Youâ??ll find inventive dishes at this noteworthy new restaurant in an unlikely location. And donâ??t miss the outstanding brunch.
Sage American Bistro is a serious new restaurant (white tablecloths and all) tucked away on a sad little strip of North High Street between Hudson Street and Arcadia Avenue. The owner and chef, Bill Glover, is certainly a courageous sort, abandoning the safety of state employment as the chef at Ohio State's Faculty Club to open a restaurant in this economy and in a location that has seen its share of eateries come and go.
Kudos to him.
The streetscape may be a bit grim, but the interior of this long, narrow rectangle of a room is lovely, mostly because of the warm red brick walls that contrast nicely with the bright linen-and the few colorful and modest paintings.
And I'd also like to compliment the menu; it features fresh and innovative dishes, reasonably priced.
Some of the best food was served only at Sunday brunch. Sage did it up spectacularly with such items as crème brûlée French toast, shiitake mushroom and pancetta bacon frittata, and chorizo, black bean and sweet potato hash. There also was a cinnamon coffeecake served with a strawberry, apple and almond salad tossed in white balsamic vinaigrette. There were the regular egg dishes as well, and a fun mimosa menu, with several variations of the concoction of sparkling wine and fruit juice.
Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday (no lunch). Begin with the large bowl of steamed Prince Edward Island mussels in a garlicky, oniony, tomatoey, fennel-laced broth. The shellfish were fresh and cooked until just opened, and their mild briny flavor took off when eaten with the broth and vegetables. The dish was wonderful, and it would have been perfect if the accompanying bread had been a crusty baguette instead of spongy rolls. (Bread may be a work in progress, since on another night the offering was at least decent.)
Expertly fried calamari was another good choice, with the new fall menu dipping sauce of vinegary and salty juice from bottled pepperoncini and fresh basil (surprise, it really works). I loved the salad compositions, such as pear and Gorgonzola with endive and walnuts, or the house salad that sports grapes, apples, red onion and feta over greens. The salads overall were mildly disappointing, however, due to overdressing and too much vinegar.
As for entrees, you will learn that Glover has a way with noodles. Duck confit, with pappardelle pasta cooked to perfection, was excellent; it was beautifully paired with sage, chestnuts and a slightly bitter, crunchy green called escarole. There were pieces of duck throughout, but the whole thing also was topped with a duck leg. I loved the dish.
When I read "cheese tortelloni," I immediately think of a thick, creamy sauce I want to skip. But our server insisted, thankfully. The pasta pockets tasted freshly made, and they were lovingly paired with a simple mix of corn kernels, shiitake mushrooms, bacon, spinach and white wine. I also loved the pretzel-crusted salmon; salty and crunchy, the coating went wonderfully well with the fish. What else goes with pretzel salmon? You guessed it: mustard sauce, which was tasty.
Somewhat less successful was the grilled chicken dish (a little dry), but the braised lamb shank was worthy of attention. It was soft and rich, with an interesting pairing of chive spaetzle (like little dumplings).
Desserts were good, but I did not find one to sing about as much as the entrees or appetizers. The wine list was modest. House wine pours were generous, so wines by the glass are a good value. Bottle prices were somewhat high relative to state minimums, but this isn't unusual-and perhaps necessary to make a go of it these days. There was an interesting beer list as well, with 14 worthy selections.
If you can't tell, I like this place. Frankly, it got close to getting four stars, for the quality and inventiveness of the menu, but a few flaws in execution held it back. Sage certainly is worth a visit.
2653 N. High St.
Atmosphere: Warm and comfortable.
Recommended dishes: Sautéed mussels, calamari, duck pappardelle, pretzel-crusted salmon, cheese tortelloni, lamb shank, the Sunday brunch.
Price range: Appetizers, soups and salads $6-$8; entrees $16-$24; desserts $5-$7.
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 5 to
10 pm; Sunday 10 am to 2 pm (brunch); closed Monday.
Service: Knowledgeable and attentive.