Tuesday, 15 November 2011

My Second Dine Originals Week in Granville: The Oak Room at the Granville Inn

 Granville Inn on Urbanspoon 

Twice a year, a consortium of independently-owned Columbus area restaurants hosts a week long prix fixe menu(s) in their respective locals. As Katharine Moore wrote, "We go all out with this twice a year, because we believe that the surest way to turn a stranger into a customer is to get them in the door…so we turn our chef’s loose with unique menu items and persuade the business managers that the affordable price point is an investment. Then we just sort of sit back and watch it unfold." My first experience with one of these opportunities was back in March; indeed, until it's unfortunate closure, the Short Story Brasserie became one of my favourite staples of life in Granville, for both the food and the attentive and personable staff. For this season's Dine Originals week, I went with two fellow foodies and colleagues to The Oak Room at the Granville Inn to experience its lunch time prix fixe menu set at $10 per person. And with three people and three second course options, we were able to try everything!

With a windy day setting the start of our dining experience, a cup of the soup du jour in the form of chili was a much welcomed first course. Hearty beans and veggies included, what seemed to lack in salt was made up in texture contrasts and warmth.

For our second course, we had three options presented to us. We tried each dish together and giving the flavours a moment to figure things out, we opened the table to commentary. The first option--which was by far our favourite of the entire meal-was the smoked chicken quesadilla. Layered between two perfectly crispy tortilla was a mix of house-smoked chicken, caramelized onions, and cheddar cheese. On its own the dish would've been great; it was certainly made even better topped with a spiced apple chutney and a small, cooling dollop of sour cream. Textures, flavours, contrasts.. it was all there and so very good, and definitely something to order again in the future.

Next up was a crab cake topped with a chipotle aioli and crisped tortillas, served alongside a southwestern salad (I guess because of the cheese?) and a roasted corn salad. The crab cake itself had very little filling and a great amount of crab meat (it's important to note Ohio is nowhere near coastal) and the creaminess of the chipotle aioli added to the richness of the crab cake, while the crunch of the tortillas and seared exterior balanced the otherwise soft bite of the crab cake. The lettuce of the southwestern salad was crispy and refreshing against the heat of the crab cake and chipotle aioli, while the roasted corn salsa added even more texture and added a bit of sweetness to the dish. Separately, each component of the plate tasted great, but together there was just too much going on. The dressing to the salad clashed with the flavours of the crab cake and for my palate there didn't seem to be enough to cool down the overall heat of the plate. I can say I was thankful to have had the chili in the first course to slowly bring me up to handling this dish.

Chicken? Good. Bacon? Good. Blue cheese, dried cranberries, fried onions, correctly dressed salad with sweet and sour vinaigrette? Good. Sally's fedora chopped salad with grillled chicken? Okay. I don't know what was going on, but since our first taste of the quesadilla, the rest of the dishes didn't seem to click. We had begun in the order we did based on the levels of physical heat for each dish, and not in the order presented on the menu (though to be fair diners only do choose one option). Again, while each component on its own, together something was missing. And if asked to pick out what that something was, I'll stick with my original response: the crispy bacon. Perhaps it was just the serving presented to us, but there was just too much fatty bacon in the salad. Though I love and appreciate fatty bacon like no other, the crunch was not only expected but necessary to the rest of the dish, the individual components of which were rather flat on their own.

But not even the chopped salad could touch our least favourite dish of the meal. Perhaps one of the most important dishes has to be dessert, as it is typically the last thing you are left with as you go back to daily life. Now, I'll admit perhaps we were underwhelmed because everything else was at a reasonably good standard, but what was brought out certainly threw us off. I should've been more prepared, given the description of the third course: "house made cookies from The Chef's Table-Boutique Wine Shop & Gourmet-to-Go." Certainly in comparison to the other dishes' descriptions, this one was of absolutely no help. I think it's safe to say that when we saw house made cookies, we were expecting something warm and chewy, something quite reminscent of home and the holiday season. Granted the above cookies speak to the holidays and could have been made in anyone's home to a certain extent, there was no denying they were extremely dry, and rather lackign in taste. Not even additional salt could draw out more taste from the chocolate one pictured on the left. Dessert aside, for $30 and with a great pair of foodies, checking out The Oak Room at the Granville Inn was an enjoyable experience. For a few more photos, click here.

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