Thursday, June 27, 2013

Red Roost Tavern -- The Cincinnati Hyatt's new concept

The Cincinnati Hyatt Regency hotel is in the process of a $20 million makeover. Like many of Hyatt’s other properties, the upscale hotel at 5th and Elm is going for sleeker, more modern décor. That momentum includes the former Champs sports bar space, now converted into the Red Roost Tavern, a modern-themed “farm to table” style restaurant. Earlier this week, the Hyatt hosted a “blogger dinner” for several members of the Queen City’s online writing community.

First impressions walking into Red Roost? Gone are the neon signs, bright colors and pub grub from the old Champs. In its place are cleaner lines in greys and earth tones. Some of the accents and tabletops are repurposed from the local area. For instance, the paneling wrapping the entranceway columns are from a nearby old barn. The space is split roughly in half between the bar and restaurant sections. The bar section is still, in their words, “media friendly” with plenty of TVs, but the vibe is considerably more low-key. The dining area features an open kitchen line at all three meals and comfortable seating. The private dining area is still currently without its walls (perhaps an unintentional tribute to Les Nessmann?).

Reclaimed wood tabletop. (Photo courtesy Hyatt Regency Cincinnati)
According to Meghann Naveau, account exec at Fahlgren-Mortine -- the public relations firm handling the opening of the restaurant, “More than two dozen farms, distilleries and purveyors throughout Ohio and Northern Kentucky supply the restaurant with hormone-free meats, organic produce and high-quality beer and spirits.”

The restaurant incorporates some local flair into its offerings. Produce comes from Carriage House Farm in North Bend, OH; cheeses from Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese in Austin, KY, Boone Creek Creamery in Lexington, KY, Trader’s Point Creamery in Zionsville, Indiana, Swiss Connection Cheese in Clay City, IN, Capriole Cheese in Greenville, IN, Lake Erie Creamery in Cleveland; charcuterie meats from Smoking Goose in Indianapolis; and gelato & ice cream from Madisono’s in Cincinnati. The beverage list gives a nod to local breweries. Beers from Cincinnati’s Mad Tree, Mt. Carmel, Rivertown, and Christian Moerlein breweries, Lexington Brewery (makers of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale), and Cleveland’s Great Lakes and Fat Head breweries all make the beer list. Not all of the ingredients and produce are sourced locally. (I don’t think we have a local source for halibut and quinoa!)

On the dinner menu, soups and salads are $6-7. Flatbreads, appetizers, and vegetarian entrees range from $5-15. Meat-centric entrees go from a free-range chicken at $22 to the grass-fed ribeye at $38.

(Photo courtesy Hyatt Regency Cincinnati)
The restaurant’s tagline is “Thoughtfully sourced, carefully served,” so I was interested to discover the concoctions they chose for this preview. In what I assume was an attempt to stick with the “local flavor” theme, our six small-plate courses were paired with the local draft beers instead of wines. I’ve got nothing against a beer-pairing dinner. Done properly, well-paired beer can be just as good with food. It does, however, take a certain amount of care – and a fairly extensive beer selection – to get everything right. There are 10 beers on tap (six were the local drafts we had with dinner) and 25 bottled beers. The wine list includes 28 selections available by the glass or bottle, none of which are from local wineries.

Our first course was a crab cake served with a slaw and honey-chili mayo, paired with Rivertown Jenneke Belgian Blonde Ale. The crab cake was quite flavorful and was mostly crab meat, in stark opposition to the bready mess many “crab cakes” become. The blonde ale was a good pairing – since the honey flavors in the blonde ale played off the honey in the mayo. This pairing was, for me, the highlight.
Dining room at Red Roost (Photo courtesy Hyatt Regency Cincinnati)

Next up was a sweet corn soup finished with a smoked tomato jam paired with a Mt. Carmel nut brown ale. The soup was sweet and straightforward. The tomato jam gave the soup some depth. The beer pairing didn’t work as well as I expected. The sweetness of the soup turned what would have been a slightly sweet beer quite bitter.

[Side note: At this point, I asked the sous chef -- who had been coming out to describe each course – how he arrived at the various food and beer pairings. He stated that he hadn’t been involved in the selections and that the managers had made the decisions. I asked one of the managers who was there, and he gave an answer about “the flavor profile meshing with the food” without giving many specifics.]

The third course was a quinoa salad with summer squash, walnuts, and an herb vinaigrette with a Rivertown Helles Lager. The salad was subtly flavored – and the vinaigrette didn’t really do anything to help with the beer’s flavor, which turned very sharp together. Salad courses are always the toughest to pair.

At this point, we got a “palate cleanser” of limóncello made in Columbus. While I like Limóncello as an after dinner drink sometimes, it seemed a bit odd here. Rather than cleansing my palate, it coated it in cream and alcohol. Again, I understand the “local” angle – but forcing an after-dinner drink in the middle of a meal felt a bit odd.

The fourth course was a take on “fish and chips” – with a piece of halibut filet and fried elephant garlic chips, served with a malt vinegar reduction. This was paired with the Mad Tree Psychopathy IPA. Disappointing. My fish was over-seared and extremely dry. The chips were basically burnt. The IPA, solid enough on its own, was done no favors by those flavors.

Fifth was a slow-roasted pork tenderloin with a port cherry reduction paired with a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. The cherry reduction connected nicely with what is usually not one of my favorite beers. The pork, on the other hand, was fairly tough and dry. Not so dry as the halibut, but still overdone. The beer at least made the pork palatable. (Also, one of the managers made sure we knew that they’d swapped the beers for courses 4 and 5 right before the meal after “going back and forth on that all day.” The pairing they went does make more sense, but I wish they'd been a little more thoughtful with the pairings instead of just shoehorning the local selections.)

Finally, we had an organic corn ice cream with salted caramel sauce from Madisono’s with a Rivertown blueberry lager. The ice cream was delicious. The blueberry lager was good. Together? It just didn’t click.

I will give high marks to the service. The wait staff was extremely pleasant and efficient, and they provided a good team approach to the meal. The presentation was attractive and the atmosphere was good. I can’t, however, recommend this place for spending your “going out” money – at least not as the menu currently stands. (Since the menu is seasonal, perhaps they’ll change it up soon.) The current concept – from meal selections to décor – felt like an easily duplicated frame with a few accents thrown in to get a “locally sourced” tag -- something that I could see conceivably ending up at other Hyatt locations. I imagine, at this stage, they’re still getting the kinks worked out in the kitchen and making more connections with local vendors. There’s room for really positive evolution in those areas.

1 comment:

Helena Sheila said...

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