Tuesday, February 4, 2014

NuVo at Greenup

The new basilica for serious foodies

Dexter Enjoys the Serene Dining Room
     NuVo at Greenup serves a three to nine course table d’hôte menu at an extremely reasonable price (currently $35-$60).  It focuses with laser-like intensity on specific ingredients to produce food that is superb.  Wine pairings with those courses are available for $25-$45, which is a deal, almost a steal.  We really enjoyed NuVo when it was in Newport about four to five
years ago, but this new Covington incarnation moves everything to a new level from Mark Bodenstein’s cuisine to Marie Anderson’s management.

     The suite of dishes depends on a number of factors:  season, availability of ingredients, and even the week.  What a diner may have in November is completely different from what will be served in January or April.  Allergies and specific preferences are factored in both at time of reservation and when first seated.  Two courses were graciously rethought for me because of allergies.  

     The following breaks down dishes we encountered recently and they tasted as pure and as beautiful as they looked.  This is an ascetic and aesthetic culinary experience:

-Amuse bouche – grapes posing as olives in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, which was witty and texturally complex.

-Gougères with beet and olive oil powder.  The choux pastry was light, though a little dry, but this made sense since it was essentially the bread course.

-Celery root lardo with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and hickory syrup was a variation created that night with perfectly cooked vegetables. 

-Porcini mixed mushrooms with smoked porcini broth was actually the planned dish.  We had seen some of the variety on TV and in grocery stores, but hadn’t cooked them before.  Again, they were beautifully prepared and presented.

-Fork and knife onion soup with caramelized milk, which has become a signature dish.  Sweet, salty, sour, it examined various types of onion from an array of cooking angles.

-Pan seared duck, caramelized carrot purée, variety of carrots, spice foam, and ginger yogurt, which is another signature dish.  It’s the best duck we’ve had since the heyday of Daveed’s in Mount Adams.

-Pigs in the wood – pork rind, radishes, cranberry and burnt hazelnut purée, which was more of a jam.  It was a witty dish that seemed like a pig’s foot trotting through a root vegetable undergrowth.

-Cassoulet – pork tenderloin, wild garlic, duck sausage, and sugared Lady apple in a smoky, multi-layered sauce set off by the neutrality of the beans.

-Pan seared mackerel with candied kumquat, salmon roe, yuzu sauce that added a note of citrus, and balanced with the mildly flavored, but dreamily colored leek milk.

-The dessert was magical since one element was truffles, meringues, and chocolates served in a cigar box which, when opened, released a small cloud of smoke and a tinge of tobacco flavoring in the sweets.
-The other element was silky buttermilk pudding with cornmeal crumble and lavender.

The House Blend Coffee
Made Tableside by Anderson
in a Vacuum Pot
     It’s a spare, elegant space that reflects the shapes and patterns of the Art Nouveau movement in the furniture, curtains, and photographic artwork.  Every detail of food and service has been thought of so that the diner can sit back, watch, and enjoy.  There are some caveats that potential diners need to know beforehand.  Parking is not readily available in that part of Covington.  Because of the building’s architecture, there are cold spots (I sat in one of them) and the acoustics are peculiar in that diners may hear other tables’ conversations more clearly than their own dining partners.  It takes two to three hours for this complete experience – the staff sets the pace – so don’t plan anything else that evening.  Neil wondered if they’re considering two seatings, such as 6 and 8 p.m., which might be a clearer warning to guests.

     Otherwise, this is the new food standard for Cincinnati.  While watching Top Chef over the years, we’ve thought what would Wylie Dufresne’s WD~50 or Grant Achatz’s Alinea look like in this area, especially if they were a little more reasonable and pragmatic?  NuVo at Greenup realizes the answer.

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