The place still serves up a reassuring parade of over-the-top favorites.
I hadn't visited the historic Clarmont Restaurant for a while, so when I recently stepped into its friendly confines and heard a skilled pianoman playing "As Time Goes By," it almost seemed too perfect to be true.
Gazing at a steak, seafood and potato-packed menu barely fazed by taste changes occuring since the place opened 63 years ago, and listening to that tune so appropriate for the room, I half-expected Humphrey Bogart to waltz by with a glass of rye, a lit cigarette and a lip-curling hangover.
Instead, there was a smiling Thom Coffman, owner since the mid-'90s, graciously playing host and chatting up his many satisfied regulars. Yeah, as the song goes, a sigh is just a sigh.
And a dinner at the Clarmont is a crowd-pleasing blast from the past with lots of rich accents, feel-good sauces and generous portions. Served by a veteran waitstaff, it's food that delivers a wealth of old-Columbus style pampering.
Oh sure, some things have changed, like there's no longer transparent cases showing off the place's prime cuts of meat and fish. And the decor has rather langorously settled into a neutral, beige and brown tonal palette. But where it counts - on plates - there's a reassuring parade of over-the-top, classic Clarmont favorites.
If I had a dime for every restaurant that claimed to serve "colossal"-sized shrimp but brought out unimpressive specimens - well, I could eat actual colossal-sized shrimp every night. The Clarmont was no fibber, as its mammoth shrimp cocktail pieces (sold "by the each" for $2.79) lived up to their billing.
Salad-wise, the piled-high "house" was considerably better than most, with a bright and lively homemade vinaigrette. Stepping up in class, the large Bibb ($6.79) adorned its fresh leaves with good bacon bits and blue cheese.
From the Clarmont Classics section (which generously come with two sides), the Rack of Lamb ($27) was outstanding. Five thick, top-notch, ruby-colored chops were tremendously tender underneath an exterior sear. They were served above a "raft" of roasty asparagus floating on the pond of a luscious, meaty and winey sauce I would drink shots of.
Another excellent classic - the Bacon Wrapped Tenderloin ($30) - was a round tower of pretty meat. A huge hunk of tender beef was outfitted with thick portobello chunks, a deep demi-glace and gorgonzola cheese.
Clearly the Clarmont's fond of bacon and blue cheeses, as masses of (rather excessive) melty Stilton were slathered atop the bacon-bound Pork Medallions ($19). Two nearly hockey puck sized servings of lean pig were further enhanced by caramelized (but not limp) pear pieces and another sexy sauce - this one light, fruity and cinnamon-scented.
And you cannot go wrong with the rockin' Pan-Fried Lake Erie Walleye ($19). A plate-enveloping, delicately flavored large filet was lightly dredged in flour and perfectly cooked. I loved how the thin golden brown jacket gave way to tender and juicy fish (get it with a side of the terrific spinach).
Dessert-wise, a pie is not just a pie when it's a massive wedge of the popular, stiff pudding-like Banana Cream streaked with real fruit.
To read G.A. Benton's blog visit ColumbusDiningGuide.com