HAPPY MOUTH — March 2007

VINYL restaurant logoThis evening, a group of us met for our monthly Happy Mouth outing. It was Tracy’s month to pick, and she selected VINYL in downtown Cincinnati. The supper club had dined at the physical space previously when it was The Diner, also Tracy’s pick. After the less-than-stellar meal at The Diner (they closed the doors of that operation, oh, 15 minutes after we left), Tracy wanted to give the space another chance.

VINYL did not disappoint. From the well-stocked bar and knowledgable bartender (who allowed us to sample a couple unusual drinks) to the service at the table, everything was very good. The wine list is far-reaching with plenty of affordable wines available.

We enjoyed a variety of different appetizers such as the Foie Gras on Brioche with Peanut Butter & Jelly (a qualified success — the abundance of bread simply overwhelmed all the other components. Removing the top slab of brioche improved the flavor balance, plus, why hide the foie?). Entrees for most of the table were a selection of Gourmet Mini Burgers, and they were tasty. The rest of the menu was innovative but did not sound enticing enough to encourage us to order different items. We also sampled their high-end Mac & Cheese, and it was very nice, though the heads, legs, and antenna on the prawns were a bit off-putting to the folks who ordered it.

Desserts were servicable but not exceptional… I ordered a Lemon Tart that was un-set and liquidy when delivered to the table. I asked the server about it (I needed a replacement (or a spoon)) and was told that the dessert was served as intended. The flavor was good, but because the texture was so …wrong… I cannot recommend the dessert. Another diner, a notorious chocolate hound, ordered a chocolate dessert but did not finish it. A banana split was ordered and, when delivered, looked like the nose cone of a missle instead of the ‘banana + 3 scoops + sauce in a banana boat’ we’re used to. Hopefully, the restaurant will hire (or contract) a pastry chef to get their desserts in order.

One general observation about the presentation… Everything was almost too cleverly presented for its own good. The Mini Burgers were difficult to serve because they were presented on small square plates set atop a large square plate, making them difficult to balance. The ‘facial features’ on the prawns in the Mac & Cheese and the desserts added to this perception.

Service was good and very personable. There were a few timing issues with a table our size (we were a party of 12 or so). With most of our food coming from the grill, there were expected short delays in the delivery of entrees.

The ambiance is nice but aiming for a different demographic than us. It’s a hip place — a place to see and be seen — that happens to have good food. The house music is loud enough that conversation around the table was limited. As we were winding up our meal, the DJ was setting up and a bunch of costumed characters came in (including a strange masked person — either a child or a little person — the mask made it impossible to determine and made them look like a burn victim).

We enjoyed our meal at VINYL. I hope Tracy feels vindicated!

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