles. At Wine Guy, guests can order wine several ways: by flights (a sampling of four wines), glass or bottle. For bottled wine, guests can shop the wine racks stocked with over 500 bottles.
I have little restraint, so we decided that turning me loose in a wine shop was a bad idea. We chose two flights instead, one cabernet and one chardonnay ($14.99 each). We sampled wine, chatted with the owner and asked our server’s advice. Our server insisted that we start with the Mussels ($12.99) and the Tomato-Basil Bruschetta ($7.99).
As we waited for our appetizers, we walked around the restaurant. The environment is so comfortable, I did not feel odd walking about, looking into the small waiting room cubbies or watching the wine bar staff pour flight after flight of wine.
We needed our large table for the heaping bowl of fresh mussels that were delivered.
The mussels are steamed in a Pernod cream sauce with shallot and garlic and are finished with spinach and diced tomatoes. The Pernod sauce was divine. The subtle licorice flavor combined with the garlic, shallot and spinach was perfect sopped up with the grilled French bread.
Needing more bread for sopping, I turned my attention to the Tomato-Basil Bruschetta. In my opinion bruschetta is a little overrated. The bread is usually too crunchy for my liking and the chopped tomatoes fall off as I take a bite. But the Wine Guy solves both of those problems by composing the dish properly. There are four small, grilled pieces of thickly sliced French bread topped with sliced tomatoes, fresh basil and garlic-infused olive oil, finished with a balsamic vinegar reduction and Romano cheese. It was great dipped in the Pernod sauce.
I appreciate an honest server. When I ask, “What do you like?” and the answer is, “Oh, everything is good,” I know that person has not sampled everything or that person is fibbing. Rarely is everything equally good at a restaurant.
We were steered toward the Grilled Lollypop Lamb Chops (five chops for $24.99/three chops for $14.99) and the Ginger and Sesame Crusted Tuna ($14.99). Wine Guy offers many sizes of most dishes, including small plates so guests can sample the menu. The menu offers something for almost everyone: pizzas, pastas, seafood, beef, lamb and chicken.
When you visit the Wine Guy Web site, you will see these glorious lamb chops for yourself. The recipe is the owner’s favorite from Jamaica. Marinated and grilled lollypop lamb chops are served with baby redskin potatoes and finished with a dried cherry demi-glace. The dish is called lollypop lamb chops because of the French technique of cutting away the meat to make a handle of sorts. The sauce on the chops is a dark, thick, complex dried cherry sauce that has been cooked down to a shiny glaze. The chops were tender and the sauce not overly sweet, a perfect complement to the meat. It also went well with the cabernet flight of wine we were still enjoying.
Our Ginger and Sesame Crusted Tuna was a pan-seared, crusted tuna steak dredged in ginger and sesame and plated with a wasabi cream sauce, arugula greens and finished with a blackberry cucumber garnish. The tuna was rare and melted in my mouth, but the mouthfeel of piece after piece of rare tuna can be a little much. What made this dish perfectly balanced was the crunch of the ginger and sesame and the kick from the wasabi cream sauce and arugula.
Having shared meals, we felt that dessert was deserved. There are four offered: the ubiquitous and somewhat tired Molten Lava Cake ($5.99), Apple Crisp ($4.99), Chocolate Mousse ($3.99) and Crme Brulee ($4.99). We settled on the Apple Crisp and Crme Brulee. The Crme Brulee is flavored with Feist 10-year tawny port and the Apple Crisp has a hint of spiced brandy. My only complaint is that the desserts are very small and a bit pricey for the size.
Make it your new year’s resolution to visit the Wine Guy. You will eat, drink and be merry … and you can always go to the gym tomorrow.
Go: 2692 Madison Road, Suite K1, Rookwood Pavilion
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Entrée Prices: $12.99-$24.99
Red Meat Alternatives: Varied
Accessibility: Fully accessible