Monday, November 17, 2008

Reviewing Allure- not the magazine, the restaurant

We bought a gift certificate for Allure from months ago. And I didn’t even recall having it until the husband suggested we go there for dinner on date night. We made reservations for first seating dinner menu which includes first course, main course and dessert. The catch was we had to be seated by 6pm. To save room for an early dinner we ate a light lunch and did laps around Ikea for couple hours.

Allure is tucked away in a small strip mall amongst a comedy club, Thai, and Indian restaurants. While walking up to the entrance, we could smell the aromas of the Thai kitchen. Once seated, we noticed it was still rather empty with an exception of one table of 5. Perhaps 6pm is too early for the general public to dine out on a Saturday. The atmosphere is modern chic with dim lights and candlelit dining area. The red draping over the ceiling lights in the main dining room is a sophisticated and romantic touch.

We started with drinks, he ordered a Brooklyn Pilser and I ordered the Pinot Blanc from Oregon. The manager returned with my Pinot Blanc and a Brooklyn Lager, instead of the Pilsner an overlook by the manager who did not take our drink orders, our server did. He was nice enough to take it back in exchange for the Pilsner. I liked my wine because it was light, smooth, and paired perfectly with my first and main course. The husband enjoyed his beer very much; so much so that he drank it really fast and had a buzz. Leave it up to the husband to get buzzed at a sophisticated restaurant.

From the prix fixe menu, we chose from two salads, four entrees and two desserts. I chose Caesar salad and he picked the house salad with bacon and fennel. We both agreed the salads were made to perfection. The caesar dressing tasted homemade but I couldn’t tell for sure.

For main, I ordered arctic char with miso and he chose pork tenderloin with potato gnocchi. I was tempted to order crab cakes but decided against it because I am too fussy about my crab cakes after having eaten fresh Maryland Crabcakes. I can’t recall the fourth option but I believe it was a vegetarian pasta dish. My arctic char came with half head of romaine halved lengthwise with mushrooms in miso broth. The fish’s skin was broiled, deliciously crispy. Before Saturday night I had never eaten an arctic char before (I know, a tragedy for a foodie but I didn’t know about this fish until culinary school and let’s be honest Cincinnati isn’t known for its fresh seafood). This is a total speculation due to lack of expertise with arctic char but I am pretty sure I was served Salmon. It tasted like Salmon, looked pink like Salmon and was flaky like Salmon when it’s done well. The fish didn’t have the oomph I am always looking for but it was still very good. The husband’s pork tenderloin was to die for. We’re rookie pork eaters so we don’t know signs of good and bad pork but we’re sure this was good pork cooked flawlessly. The gnocchi was cooked in a brown butter sauce.

For dessert we both picked crème brûlée because we aren’t fans of strawberry ice cream. When our dinner plates were taken away at approximately 6:50, we anticipated going to the 7:30 show at the nearest movie theater. At 7:10, our dessert had still not arrived. Understandably, the restaurant became a lot busier after 6:45. Once our server brought out the dessert, we enjoyed the first few bites thoroughly; however after the 4th bite it was too much for me, as in overly sweet. I’ve had good crème brûlées and I’ve had bad ones and I would rate Allure’s as middle of the road crème brûlée.

It felt like Allure was short staffed (and maybe they were) but there were number of people walking around checking on tables. They had a hostess that seated us and everyone else, two servers for the main dining room, a manager and couple extras that brought out food and refilled waters when servers were occupied. With all the help the service was still questionable. Multiple people were asking the same questions about the menu and/or drinks. For instance, after the table next to us was seated, our server approached them with the evening’s specials and a drink order. Few minutes later, another individual approached the same table with the same information and a drink order. Thankfully we didn’t get repeat questions from multiple servers, actually our server was very nice and friendly. We were, however, puzzled by the long wait in between the main course and dessert. The food was decent as was the ambiance. It’s a restaurant the husband and I wouldn’t mind trying again, however like Julie we believe there are far too many restaurants on our “to try list” that take precedence over returning to Allure.

And the movie, we missed the 7:30 show and saw Quantum of Solace instead. If you, your male partner or friends are in the mood to see action, bond action- see this movie. Otherwise I'd recommend an original film. The husband was thrilled to see the bond movie and sometimes that's all that matters on a date night.

I googled Arctic Char after coming home and learned this fish is a cousin of Salmon. Its taste is a cross between Trout and Salmon. I’ve had trout before and I am still pretty sure I was served Salmon, a tasty Salmon at best.


FoodHussy said...

I went right when the place opened and agree completely - it was good but not good enough for me to run back.

Have you tried Nuvo? I want to go now that they've moved...

Anonymous said...

If I had to form opinions on seafood based on what's available in CVG, I'd never eat seafood. In fact, I never eat seafood in CVG.

I've even cut out most sushi in CVG because it becomes more and more disappointing each time I eat sushi somewhere near the sea.

Many of my friends think they don't like seafood, but it's because they've only eaten seafood in CVG. I urge them to try fish and shellfish when they're vacationing near the sea. They always return and say, "You were right! I actually like oysters!"

liberal foodie said...

Heather- I have not tried Nuvo but want to. I hear it's better in its new location. Some friends went there when it was in the old pizza hut adn didn't like the food or service.

Chad- I agree with the seafood analysis. A point to add is a lot of cincinnati people don't like seafood because they didn't grow up eating it and like you said, it's not fresh or good. Joan's sushi's pretty good. I rate it best in the area.