This was my second time at Aria, which is nested in the Fairmont Hotel on Columbus. Once you get through the revolving doors, though, it doesn't really have the feel of a hotel restaurant. The main dining room plays host to the bar and to a sushi bar. We dined in the back of the restaurant, which is a long, narrow wing off of the main dining area. There is no access to the hotel from this part of the restaurant, so there's no overt signs of being in a hotel back there. Because it is separated from the main room, though, it also lacks some of the ambiance and, dare I say, scene. The fun color scheme from the main dining room is not carried over to this wing and the lights are quite a bit brighter. That's not to say that this part of the restaurant was not inviting, though. The wing is cloaked in warm tones, with mahogany walls and reddish-orange tones throughout the decor.
Aria describes itself as "culturally inspired, comfortably American." The menu itself is pretty interesting, since it goes far past the point of fusion and is essentially just a sampling of dishes from a slew of seemingly unconnected cultures. Menu items run from the middle-eastern inspired, such as marinated lamb kabobs, to Chinese, with duck and lobster chow mein, to Indian, with Punjabi curry. Generally, though it seems to work. We ate from a short menu since it was an event for the Firm, but the options were strikingly diverse. The main course options were salmon with Mediterranean influence, shrimp and chicken pad thai, the aforementioned duck and lobster chow mein with coriander noodles, sweet shoyu and cardamom, along with a 10 ounce steak covered with a red wine demi-glace.
Before our meal we were given baskets of warm naan, accompanied by four sauces.
I cannot fully recall what each of those sauces were, but I know that one was lentil- based, which was very good. There was also a yogurt sauce, a spinach paneer type and I cannot for the life of me remember what that little number on the top left-hand side of that photo was, but I am pretty sure it was curry-based. Either way, naan is delicious and this naan was no different.
Mushroom Soup Your Mother Never Made
This soup was quite good, if slightly over-salted. A friend complained that her soup was a bit oily, but I did my best not to mess with that little pool of oil you can see above. I ate around it, since I had a suspicion that it wasn't necessary in the soup, and it wasn't. The soup was a mix of porcini, chanterelles and morels and was served with the goat cheese toast. The mushrooms for the most part were totally blended into the soup, but there were a number of chunks in there too. Those chunks seems like they were all button mushrooms though- a nice chunk of chanterelle would not have been met negatively. Overall, though the soup was pretty nice, and since my mother has never made mushroom soup in her life (we're not a big cream-based soup family), it had no problem living up to its title.
Garbanzo Dusted Filet of Scottish Salmon with Black Olive Tampenade, Preserved Lemon, Tabouleh, Hummus Sauce and Micro Parsley
Onwards,from American cuisine to on to Mediterranean. I was a little bit disappointed with this dish. The fish sat atop a bed of tabouleh, which very heavy on the cracked wheat but was nonetheless good. This tabouleh was surrounded by the hummus sauce, which tasted, shocker- like hummus but was much thinner. The fish was cooked perfectly, but the olives brought just way too much salt to the rest of the plate and pretty much ruined it for me. The tampenade managed to infiltrate every component of the dish and overwhelmed the whole thing. The dish probably would have stood up quite well in the olive's absence , though. It was perfectly alright though, since I was approaching the level of painful fullness before my main course was even brought to the table. What can I say, I just can't resist the naan.
As if the cultural theme of the meal was not confusing enough, the waiters brought along a few plates of potatoes for the table. I guess this is the "comfortably american" part:
From left to right there were mashed yams with a sauce that I cannot quite put my finger on right now, garlic potatoes gratin and roasted fingerlings with horseradish sauce.
I ate just enough of each to fulfill my food-blogger duty. The gratin potatoes were probably my favorite of the bunch. You usually can do no wrong by me with horseradish, but that sauce just tasted like mayonnaise, with which you can usually do no right by me.
Selection of Homemade Sorbets
The four sorbets you see above are apple cider, concord grape, roasted french butter pear and spiced cranberry orange. The apple cider was probably my favorite. The Concord grape really packed on the flavor and was also delicious. The cranberry orange didn't leave any sort of a lasting impression, while the texture of the pear sorbet was not at all what I expected. It was just a bit creamy, but the flavors were still very good. You really cannot go wrong with pear though, can you?
A general sentiment that I heard echoed up and down the table was that the food as a whole was quite salty. I stole a bit of chow mein from my neighbor to the right, and it was far too salty indeed. There were rave reviews about the steak, though and everyone left the restaurant quite pleased. I do apologize for my spotty recap of this meal. It went down on November 1st, so that was quite a while ago, but school has kept me quite busy this past week.
I've been to Aria twice now, both for Firm events, and have been happy with my food both times. The service is always incredibly nice and accommodating; they let us hang around well beyond the time our tables were cleared even though it was obvious they were waiting for us to go home. Despite the fact that the menu is influenced with by such a variety of cuisine, it is executed on a fairly consistent level.
200 N. Columbus Dr.
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