Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Symphony Hotel Bed & Breakfast

The Symphony Hotel Bed & Breakfast
210 W. 14th St.

When a friend told me about an exquisite restaurant located just around the corner from Music Hall, I knew I had to give it a try. As their name suggests, the restaurant caters to the symphony crowd, serving prix-fixe five-course meals on evenings when the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra holds performances at Music Hall.

I called up a couple of foodie friends to gauge their interest, and as they were also intrigued, we made reservations for Saturday evening. My girlfriend and I were excited to be able to dress up smartly for the occasion, dipping into our stash of antique rhinestone jewelry for a hint of sparkle. It’s not often that we find an excuse to splash out, but The Symphony Hotel is just the sort of place that calls for a bit of glam. Since we were not attending a show afterwards we booked our reservation just a little later than most diners, who like to be finished and out the door prior to the concert, and it worked to our advantage. We were able to absorb the ambiance of the pre-show crowd, and when they were gone we were treated to an audience with Chef David Buchman, who previously spent six years as sous-chef at The Maisonette.

We were admittedly somewhat worried that we’d find The Symphony Hotel to be a little stuffy, considering the well-heeled clientele, but our fears were unfounded, as the staff were warm and unpretentious – a welcome change from other higher-end establishments. In fact, we felt as though we were dining in a friend’s house, aided in part by the house itself, which was built by renowned Cincinnati lithographer Peter Ehrgott in 1871 and whose son, Louis, taught piano, voice and music theory there in addition to running a boarding house for music students. The home has been lovingly restored to its former grandeur and decorated in celebration of its rich, musical past. It’s easy to locate from the street too – just look for the treble clef signage out front.

Chef David creates a special menu each week, which is posted online each Tuesday prior to weekend service, and you can phone ahead with your entrée selection. He does his best to source locally grown items, and vegetarians can rest easy knowing that there is something for them during each course of the meal. On the evening we visited, the soup course was a Tuscan white bean with rapini; creamy and flavorful, it was a nice hearty choice for a chilly winter’s night.

The salad selection was red cabbage with walnuts and sultanas in a red wine sauce. It was so tasty that we found it difficult not to scarf it down quickly, but we did our best to savor every delicious bite. The lemon thyme sorbet that followed was perfect for cleansing the palate in anticipation of the outstanding entrées still to come. The Symphony offers a choice of four entrées, one of which is always vegetarian. My eggplant parmesan was heavenly, stacked layer upon layer into a tiny tower of delight, surrounded by a bed of sautéed French green beans. My dining companions ordered sautéed crab cakes with Creole mustard and roasted red peppers in a rich wine sauce, and Amish chicken breast with avocado, Swiss cheese and tarragon, both of which garnered rave reviews.

The dessert course was a choice of orange cheesecake with chocolate caramel sauce, banana foster or fresh fruit. Since there were three of us we decided to order one of each to share. All three were out of this world, but the banana foster was the hands-down favorite, and went well with our after dinner coffee.

After we had polished off the remainder of our bottle of wine (they also have a full selection of mixed drinks if you prefer) Chef David kindly took us on a tour of the lovely old house so we could view the hotel and all its finery. Each room is nicely appointed with antique furniture and a musical theme, plus all the amenities of a modern hotel. Most are en-suite, although a few do have shared bathrooms, and while the extended-stay facility hosts a full kitchen, the décor didn’t have quite the same attention to detail as the other rooms. We couldn’t view all of them, however, since several were occupied by weekend guests. It is good to know that the hotel has been able to maintain a steady clientele for the past ten years, much of it via word-of-mouth.

We really enjoyed our evening of “poshing it up” at The Symphony Hotel Bed & Breakfast and are already making plans for a return visit to introduce more friends to its delights. I am more than pleased to be able to recommend this locally owned and operated restaurant to vegetarians, who can get a splendid five-course meal for under $40. Drinks cost extra, but the gracious service, historic surroundings and warm ambiance are priceless, and that’s music to my ears.

Symphony Hotel on Urbanspoon


Dan said...

I really enjoyed the Symphony Hotel the last (and only) time I was there. Your summary is pretty much what I thought of the place!

valereee said...

Thanks for another great review of a local independent sourcing local ingredients!