I am impressed with the eating and drinking establishments that have grown in the area of the "Ensemble Theatre" on Vine St. in the last couple of years. Two years ago there was one, "LavOmatic" now there are at least 5 top flight places and several others, who while not rated as highly, are still acceptable. Just to name the other 4, all within a block of the theatre: "A Tavola", "Abigail Street", "Senate" and "Taste of Belgium" (short name "Belgium Bistro"). I have been in all except that I have not eaten, yet, at the latter.
Lunch Tuesday at "Senate" 1212 Vine St. 45202 (513) 421-2020 consisted of a good sized bowl of "mussels charmoula", deadly delicious, and a draft St Ambroise Apricot Ale.
The mussels seem to be all plump and firm and done perfectly. The broth is full of salt, butter, and spices and compliments the mussels beautifully. Of course the 4 pieces of well buttered and toasted french bread, for dipping, makes both calories and taste bud alight.
The beer is a perfect compliment and is served in a 7oz glass shaped like a Brandy sniffer and is the proper amount at lunch and again a great companion.
The "Senate" is famous as a gourmet "hot dog" emporium but anyone who likes mussels must try them, as, so far, they are the best I have had in Cincinnati.
Dinner, last night, at "Abigail Street" 1214 Vine Street 45202 (513)421-4040, was another most pleasing introduction. "Abigail Street" is right next to "Senate" but the only hint is a small painted sign on the window and some colored light panels differentiating it from it parent.
There were 4 of us and at the servers suggestion we ordered with the express thought of sharing all that came to the table. They describe the size portions as "tapas size" and they are correct. Some are quite sufficient for two to have a defined share while others only provide a hint of what eating a whole portion would be like. We had many tastes and none left hungry.
The table started with a very reasonably prices bottle of Pinot Gris( $28) and Chirizo stuffed dates in a spicy tomato sauce and a beet salad, both red and golden, sprinkled with nuts were our beginning. Both items give more that a taste when sharing. There was a wonderful gnocchi, in lamb ragout, a Bouliabaisse( heavy in mussels and shrimp) with a delightful broth, grilled and seasoned shrimp and a helping of cubed, roasted potato's and chopped fresh tomato's in a lemon oil, slightly spicy sauce, unusual and delicious.
Several of us also had a glass of Zinfandel to go with the main courses. Total for the 4 before tax and tip $100. Not inexpensive but then nothing good is.