Sage sets itself apart by creating a sophisticated, approachable menu.

The refreshingly brief menu at Sage American Bistro is in flux because it changes seasonally. What never changes at Sage are the convivial service, inviting mood and delectable food. Yes, Sage is a great place.

Sage, just north of the OSU campus, characteristically attracts a sophisticated crowd of fun-loving chowhounds, university types and hipsters. They show up to taste the compelling, creative and always soulful stylings of Chef Bill Glover.

Prior to digging into one of Glover's wonderful dinners, though, I recommend a Sage house cocktail, like the nifty Negroni (with a splash of grapefruit juice artfully bouncing off the Campari). Not only are Sage's libations made with ace ingredients, but at about $7 a pop, they're also some of the better-valued adult quaffs around.

Soup's a good way to get the food ball rolling there ($6), and except for an only-warm temperature in one case, a couple of recent daily specials scored very highly. One was a rich yet light white bean and pancetta (brightened by parsley, rosemary and red pepper), the other an aromatic and lovely curried lentil with crunchy flatbread bits for counterpoint.

Delicious as those were the softball-size, super-tender veal meatball appetizer ($8), with smoked tomato jus and pureed potato, was an absolute knockout. A new menu item, this saucy and juicy, near-meal-in-itself had a moan-inducing richness cut by a tiny, lively and slightly bitter shallot and herb salad.

I was told another marvelous and meaty special also is working its way onto the new spring menu, an Ohio-raised ribeye ($29). Expertly sear-crusted and perfectly cooked to temperature, it was crazy good.

Accompanying that slab of melt-in-my-mouth tender love was a killer, all-in-one sauce and side-dish combo. Smoky, salty, creamy and pungent, it was a melange of diced good ham, onions, spinach, fingerling potatoes and melted bleu cheese.

Another dressed-up hearty entree was the braised pork cheeks ($24). The tender, unctuous hunks of dark, carnitas-like pig meat were the kind of flavor bomb that makes people wax poetic over hog. They were served with a sweet and graceful truffle-cauliflower puree, a red-onion gastrique (like a jammy chutney) and comforting "chive dumplings" that reminded me of terrific tubular gnocchi.

On the lighter side was a bouillabaisse-like grilled salmon ($24). Atop a pretty broth fragrant with roasted fennel, onion and red pepper were big pieces of masterfully grilled fish and bread (the bread was slathered with a rich and red peppery mayo). Very nice.

For dessert, several waiters steered me toward the house-made chocolate ganache torte, and here I thank them immensely. Elegant, shiny and intense, it was embellished with salty caramel sauce, pistachio dust (playing off a vanilla-pistachio crust), chocolate sauce and lovely whipped cream. It was insanely delicious and the perfect way to end on a sweet note.

For a complete guide to local restaurants, visit ColumbusDiningGuide.com.