G. Michael’s is one of those restaurants in Columbus that I’ve wanted to try for ages, but can never seem to find the time to do so (there are many, many others on that list as well – such as the Worthington Inn, Alana’s, Latitutde 41, Rosendales, Rigsby’s, the Refectory, etc.). While flipping through the Prestige Book tonight (best $60 ever spent, even more so when you manage to get it during the 2 books for $60 deal they occasionally offer – go to your local AAA office if you’re interested – unlike the Entertainment Book, you get a full entree free with purchase of another rather than just a nominal discount), and decided that tonight was finally the night. After a quick perusal of the menu online, we were off.
After circling the block a couple times, we were able to finally find on-street parking on 3rd, although G. Micahel’s does offer valet parking for $5 if you don’t have the time or the inclination to search for your own. Being a Wednesday, there wasn’t a huge crowd at dinner time, one of the reasons we tend to go on off-peak days. Our ONLY issue with the whole meal was the leisurely pace of service – given the lack of a crowd, we expected less lag time between courses, but if that was the worst problem we had to deal with, it really became a non-issue by the end of the meal. In retrospect, I actually enjoyed a chance to let my food settle between courses – too often one is bombarded with one course after another without even a chance to breathe or loosen belt in between.
While we were deciding, our waiter brought us some warm bread (can’t tell if it was multi-grain, sourdough, or both in the basket) served with a compound butter with red peppers. There’s no better way to start a meal than with warm bread, and the bread served here was soft in the middle, a bit crusty and chewy on the outside, and generally an all-around a great start to an exceptional meal.
We chose two appetizers. The first was Panko Crusted Fried Brie ($8), with strawberry compote, pistachios, and grilled toast – this dish was more than the sum of its many parts. While none of the individual ingredients particularly stood out on its own, together the combination of flavors was spectacular! The creaminess of the brie, the crunch of the panko coating and the pistachios, and the sweetness and lightness of the strawberry had us practically licking the plate.
The next appetizer was by far my favorite dish of the evening. I will try to replicate this dish at home, and keep trying until it kills me. The Italian Gnudi ($9) with maple sugared bacon, roasted red peppers, spinach and a spicy tomato butter sauce consists of light pillows of ravioli filling (gnudi are often described as ravioli without the pasta – I tend to think of them as more of a cross between ravioli filling and gnocchi myself). Even my husband, who usually hates spinach, couldn’t get enough of this. There was a smokiness to this dish, which I’m thinking either comes from the tomatoes being smoked (many recipes I’ve found online for tomato butter sauce call for smoked tomatoes), or perhaps a smoked Spanish paprika. I’m not quite sure which, but will experiment with different combinations until I figure it out. I could easily eat this appetizer on my own as an entree, and may just do so on additional trips. It is just the right amount of food for one person if you skip the entree, and the perfect size for a couple to split in other cases.
My husband and I rarely ever finish an entree in a restaurant – what usually ends up happening is that we are so full from the appetizer, that we end up boxing up half or more of our entree from the get-go, whether or not we’re having dessert. This trend towards ginormous portion sizes (I’m looking at you, Cheesecake Factory!) is disturbing, and more often than not, it’s also a sign that a person is abandoning flavor and taste for a larger quantity of food – the whole quality vs. quantity argument. Let me just say that the portion sizes at G. Michael’s are PERFECT. Because of the leisurely pace I talked about above, we were able to eat an entire meal (appetizer, entree, and dessert) without boxing up anything, and without feeling over-full at the end. It is a refreshing change to have less good food than a lot of bad food.
For my entree, I chose the Apple-stuffed Ohio Pork Chop ($23) with warm sweet potato salad, green beans, and a bourbon caramel reduction. I’ve been avoiding ordering pork chops in restaurants for quite a while since usually the results are dried out and flavorless, but that was not the case here – this chop was grilled to perfection, and all the components of the dish complemented each other except for the green beans, which were a slightly dissonant note in the presentation – they had a bit of an Asian vibe to them, which didn’t quite match with the rest of the dish, but it was good nonetheless and something I wouldn’t hesitate to get again in the future.
My husband opted for the Hazelnut-crusted Wild Alaskan Halibut ($27), which was a bit different than advertised on the menu – it was supposed to be served with green beans, creamed Yukon Gold potatoes, and a maple Tabasco butter sauce, but in place of the creamed potatoes, he received buttery sliced potatoes, which is probably a superior choice anyway. He described the fish as “bold” (tired of the tasteless wimpy mild fish he’s been eating lately), and we both agreed that the sauce is what made this dish.
We both had some room left for dessert, and beckoned by the call of Jeni’s ice cream, we both went whole hog and chose dishes that were paired with it.
My husband chose the Bourbon Molasses Pecan Pie ($6), which was paired with Jeni’s Dark Cocoa Gelato ice cream – while he loved the dark evil of the molasses and bourbon, and the wall to wall pecans, he would have preferred a more tender and flaky pie crust rather than the thick tart crust it had. I think I would agree. The Dark Cocoa Gelato was a great complement.
I, on the other hand, decided to go for something a bit less rich and went for the Pear Almond Tart ($6), served warm with streusel topping, amaretto honey, fresh berries, and Jeni’s Salty Caramel ice cream (my favorite!) This was a nice and light combination between a tart and a crisp, and one again, paired well with the ice cream, especially when it melted into the grooves of the streusel topping.
The atmosphere was very welcoming, bright and open (we were seated not in the bar area, but in the dining area by the outside patio – lots of wonderful natural light!), and the staff was very attentive. It seems to cater to an older clientele (there were only a handful of folks under 50 when we were there), but we didn’t feel out of place for a minute. We look forward to enjoying many meals here again in the future.
If you’d like to go: G. Michael’s Bistro and Bar, 595 S. 3rd Street, Columbus (German Village), 614.464.0575