Table Talk

New owner of Alex's Bistro maintains classic French flavor

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

A new day has dawned on Alex's Bistro, the iconic Upper Arlington restaurant that has survived every conceivable restaurant trend for nearly three decades.

Daniel Kern, a German-trained chef who has had a serious tour of duty on the local restaurant scene, purchased the restaurant in July from longtime owner Alex Gosetto.

"It was a turnkey operation," Kern said.

"For a couple of days, we cooked his menu, but then we changed it."

That could be a mild understatement.

Many dishes, although perennial favorites at Alex's, have been updated to Kern's standards. That includes three styles of crepes -- chicken, seafood and vegetable.

He's also re-established long-adored bistro classics, such as steak with frites: a 12-ounce Ohio ribeye rubbed with coffee and brown sugar or served au poivre.

Another is the beef tartare -- fresh-chopped Ohio beef tenderloin mixed with shallots, capers, cornichons, anchovy, whole-grain mustard and crowned with an egg yolk.

"What we want to try here is to do things others don't do any more because it's time-consuming," Kern said.

Most entrees are in the $17 to $36 range at the restaurant, 4681 Reed Road.

Desserts, including orange chocolate mousse, creme brulee, flourless chocolate cake and tarte tannin, are made in-house.

With a nod to Kern's German roots, he has put Vienna-style pork schnitzel on the permanent menu, and now features "German night" on Wednesdays.

"So to speak, my homesick day," Kern said.

Also looking back to his childhood, he offers spaghetti Bolognese, an Italian dish he makes with ground veal, beef and pork.

It was the first dish he remembers eating and making while growing up in his parents' hotel in Oberstaufen, Germany, where his dad was a chef.

He studied hospitality in Bonn and had a chef apprenticeship in Cologne.

He came to Columbus 101/2 years ago after a friend from school relocated here.

With its distinct cursive neon red sign, Alex's Bistro has been a popular fixture on the Upper Arlington dining scene since 1985, a casual 45-seat restaurant with a separate 30-seat area for the bar.

Kern had worked there for 10 months two years ago, but parted ways with founder Gosetto, who eventually retired.

When Kern learned the restaurant was for sale, he thought it was a good fit with his style: small, unpretentious and manageable.

"It's perfect," Kern said. "It has history. It has character."

He doesn't plan any major changes with the interior, with its textured walls, black-and-white-tiled floor, mirrors, brass railings and frosted-glass panels. But, he acknowledges, "We have to do some touch-ups."

Kern said he's trying to woo local diners with French comfort food -- fries cooked in duck fat, classic French onion soup and escargot.

"It's coming," he said. "Every month it gets a little better."

French cuisine, once the high-water mark of sophistication for both the public and chefs, has slowly faded in recent years in central Ohio.

New-age chefs were showing off edgier skills, while more exotic cuisines have captured the dining public's attention.

Kern said the fare has been unfairly stigmatized as too expensive, rich and fancy. He believes classics never go out of style.

"So many chefs want to start new things but they forget the basics," he said. "They go too far out there."

Alex's Bistro is open daily for dinner, only. For more information, call 614-457-8887.

 

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