Yes, I still have some beefs with this Ohio-based seafood franchise, beyond the fact that it’s an Ohio-based seafood franchise—at the price point of its urban-coastal superiors. But after a recent, somewhat reluctant excursion to its swank downstairs lounge, I have to admit it has its good points.

Bar service, for instance. Although markup, especially for wines by the glass, is way out of line—think $12 for a glass of Malbec that I happen to know goes for about $16-17 per retail bottle—pours are generous, & the Director’s (more reasonably priced) Scotch was handsomely presented with both ice & water on the side for diluting as desired. Plus: free popcorn! Reeking of truffle oil, to be sure, but I’m not in the camp that looks down its nose at the synthetic imitation of the precious fungus—smells like it, tastes like it, has its place, namely on popcorn.

Slivers of real truffle do, however, add aromatic verve to the creamiest of deviled eggs, along with a smidgen of caviar.

At nearly $20, the shellfish “Cobb” salad had better be bursting with chunks of lobster & shrimp as well as lump crab, & it is, plus plenty of crumbled bacon, blue cheese & egg. Honey-mustard-like “gourmet dressing” serves it well, adding a touch of sweetness & spice.

As for the Director’s hunk of Chilean sea bass over whipped potatoes in a Champagne sauce flecked with carrots & yet more (although in this case scant) truffle—I know the price of this fish per pound has increased dramatically, no doubt in relation to species depletion (I really should pay more attention to this stuff), but $42 still strikes me as over the top for a dish that, given its luxury ingredients, didn’t taste all that luxurious—it tasted fine, like a nice piece of fish over nice potatoes in a nice sauce.

Still, whatever cynicism born of greed may be operating in the corporate office, I don’t sense it coming from the ground crew; there’s genuine effort being made here to serve contemporary surf & turf with polish. If only they offered oysters à la carte, I might even return.

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