After a few years of transition, with the departure of longtime executive chef Todd Kelly and a brief stint by Maxime Kien, Orchids is beginning to feel like itself again, and executive chef George Zappas is maintaining the proud traditions of Ohio’s only AAA Five Diamond restaurant.
The food is wonderfully complex, with diverse elements that meld and cohere in surprising ways. A dish of parsnip soup has a quinoa chip and apple butter, along with salty duck prosciutto, notes of smoke and spice from the espelette pepper at the base of the bowl, and a touch of acid that crept in on the roasted parsnip. In a few dazzling bites it all comes together like a highly technical piece of music. Being Orchids, with its focus on the traditional way of doing things, it would be no surprise if the pepper had been dried, smoked, and ground in-house or the prosciutto cured on-site.
Aside from the food, part of the pleasure of a meal at Orchids is simply being in the space, looking up at the paintings on the ceiling, enjoying the jazz band, or watching the grace and assurance of the staff as they present the meal. Service and knowledge of wine remains totally impeccable under maître d’ hôtel Morgan Hughes, and every meal at Orchids is an introduction to a wonderful new bottle or varietal. A melon-y and faintly effervescent Von Schleinitz Riesling, for example, paired nicely with a surprising Southeast Asian–inspired halibut dish. With its green curry paste and pools of adobo and peanut brittle, it shows how Zappas can break out of the restaurant’s traditionally European comfort zone without ever losing the polish or high sophistication that make Orchids the institution that it is.
Best Damn Dessert: Java Chocolate Crémeux
Pastry chef Claire Mongenas deconstructs and reinvents the humble cannoli to magical effect with edible flower petals, a ring of coffee-infused chocolate crémeux, and cannoli crisps and cream.
35 W. Fifth St., downtown, (513) 564-6465, orchidsatpalmcourt.com