Orchids at Palm Court
As someone who loves dining out and writing this food blog, there are certain restaurants you just can’t wait to experience. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love several restaurants around the city. Even the simplest of dining experiences can be a great time with the right people. That said I’ve wanted to dine at Orchids at Palm Court (http://orchidsatpalmcourt.com/) for years now. It consistently ranks very highly in Cincinnati Magazine’s top 10 restaurants (http://www.cincinnatimagazine.com/bestrestaurants), and is located in the very beautiful Hilton Netherland Plaza. Chef Todd Kelly won the American Culinary Federation’s 2011-2012 USA Chef of the Year, which is their highest honor for a chef. Megan Ketover, the pastry chef, was on Top Chef Just Desserts, and made it over halfway to the end, representing her restaurant and herself proudly. I also can’t fail to mention that it received AAA’s 4 diamond rating since 2005 (http://www.aaa.biz/Travel_Information/Diamonds/Awards/2013/2013_4D_Restaurants.pdf), which is one of five restaurants in Cincinnati to receive that (The Palace, The Celestial, Boca, and Nicola’s are the other four). To put that into perspective with other similar-sized cities, Indianapolis has none while Cleveland has one and Columbus has two.
My wife and I made reservations for our 4th wedding anniversary. We were pretty excited for dinner, and came early for our 8:00 reservation. Walking into the Netherland Plaza, you are greeted by an amazing Art Deco masterpiece of a room. The ceilings must be 40 feet high, and act as a beautiful mural. There is a huge bar with a decent mixed drink and beer selection to the right with a pianist on the stage at one end of the room. At the other end is the actual restaurant. We checked in with the very friendly hostesses and went to the bar for a drink while we waited for our table. A hostess alerted us when our table was ready, and they transferred the drinks to our main check so that we wouldn’t have to pay twice, which is a nice touch that too often doesn’t happen. We were seated at a large, corner table with a “Happy Anniversary” card made out to us. A simple, but nice touch. As we were in the furthest corner in the restaurant, we were able to take in the entire room, which was nice.
We were first each treated to a trio of breads. Two rolls and a grissini with sea salt butter, olive oil infused with garlic, and a roasted red pepper spread on them. We ordered a bottle of Super Tuscan wine, and proceeded to order the courses. Once we finished our order, they brought each of us an amuse-bouche, a burgundy truffle flan in an eggshell with a chive. It was the perfect window to the chef’s culinary approach for the remainder of meal, with a clean, refined taste.
Our first course came next. I ordered the Roasted Morel Mushrooms (morel mushrooms with smoked chicken hearts, white asparagus, and bone marrow bordelaise) while my wife chose the Zucchini Blossoms (lightly fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with ricotta). Wow, both were amazing. The mushrooms were perfect, and chicken hearts are apparently very good when prepared by a great chef. The zucchini blossoms were perfectly fried…not heavy at all.
The second course was one dish we ordered and shared. They split it perfectly on two plates without being asked. We chose the Blue Cheese Beignets (beignets made of blue cheese with spiced honey gastrique, tart greens, Asian pears, and almond tuile). We joked with the waitress that it was a fancy donut hole (which is basically what a beignet is), but that doesn’t start to describe how good it was. Every flavor worked together in harmony, and the tuile on top (basically a wonderful piece of candy) fit perfectly. I could have eaten five of these.
The main course was next, served basically on silver platters. Nice touch. I went with the Veal “Blanquette” (veal with morels, asparagus, and summer truffles) and my wife chose the Roasted Elysian Fields Lamb Loin “Milanese” (lamb loin sliced and served with ramp salsa verde, fava beans, spring onions, and farro mushrooms). I preferred the lamb, but both were excellent. My veal was a thick, but extremely tender cut of meat that melted in your mouth. Typically, veal is pounded thin. This was not needed here and the results were wonderful as the meat was full of flavor. The truffle shavings and morels complimented the veal wonderfully. The lamb was amazing…tender, perfectly cooked, and paired so well with the large farros. It makes me wonder what the Chateaubriand tastes like that they serve. I really need to win the lottery so I can eat like this daily.
After the main course, we were each served a pallet cleanser of a strawberry jus with vanilla-champagne gelee, whipped lavender and lime in a small shot glass type dish. It worked and prepared us for what might have been the best part of the meal!
Ahh…the dessert. I am sure I cannot describe the wonderful, sweet experience we had during this course. I mean, there’s dessert and then there’s this. I chose the Warm Chocolate Sticky Toffee with milk chocolate fudge gelato, salted cocoa nib croquant, and hazelnuts. My wife went with the Rhubarb Streusel Tart with basil infused cream cheese gelato, slow roasted strawberries, whipped caramelized white chocolate. Both plates had “Happy Anniversary” written in chocolate on them. Delicious, soon to be smeared and eaten chocolate. Both desserts were beyond fantastic. The chocolate toffee and gelato were perfect, the tart was amazing, the rhubarb was sweet and wonderful…I’m sure we will be back just for some dessert. I’m not sure I’ve ever had desserts with tastes that defined.
If that wasn’t enough, when the check came we were served a mignardise (which is a bite-sized, pretty dessert served at the end of a meal) that included apricot-marcona almond chocolates, lemon verbena macarons and guava pâté de fruit. Wow, if this was all I had experienced for dessert I would have still been blown away. It was a fantastic way to end the meal. And for the final touch on the great meal and experience? We were each given a home-made granola bar to go! That was a delicious treat the following day.
While I’ve hinted at it throughout the review, the service was very good, if not excellent. The waitress was good, without being stuffy. The rest of the team was good as well, always there to pour our wine or re-fill our water glasses, or even to give me more of that wonderful bread. The service was not as formal as Pigall’s was or Jeff Ruby’s can be (if the party is big enough), but that’s OK, I don’t prefer formal…I like attentive, knowledgeable, and flexible. All of which our server and her team were.
Overall, this place was fantastic. The courses were all fantastic, the dessert was maybe the best I’ve ever had, and the service was great. When I eat at an expensive restaurant, the easiest judge of it for me is if I feel like it was worth every dollar. This place definitely is. I can’t recommend this restaurant enough.