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3. The Palace

Best Restaurants 2012

“How often does trout look that sexy?” my dinner companion wonders aloud as he casts a rather prurient gaze at the Irish sea trout set before him. It is a beauty, its rosy flesh glistening with buttery saline juices atop magenta and gold roasted beets, a shapely starlet sunning herself on the beach and fully aware all eyes are on her. We would have coveted it more were it not for the giddy love-in we were having with our own main courses of Kentucky rib eye, slow-cooked lamb shank, and braised venison risotto, and still affectionately reminiscing about the first courses, which included an elegant lobster coconut bisque. All of this woozy lovefeast was created by the effortlessly talented Chef Jose Salazar, who won the Food & Wine People’s Choice Award in 2011 for Best New Chef in the Great Lakes Region. Pastry Chef Russ Wheeler joined The Palace team this past year and—like Salazar—turns out plate after memorable plate, including the best dessert of 2011: a Maytag Blue cheesecake that tasted as if the cheese itself had been lusting after the port marinated pears, vanilla thyme syrup, and hazelnut nougatine. We’re feeling a little flushed.

601 Vine St., downtown, (513) 381-3000, palacecincinnati.com

Originally published in the March 2012 issue.