Saturday, September 26, 2009

9/23/09 - Tink's Cafe (Cincinnati, OH)

One of the pitfalls of traveling for work is dinner – either you are with a group and its hard to please everyone or you are alone and dining by yourself isn’t much fun either. Luckily I stumbled upon Tink’s Cafe on one of my first visits to Cincinnati after getting a recommendation from a hotel employee.
Tink’s is New American food with a twist of Southern cooking. The menu changes periodically but luckily two of my favorite dishes are house specialties so they remain no matter the season. Before getting into tonight’s menu choices though I have to mention the ambiance at Tink’s – while a casual establishment live jazz really enhances the atmosphere and creates a fun and interesting mood which can save the night if you are with co-workers rather than friends as the music fills in some of the quiet space in between talk of reports and deadlines. The service is also impeccable – never a rushed feeling but your glass is always filled and dirty dishes promptly cleared.

Now onto the menu…. during my two visits there I have to admit I have stayed true to the shrimp and grits – taking it as a starter on my first trip and as my main course tonight. Their version of shrimp and grits has all of the southern charm you would expect in this dish but a added boost of flavor from the Tasso Ham glaze. As with all the dishes the flavor isn’t shy – it comes right out and bites you with a hint of spiciness. However that is just the start as its really multi-layered tastes of the sweet creaminess of the grits, perfectly grilled shrimp and rich spice of the sauce.
Going back to my starter tonight – I enjoyed the Caribbean steak tartare which again layered flavors to make this very enjoyable. The sweet spice that reminded me of a Thai dish combined with the sweet and savory mango salsa and crisp plantain chips made this dish a winner in every way.
However it was my dessert – chocolate creme brulee which will leave me with sweet dreams tonight. After having a version of this years ago at a the Cafe Fluri in Boston (I think?) I finally found it again. Honestly I have searched bakeries and sweet shops high and low looking for this combination of what might be my two favorite things on earth – chocolate and caramelized sugar. The addition of some chili powder gave this desert a kick that prevented it from getting too sickly sweet (which can sometimes turn off even a chocolate lover like me)

Other dishes that were tried tonight were the Diver Scallops (which I enjoyed as my main on my last visit) that looked so lovely on my co-workers plate that I almost was reconsidering and the Hunter’s Chicken which left my other co-worker speechless as he ate every bit of perfectly browned skin and succulent chicken.

I don’t think that I will ever again considering eating in the hotel restaurant when visiting Cincinnati – Tink’s menu is just too good to pass up!