This "arty" aesthetic is the guiding principle for the entire dining experience. Every plate is a mixed-media work of art made with deliciously edible materials. The plates are rigorously constructed and arranged, the flavors and textures carefully balanced, the visual presentation sculpted into playful themes -- foie gras presented as a breakfast plate, oysters as a visit to the beach, venison as a Bengals tailgate party...
It's an exciting departure from most of the food I've seen and tasted in Cincinnati, which, even at its best, strives more for quality craftsmanship than art.
The creative effort also informs a selection of fun martinis (all $8), ranging from a standard House Martini (including a "dash" of balsamic vinegar!) to even more singular potions such as the "Cocoa-Blue" (Stoli Blueberry and White Crème de Cocoa).
And while these concoctions make nice starters, they don't complement the subtle, complex food that follows.
Luckily, the extensive wine list is easy to navigate, affordably priced and well suited to the cuisine. In most restaurants, those that don't aim as high or achieve as much, that's quite often enough. But in this atmosphere, you almost expect surprises sprinkled among the selections at every price point. And Daveed's doesn't disappoint: The list happily shows the same quirky, confident taste evident throughout the rest of the experience.
Bargains appear frequently, like the 2005 Naia "Las Brisas" Rueda ($20/bottle) from Spain. A blend of Verdejo, Viura and Sauvignon Blanc, it's crisp, lemony and refreshing yet maintains a savory edge that pairs great with food. The 2005 Mas des Aveylans Syrah ($25/bottle) is boldly fruity yet maintains a real sense of terroir for such an inexpensive red. At the higher-end, a 2001 Chteau Ducru-Beaucaillou ($140/bottle) is a relative bargain, considering that the 2005 version costs around $175/bottle on pre-sale at most retail shops and won't arrive until 2008.
About 20 varied selections are offered by the glass and in convenient "flights" of four wines (priced from $18 to $23). Solid choices are also available in half-bottles, including a really nice 2004 Cristom "Mt. Jefferson" Pinot Noir ($35/375 ml.).
Perhaps most importantly, the wine service was excellent. While the menu offers wine-pairing suggestions for many dishes, our waiter advised that the house-recommended 2005 Mandolin Pinot Noir ($8/glass) wasn't the greatest option with Anne's duck. He cheerfully steered us to a 2005 Mont-Redon Côtes-du-Rhone ($10/glass) and brought over tastings for us to sample. He was right -- the Pinot had an off-putting medicinal character while the Grenache-based red was well balanced for the hot vintage.
In short, Daveed's is the total package for fine dining and drinking. Although, upon reflection, it strikes me that their logo is incomplete -- to fully capture the spot's idiosyncratic aesthetic, a wine glass should be added to that tableau.
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