Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Our Unexpected Brunch at Nectar

      An hour and 15 minute wait on a chilly spring Sunday morning wasn't what we had in mind when we met Chris and Mark at Annabel's in Mt Lookout.  There were several open tables at Nectar next door.  It was an option that most likely other diners have found themselves taking.  But let me say this. . . we've had a beef with chef Julie Francis over an unpleasant unresolved dining experience at her previous restaurant Aioli for many years now, so it was a radical move for Eric and me to finally make amends and give her another chance.

Nectar's French Façade
      There's what appears to be a host station upon entering Nectar.  Evidently that duty was left for one of the two servers.  I only mention that because it obviously was confusing for some patrons, especially when coming in at a busy
period when they appeared to be ignored.  

      As usual, I questioned our server about the menu. She was pleasant and offered up some favorites  Somewhere in the conversation she mentioned that she moved here from Denver and was questioning why.  Note to server:  this is never a good way to establish rapport with four advocates of Cincinnati.  Now I was questioning her taste for the menu items.

      Julie Francis is known for her commitment to taking the freshest local ingredients and presenting them in a pared down way that is pleasing to the palate.   The menu sounded just that way.  She was in the open kitchen, which tells me she is a passionate chef who doesn't leave her devotion to other cooks on a Sunday morning.  Everything is either from a notable local supplier (i.e. the breads and meats) or created in the kitchen.  Chris chose the French Toast—two thick slices of sesame semolina bread topped with walnut and honey butter and a plum compote.
French Toast
He thought the overabundance of sesame seeds were just too weird as a French toast.  Alongside were two strips of bacon…good but he would have liked more.

Chorizo Scramble
Mark had the Chorizo Scramble, an omelette with caramelized red onion and Manchego cheese with a tomatillo chipotle salsa.  He seemed pleased.  Both Mark's and my selections were served with the red chile potatoes and they were excellent.  A little reminiscent of the legendary Boca fries…potatoes with just the right amount of kick.  Eric went
Nectar Benedict
with the Nectar Benedict, a deconstruction that began with a cornmeal biscuit with the egg, smoked salmon, tomato, spinach, and bacon all topped with a chipotle-lime hollandaise.  The flavors were nice with his only complaint being there was only one biscuit and egg (the traditional serving expectation is two) and it had to be constructed to enjoy the full bite experience.  My Goetta Melt started with a slice of

Goetta Melt
sourdough rye layered with a slice of goetta and a fried egg under a chipotle-lime hollandaise.  The goetta was cooked the way I asked, which was not too crispy, and the firm bread was easily sliced through the layers.  Julie is sometimes criticized for her lack of seasoning, but these dishes seemed to be spot on.  

      As for the atmosphere, it was a little lackluster.  There was one piece of art that referenced the Nectar name, a composition of hummingbirds.  Everything else was what I would term Peruvian consisting of wall hangings, mosaic tiles, and vessels.  Seating was comfortable, which we took full advantage of with our extended stay.  Service was sporadic and unfortunately exhibited one of our restaurant taboos…the server asking "Now who had the…?"  Unacceptable at an establishment of this caliber.

      So are we willing to forgive and forget at this point?  I'd say service is still a problem and until it is resolved, Nectar will never become a consistently top bistro.  Some of the dishes work and some fail, but the menu is ever evolving so there will always be a sense of experimentation going on.  I guess that can be a good thing depending on what you choose.

Nectar on Urbanspoon

Did someone say something about hummingbirds?


Anonymous said...

Oh, get over it.

Who is Dexter? said...

From what I'm hearing, I think the guys are over it.