I have been wanting to go to Alana’s for a long time, having read rave reviews of it on many of the Columbus food blogs and knowing that it is a favorite of several food lovers whose opinions I rate.
Alana’s did not disappoint. It was everything I hoped it would be and more, and is easily (so far) my favorite restaurant in Columbus. For me, it is the perfect mixture of creative cooking, with local, seasonal foods, beautifully presented, and combined with attentive yet unpretentious service, a warm and informal atmosphere and a touch of quirkiness and humor (for example the warning on the menu that states ‘cell phones interfere with proper risotto preparation’). Top class restaurants sometimes feel overly starched and formal but there is something about the welcome you receive at Alana’s that allows you to relax and feel quite comfortable asking questions, making requests or seeking recommendations. I only wish I could afford to eat there every week.
I started off with a cocktail at the new bar, which is on its third incarnation having been salvaged from another bar in town. What a great example of recycling. It could certainly tell some tales. My drink was a potent concoction of gin and grapefruit bitters garnished with a frozen slice of grapefruit that hit me like a wave on the first sip and may account for a mild headache this morning.
There were many tempting offerings on the menu and some we sadly had to pass up (notably the seared halibut cheeks with garam masala sweet potatoes and fennel vingaigrette). I am a little sad that we didn’t get the cheese plate. I enjoyed seeing so many of the fruits and vegetables I bought in the market last week on the menu (reliance grapes, white carrots, lima beans, zebra tomatoes to name a few).
We shared two starters; golden beet stack with black walnuts, fennel, candied black walnuts, manouri (a soft greek cheese) and upland cress
and bresola with shaved zucchini with opal basil, fresh mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic. The speed at which both disappeared spoke to how good they were. Light and delicious with well matched flavors.
All of the food was so good that it is hard to pick one stand out dish, but if I had to pick it would be the risotto with seared scallops (perfectly executed), goat cheese, sweet corn, grilled tomatillo and pumpkin. It was divine.
Desert was a creation of hazlenuts and figs topped with Jeni’s ice cream, the exact details of which are a little hazy so I hope the photo will speak for itself.
Special commendation should go to Gideon, our server, who was phenomenal. Extremely knowledgeable about wine, obviously passionate about both wine and food, collaborative and entertaining. Suggestions were offered, choices discussed and shared dishes were thoughtfully brought out on two plates. I am sure the other staff are also first rate, but I would definitely put in a special request for him. His wine recommendation to encompass our food choices was a white Rhône style wine, a 2003 Domaine Terre Rouge “Enigma” from the Sierra Foothills, which was one of the highlights of the evening.