Maybe it’s the fact that it’s next to the panty palace that is Lunar nightclub. Or maybe it’s the entrance of the restaurant — which puts up the sort of front I’d expect to see at a red light district destination — the scantily clad, leggy hostesses. But, hey, I can’t blame the beautiful for being beautiful.
Maybe it was the mysterious winding staircase that leads down to the bar and main dining area that led me to believe I was in for far more than a nice steak dinner. Am I here for a meal or a sensual massage? Maybe both?
Either way, the food is what I found myself yearning for more of after my trip to former FB’s executive chef Jimmy Gibson’s latest venture.
JimmyG’s offers fine dining fare in an audacious setting. The dining area’s refined red wood walls are adorned with the work of various local contemporary pop artists and the seating arrangement provides a similar contrast, with yellow seat cushions on white lattice-backed chairs paired with a fine dining table arrangement. Though a little odd and probably influenced by Jimmy’s time at FB’s, the décor isn’t so outrageous you’ll dwell on it ’til dessert.
As your server will probably tell you, the Potatoes Raclette ($9) is the most promising starter.
Don’t let its presentation intimidate you. The Raclette is a masterful combination of crisp potatoes, caramelized onions and cheese, making it the perfect savory starter.
Next up, my Caesar salad ($8), seasoned to perfection and topped with loads of parmesan cheese, was delicious, though I was sad to see it only came with one anchovy, which I decided to save and savor with my last bite of romaine. My partner-in-dining ordered the JimmyG’s Mac n’ Cheese ($9), which was rich and creamy with a crusty top, and the Arm & a Leg ($11), a wood-grilled octopus beautifully prepared with a sherry reduction and chorizo. The octopus was wonderful and not chewy, unlike some of my past encounters with the salt-water creature.
My Potatoes Aligot ($8), consisting of a Yukon gold puree, a concoction of cheeses and crème fraiche, were rich, creamy and a sufficient dose of the suggested daily cholesterol intake. As the menu reads, you expect Cantal cheese, but instead a mixture of Appenzeller, Roquefort and Fontina cheeses give the nutty note that the hard-to-acquire Cantal cheese usually provides.
JimmyG’s carpaccio — raw prime beef with a poached duck egg, lardo and mushroom pickle — sounds alluring but, frankly, the beef fails to stand on its own. Served with grilled baguette slices, this awkwardly plated dish didn’t quite do it. The beef is hard to cut on the dimpled plates and the duck egg, while nicely prepared, doesn’t fit the dish. Unfortunately, it just seems like a tapas done wrong.
Thankfully, the steaks make it to the table, perfectly cooked and sauce-less because JimmyG’s just rolls that way. That’s right, no béarnaise, no bordelaise and no A1. And you know what? There’s nothing to complain about. These wood-grilled steaks are full of flavor that a sauce would only detract from.
The warm Brussels sprouts ($9) provide a spicy contrast with the wood-fired filet ($38) that was brushed with clarified butter, duck fat and all 11 of the chef’s own subtle yet delicious herbs and spices. The char of the steak makes the mouth water, but thankfully we had a bottle of Muga Rioja ($60) on hand to whet the pallet.
My filet of ribeye ($19) was, again, cooked to perfection and rich in flavor thanks to an herb rub and thinly sliced fat cap to seal the seasoning of the steak. Served with shishito peppers, grilled green onion and asparagus, the ribeye is the perfect substitute for some of the pricier steak options on the menu.
While attempting to draw in Mad Men-type characters may have failed, anyone looking for a great steak dinner may look no further than JimmyG’s, which rivals the likes of Abigail Street and Jean-Robert’s Table as one of Cincinnati’s best newer restaurants.
Go: 435 Elm St., Downtown
Hours: 5-9 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, 5-10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Entree Prices: $19-$46
Accessibility: Staircase at entrance