Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Classic Clarmont

The Clarmont
684 South High Street
Columbus, Ohio
February 12, 2010

For Valentine's Day this year we decided we wanted the classic steakhouse experience and quite frankly, in Columbus, you can't get more classic than the Clarmont.  To some it may be outdated, but in my mind it's the epitome of retro cool.  I have been to this place a few times before and I always love the feeling of stepping back in time.  There are still phone jacks at each table from the days they would bring a phone to your table if an important call needed to be taken or made.  I always think about all the business and political deals that were likely made at those tables.  As we walked in a piano player was playing in a salmon jacket.  He had probably worn that same jacket and played the same songs every Friday night there since 1980.  However, that's just part of the ambiance and made us smile.  Who doesn't enjoy dining to the piano version of "Wind Beneath My Wings"?
Most of the servers have been around the block or two, which at this place, is no knock and only means they know what they're doing.  The last time we ate there I'm pretty sure our server had grown up waiting tables here and this time I'm sure our server was Drew Cary's brother.  Now, I'm not sure he's totally up on the current food fads as he caught me taking a picture of my salad and asked if I was really taking a picture of my salad.  Our exchange went some thing like this: "Of course not", I covered, "that would be silly.  I was just reviewing some pictures of my husband and I"

 "Ahhh, that's good.  For a minute I thought you were taking a picture of the salad and that would be weird," he countered back.  Yep, weird is right.  Yep, that's what I was doing :)   

Anyway, even though he was obviously not up on the ways of restaurant blogging, that didn't stop him from offereing up wonderful service.  For a drink I ordered a classic vodka martini, dirty.  I inquired about whether or not they had blue cheese stuffed olives (my favorite) and he quickly replied they didn't, but he could make some up for me.  I about fell over in love.  The idea that these didn't have to be pre-bought or even pre-made, but that he would do something extra to help give me the experience that I wanted.  This is why I love this place and it's an old way of doing business.  I wish there was more of that in the current restaurant business.
I received my drink and I have sampled many martinis from various upscale to non-upscale restaurants all over and I must say that the Clarmont's is my favorite.  I think it goes with the throwback era.  A classic martini (i.e. not an appletini, or a tankini, or a double chocolatta rum martini with whip cream or any of those other fad imposters) is another throwback to another time and the Clarmont knows how to do them right.

Bread service had a portion of a typical white loaf that was crusty on the outside and light and doughy on the inside.  However, I was partial to the pretzel sticks with sesame seeds that was also in the bread basket.  They reminded me of a snack my grandmother usually had at her house.  The butter was whipped, light, creamy, and airy. 
Next up were our salads.  Erik ordered a house salad with their house vinagrette.  It was your typical house salad with greens, tomato, and carrot.  It was what you'd expect.  There was nothing wrong with it, but there was nothing spectacular about it either. 
I ordered the Clarmont wedge which was a huge hunk of iceberg lettuce slathered in bleu cheese dressing with piles of chopped tomato and egg around it (sorry for the poor quality picture, lighting was "romantic").  I was much more satisfied with this salad and loved the chunky bleu cheese dressing. 
For dinner Erik ordered the fried perch, which was a special of the evening.  It was a comforting dish that reminded me of Friday night fish fries with my parents or the fried fish my father would order on vacation in Gatlinburg.  However, overall it wasn't an entirely memorable dish, only comforting.  Erik paired this with whipped potatoes and I really felt they were lacking in flavor.  They were whipped nicely, but I would have added some sour cream or whipping cream. 
I ordered the the 10 ounce New York Strip done medium well with a baked potato.  The steak was grilled perfectly and was of very good quality.  My baked potato was also perfectly fluffy on the inside and I loved the fact that your server brings a service of butter and sour cream to you and then fixes your potato to your specs tableside.  Another throwback to what good restaurants used to do.  Boy I'm starting to sound old with all the talk of "what used to be"!
Overall, we love the retro feel of this restuarant and will likely be back.  The steaks and pork chops (from another visit) are great.  But I doubt we'd go with the perch again. 

Bill Total:  1 martini, 2 gimlets, house salad, wedge salad, 10 oz strip steak, perch, whipped potatoes, and a baked potato, and tip (minus a buy one get one free from the Prestige Dining Card)= $57

Overall Rating:  4 buckeyes
Clarmont on Urbanspoon

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