Bright, clear flavors. Interesting textures. Sophisticated presentations. Witty interpretations. Daveed's chic take on dining is definitely not your momma's meatloaf.
Chef/owner David Cook's artistry challenges our familiar expectations, but the results are distinctive and delicious. Even dishes that sound familiar have interesting elements that surprise and delight.
I was absolutely intrigued by this restaurant. It is so unique! The space, a quirky Mount Adams nook, feels like an art gallery. And I loved having Michael Schiaparelli, CityBeat's wine guru, along to think about wine so that I could focus on the food.
The appetizers alone sounded so fabulous that deciding on just one would be a shame, and the one I chose was remarkable. The Foie Gras ($22) from La Belle Farms in upstate New York was pan-seared and beautifully presented, wrapped in a crisp, delicate pancake and accented with a buttery maple sorbet sparkling with sea salt and a tiny pat of passion fruit jelly. There were moments when I had to close my eyes to prevent my senses from short-circuiting. The flavor was just too amazing.
Michael's Grilled Sea Scallops ($13) were almost as incredible -- lovely and tender, with Thai flavor accents. Each element of the dish had such clear, essential flavor that all of a sudden a light bulb went off and I realized that this is that Thomas-Keller-esque big-city thing! No wonder people rave about it. The opening amuse bouche topped with foam. Aha.
Every dish was sophisticated. One of the most successful was the Baby Arugula Salad ($9), garnished with crisp slivers of salami and buttery Spanish Idiazabal cheese, ripe pear and sweet macadamia nuts, dressed with Le Vinaigre de Banyuls and extra virgin olive oil
There was an off note in the Ohio Baby Beets ($10) despite the perfection of the beets themselves. Briny green olives were too tart and much too strong for this dish, overpowering the accent note that the truffle oil was meant to provide.
But, oh, the entrées! I'd been longing for duck, and Daveed's pan-roasted breast ($28) was excellent. The flavor pairings were traditional (mashed potatoes, broccoli and sweet potato), but the presentations were clever: rich garlic and cheddar in the mash, savory broccoli rabe and crisp sweet potato fries garnishing the meat. The pan sauce was so rich it could have been dessert.
The Tailgating Venison ($30) was witty -- game for the game, so to speak. A juicy grilled venison striploin was served along with venison chili-flavored Cincinnati style, beer-cheese ravioli and a football-shaped scoop of orzo, mimicking picnic pasta salad.
We barely had enough room for dessert, but we tried the handmade chocolates ($12) and a flight of dessert wines. The best bite on the plate was a caramel accented with fleur de sel -- I wouldn't even give Michael a taste, poor guy.
The service at Daveed's is polished, knowledgeable and very friendly, and I was surprised to learn that the sous chef, Matt Winterrowd, was filling in on the night of our visit (he did a yeoman's job). The prices, for a meal this well crafted, were absolutely affordable.
Even midweek, there was a reasonable crowd of diners chattering away, which generated my follow-up call to David Cook. I asked, in my own shy way, "How the hell do you stay in business doing what you do in Cincinnati?"
Cook laughed and admitted that it's not always easy.
"Sometimes it's a challenge to fill the space with people who appreciate what we do," he said. "I truly believe, though, that surrounding myself with great people inspires me and makes what we do worthwhile. We know we're not the norm, but for the people who appreciate this kind of dining we're glad we're here."
Daveed's has a tasting menu -- your choices or the chef's -- of three to 12 courses that must be ordered in advance. Cook and his wife, Liz, will also bring their art to your home, offering personalized catering and cooking classes, complete with wine pairings.
Teacher and student create a meal, and up to six guests can watch and share the results. A great housewarming gift for a foodie with a big, new kitchen! ©
Daveed's at 934
Go: 934 Hatch St., Mount Adams
Hours: 6-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 6-10:30 p.m. Friday, 5-10:30 p.m. Saturday.
Prices: Moderate to expensive
Payment: All credit cards
Red Meat Alternatives: Good fish selections, variety of salads or call ahead for special dishes
Accessibility: Ramp from the back deck