Much less than other restaurants of its caliber, Abigail Street is understated in its greatness. Service is so friendly and casual that you only gradually realize how competent the servers are, from their knowledge of the rotating wines on tap to their ability to pace and shape a meal consisting of several small meze-style offerings. Dishes seem, at first glance, like they are simply piled on the plate, but a few bites reveal the intricacies, from the dusting of sesame seeds and berbere (blended spices) on the grilled broccoli, served with a rich miso-ta-hini dressing, to the wonderful kefta (Moroccan-style minced beef), cut with an acidic tahini sauce of its own and served with pickled ramps, baby kale, and blistered tomatoes and shishito peppers. The wood-fired grill spreads smokiness through many of the best dishes at Abigail Street, from the octopus and broccoli to the grilled bread that accompanies savory dishes like the mussels and sweet ones like the ricotta and honey.
This is not food that feels fancy, at first, but eventually you see what a high-wire act Abigail Street pulls off: dozens of little dishes, perfectly executed and delivered in a tiny space, with barely ever a misstep or even a wait for a fresh glass of wine. And every apparently familiar dish, from bouillabaisse to scallop risotto, is constantly pushed in little ways toward greater richness and intensity of flavor (for example, the depth of the creamy saffron broth in the bouilla-baisse or the thyme and lemon flavors in the risotto). Everyone at Abigail Street knows what they are doing, and the fact that they make it look so easy does not make it any less impressive to witness or less fun to eat.
1214 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 421-4040, abigailstreet.com