The posh Latitude 41 has a sophisticated menu that changes frequently.
Too often, hotel restaurants are uninspired eateries travelers settle for out of convenience. Latitude 41 manages to shatter that image.
Located in the opulent Renaissance Downtown, 41 offers a local-source-leaning menu rife with witty takes on old favorites. The results are so successful - especially among the smaller plates - that I recommend even hometowners eat here on purpose.
41's mood is pretty casual, even if it looks dramatic. Above an alternating dark-and-light patterned floor are theatrical red curtains, romantic lighting and padded chairs set at modern black tables.
The playful, frequently changing menu enjoys nudging the expectations of diners. Thus gyros, pizzas and wings get upscale treatments whereas, say, foie gras gets dressed down.
If the Foie Gras Torchon ($5.50) lacked a strong presence of duck liver, it was still fun to eat. Most of the snack's flavors came from two crustless tiny bread rounds, currant jam and mounds of cashew butter. They were like the teeniest and richest PB&Js I ever ate.
The reimagined Greek Gyro flatbread ($9) was a light and salty munch. Its crispy, cracker-thin crust was layered with racy and lamby merguez sausage and a warm salad of kalamatas, grape tomatoes, red onion and shredded romaine. A rich and creamy tzatziki served as the dressing.
Chicken wings come in two styles -- both inspired. Like several things at 41, the Wedge and Wings ($8) was familiar yet surprising. Sure, the chicken pieces were bathed in that beloved Buffalo sauce, but their texture was both crispy and fall-off-the-bone -- because the chicken was confited. And instead of just dip, they came with a very nice mini wedge salad with excellent blue cheese dressing.
The Korean Wings ($7) were slathered in Korean chili paste and nestled above an unfunky, vibrant, homemade Napa cabbage kimchee salad. Messy but memorable.
I also liked the mammoth, caper-and-horsey mustard-spiked Romaine Caesar ($7). But for an extra special salad, the Farm Egg Brioche ($8) was the way to go. It featured smoky, chewy bacon lardons, frilly frisee, sliced apple, a mildly sweet vinaigrette and a soft egg embedded in griddled bread.
Another standout was the lush Lobster Mac and Cheese ($15). Orechiette pasta was moderately dairy-ed, truffle buttered and crowned with succulent lobster meat brilliantly poached in butter.
The small app-sized Surf and Turf ($12) was one of the prettier dishes. It made the most of three deeply seared scallops, tufts of rich short rib and a little sliced Brussels sprouts and grated potato hash.
Also prettily plated was a Seafood Pasta entree ($19), though it could have used more seafood. The meat and crusty skin on the Speckled Hen Chicken entree ($16) were as marvelous as its side of grilled radicchio, though the impressively blocky pommes frites could have used more hot oil time.
The Valhrona Chocolate Smore ($8) was a smashing success. A lovely, melty slab of homemade bruleed marshmallow and a huge homemade graham cracker sandwiched a fudgy chocolate ganache. Also gracing the plate was some dark chocolate Jeni's ice cream. Mmmm!
To read G.A. Benton's blog, visit ColumbusDiningGuide.com