Sunday, 26 May 2013

An Impromptu Return to The Crest Gastropub

The Crest Gastropub on Urbanspoon

Nearly one month ago, The Crest Gastropub officially opened in Clintonville. At the time of its opening, which I attended and subsequently wrote about, I knew that I had to return and build on the previous write up to include a more proper review of the food. And so, when the opportunity to dine at The Crest presented itself this weekend, I had a feeling it was the right place to be, you know? (Two points to those who understand the reference.) To backtrack a little, I met up with my soon-to-be-roommate Alex (my faculty friend Amanda's step daughter) in Columbus and finally took on the physical search for an apartment for the fall. We had made it through our only scheduled appointments for the morning when Hunger hit at brunch/lunch time, at which time none other than The Crest was in sight. Thankfully it didn't take much convincing to head over to The Crest, especially as Alex had also heard nothing but good reviews from her circles. The final review, if you'd prefer to bypass the descriptions below: you won't be disappointed (or at least, you shouldn't be). Keep reading though, if nothing else for the pictures.

Whereas I had been met by Crest co-owner Abed the first time I was here, this time around we received a friendly welcome from Head Chef Dustin Brafford (pictured at the top of the post). We ended up going with the brunch menu, but the distinctly fewer options than what's presented in the lunch menu didn't seem to be of much help in narrowing what we wanted to get. Everything looked great. It's times like these that it'd be great for a grand buffet to just appear from under the table so we could sample everything. After much deliberation (much much deliberation in my case), we were ready to order. Apparently we were hungry.

I'll start this part of the review with the lamb lollipops which seemed like a no-brainer to try out. For a meatarian such as myself, I suppose meat on a stick is near the same level of greatness as bacon-wrapped anything. But really, lamb is not only a difficult meat to cook but a protein that's not often found on too many menus. One look of the plate and the cohesiveness of the dish seemed pretty apparent. On the second take, this time based on taste, it also seemed pretty apparent that the menu at least in part seems to be inspired by the gastronomic heritages of The Crest's owners--from the choice of lamb and it being encrusted in chopped pistachios to the Middle Eastern herbs (zaatar, in particular, I think) to the mint leaf that garnished the plate. The lamb itself was thus unsurprisingly full of flavour, which transported me quite frankly out of Columbus and into a world of authenticity elsewhere. A notable cross-cultural mélange of flavours (both aesthetically and taste-wise) also made its presence known in the form of Mediterranean pomegranate molasses (for a tart sweetness) and Hungarian paprika oil (for smokiness according to Dustin).

Also to share was a bowl of some of the freshest fruit I've had in a while, onto which was drizzled a spiced orange glaze. I'm not so sure how much of the "spice" I could taste, but I could get at the citrus that reminded me of the orange balsamic reduction that's nestled in my own culinary rolodex. For the future reference: the glaze is especially wonderful with pineapple.

For her own dish, Alex got the Crest Breakfast which comes with two eggs, bacon, wild boar sausage, toast and roasted potatoes (which were also served with the lamb and which I'll get to in a bit). From the looks of it, it's a substantial breakfast on its own. I tasted a bit of the wild boar sausage and got a hint of something sweet in its composition. In any case, it's definitely not a plate for vegetarians.

Take off the bacon from my dish, and mine could be suitable for a vegetarian palate. But if you know me, I would never take the bacon away from any dish and especially not from the grilled cheese sandwich I ordered. Grilled cheese, what's so special about that, one might ask? (Honestly, for a brief second, I thought the same thing.. and then I saw the bacon. And our waiter also mentioned it was his favourite thing off the brunch menu.) In the hands of Dustin and his crew, there's something magical about this particular grilled cheese and combination of flavours. Okay, perhaps I'm getting too dramatic but oh.my.yum. I would go so far as to say that I think this might just be my favourite grilled cheese sandwich that I've ever had to date. [As I'm salivating just thinking about this:]

The slices of Italian loaf within which the layers of deliciousness are sandwiched were crisped to perfection, with a slight bite on the exterior that gives way to an airy interior within the bread. Between the slices is a beautiful, homey and rich melted cheese combo of aged cheddar and Swiss, which itself marries together the sun-dried tomatoes, caramelised onion (maybe that's why I like this so much) and of course the bacon. Each component maintains its own unique taste and texture, all the while working harmoniously together. Like most amazingly memorable dishes, the big complaint I have is that there isn't more sandwich; that being said, though, the proportions on this dish (and the others) were wonderfully balanced. Oh yes, as far as the potatoes go (were you waiting for this?), the "breakfast potatoes" of red skins, sautéed green bell peppers and white onions were amazing. The potoates themselves were cooked perfectly--each tender and moist--and contrasted with the peppers and onions which were somehow cooked down to remove their raw taste while still maintaining their bite.

Now for most folks, I imagine, at that time of the day the amount of food Alex and I had would have been enough. But I did want as full of a food-tasting experience as possible and so I found some room to try the apple tart--the other dessert option was a chocolate cake--both of which are baked in-house. Whereas I had expected a slice of dessert (I suppose I was thinking more so of apple pie), I was presented with a hot cast iron skillet upon which sat a beautiful golden brown and flaky crust filled with tender apples dusted with warm cinnamon. Topped off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, I enjoyed a wonderful dessert moment to round off our meal. [As an aside, Abed did arrive for the afternoon and briefly caught up with us just before the apple tart arrived.]

In the midst of all the eating and discussing rental properties, I'd like to note here that the vibe throughout brunch/lunch (we were there for about two hours without much realising it) was so chillax that it's incredible to think that the 6pm dinner rush creates an entirely different environment within the space. Smooth jazz had played in the background and served the perfect soundtrack to a great Saturday afternoon. At the end of the day, we didn't end up settling on where to live in the fall, but one thing's for sure (if it wasn't already), I feel like we're ready to take on the Columbus food scene after we move in. For the entire album from our visit to The Crest, click here.

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