Entrees at upscale Cooper’s Hawk operation more convincing than wines

By  Jon Christensen For The Columbus Dispatch

Jonathan Quilter | DISPATCH

The first Cooper’s Hawk operation in Ohio has landed at Easton Town Center. A huge amount of floor space is devoted to an upscale-decor bar and retail area centered on the Illinois company’s wines. That area leads to the well-appointed dining room.

The Caesar salad ($5.99) is made with chopped romaine. A pleasant dressing is reinforced with grated Parmesan-style cheese and slivers of aged Asiago cheese. The lavash flatbread triangles are nicely herbed.

Another chopped interpretation — this time of a wedge salad ($6.99) — uses wine vinaigrette as well as a traditional blue-cheese dressing. Adding interest are bacon, grape tomatoes and good-quality blue cheese.

One of the virtues of the berry and greens salad ($5.99) is a restrained hand with the raspberry vinaigrette that lightly coats the designer greens, dried cherries, candied walnuts and thin slices of Asian pear.

Although billed as an appetizer, the Mexican drunken shrimp ($12.99) can easily serve as a light entree. The large shrimp are wrapped tightly with bacon and grilled briefly. They’re served on small mounds of fresh guacamole and given a buttery lime sauce with a trace of tequila.

The convincing entrees include braised beef short ribs atop risotto ($20.99). The meat has a slow-roasted flavor and texture. The risotto, which is made with carnaroli rice, is made with a decent meat stock and well-sauteed button mushrooms reinforced with plenty of truffle oil.

A grouper fillet is served roasted with a real pistachio crust ($25.99) and accompanied by unusually good, perfectly cooked asparagus stalks. A scoop of mashed potatoes has an authentic potato flavor and not too much richness.

The seafood cannelloni ($22.99) has shrimp and scallop slices and ricotta cheese tucked into pasta shells and given a rich sauce spiced lightly with chicken chorizo and ancho peppers. The filling, flavorful dish shows originality.

Another entree with a flavorful sauce is Lynn’s Asian pork ($19.99). Lean pork tenderloin slices are bathed in a sweet, enticing mix of soy, garlic, sesame oil and ginger. Puzzlingly, the plain meat doesn’t pick up much flavor from the sauce.

The accompanying wasabi mashed potatoes are rich, full of potato flavor and have a large dab of wasabi in the middle for spice. The stir-fried green beans and sweet peppers on the side taste fresh, not frozen.

Desserts are said to be large enough to share. That’s certainly true of “banoffee,” one of the featured offerings ($6.99). Think of a graham-cracker crust with sliced bananas inside, nicely blanketed in a sweet caramel sauce that’s hard to resist. Even the huge amount of whipped cream belongs.

The apple pie ($6.99) uses apple slices that taste as if they’ve been marinated in lemon juice.

The acidity helps balance the high sugar level of the tart-sized pie.Visitors can get any wine they want as long as it bears the Cooper’s Hawk name. The company claims to make dozens of wine types using grapes sourced from undocumented areas of the Pacific coast states.

The unhelpful descriptions speak of all kinds of flavor analogs, with only an occasional mention of structure — the most important aspect of choosing a wine to go with food.The best thing about the whole wine shtick is the willingness to give small tastes, with no obligation.The “pinot noir” tasted like flavored alcohol, with no discernible varietal character.

For that matter, the “unoaked chardonnay” ($7.25), which had adequate acidity for accompanying food — even rich food — had little chardonnay flavor or aroma.

The current “barrel reserve” ($8.75), however, which was described as a red Bordeaux blend, did have a convincing aroma and taste. Consider making that one of the prime choices when a dry red is needed. Or try the “Cooper’s Hawk red blend” of cabernet sauvignon and merlot ($6.75), which also shows better balance than most of the others, including the alcoholic “Barbera” ($8.50).

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