Suddenly it dawned on me. The Quarter Bistro is Cincinnati’s sleeper restaurant. I’m not saying it’s not well known, because it’s been around forever and it’s jammed every Saturday night. But I am saying that it doesn’t get close to the attention it should anymore. I’m saying, dare devil that I am, that I’d put it in my top ten.
The first time I ate there was last summer and I sat out on the patio. There was something about that early evening, something about the way the tree branches shaded my eyes and how the cool wine tasted. Julie and Julia was playing next door, kids were walking their dogs on the sidewalk. All was right with the world.
The waiter delivered a white paper bag to the table and when I uncrinkled the top, a hot wave of heat hit my face and out came a loaf of fresh bread — the kind that melts butter as soon as it is slathered on. The kind that’s chewy on the outside but pillowy soft on the inside.
Then came the side of Caesar Salad ($5), a somewhat unadventurous choice, I know. But if it wasn’t the best one in the city, it was close. The dressing came on the side in a shot glass and though I swore I wouldn’t use all of it, the garlicky, anchovy goodness propelled me forward and I left nothing but drips on the side of the glass.
Fast forward to last weekend, Dustin and I made an unusual trip out to Mariemont and tried to get in without a reservation. Miraculously, we did and after a quick drink at the bar, we were escorted to a circular table in the back corner — a private nook for romance but an even better place to hide out with an over-sized camera.
The room kind of felt like a warm oven — not because of the temperature but because everyone was cast in a reddish glow from light reflecting off of the colorful walls. The luxuriousness of the sweeping shapes reminded me of being in a steakhouse, but the experience was actually much more special.
Our first round, Seared Yellowfin Tuna ($13), had a bright, clean flavor profile. It was skillfully executed too — underneath the delicate micro mustard greens were slices of rare tuna, cooked on the outside but tender on the inside. Asian pears and marinated cucumbers complimented each bite, and when dented with a fork, bursts of a gelatinized ponzu sauce exploded in luscious streams of liquid. Virtually every mouthful was well seasoned and delicious.
The French Onion Soup ($7) had a deep, nutty flavor and not a penny was spared piling melted provalone cheese on top. But perhaps the most incredible dishes were the two main courses we ordered that night, starting with the Blackened Flat-Iron Steak ($25) with portabella mushrooms.
This trendy cut of meat was absolutely shinning with the luster of beurre blanc sauce, once again pointing to the simple truth that everything is better with butter. Dustin and I, both marveling at how our first few bites seemed to melt so effortlessly in our mouths, were in heaven. The crispy, homemade fries were even served with ketchup — the dish was as classic and as beautiful as it gets.
As far as I’m concerned, the Duck Confit Tacos ($17) were the star of the evening. While not exactly photogenic, the set of 3 tacos I was served on a massive, white plate were some of the most flavorful duos of tortilla and meat I’ve had to date. I don’t know if it was the sweet and sour pull of the peppernata or the tart pickled red onions, but each bite seemed to be more fabulous than the next. Guacamole-cilantro sour cream, which was served on top, will surely be one of my next taco projects.
It isn’t a new, overly talked about restaurant but The Quarter Bistro delivers. I know I’ll be singing its praises from the rooftops, will you?
Find it on 6904 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, OH 45227 or call (513) 271-5400.