When Nigal Vann isn't crafting cocktails behind the bar at M, he's exploring the food scene, from Downtown to the outer 'burbs.
"I thought she'd just recommend a book or a website," Vann says. "But she became my mentor, and it's been about five years. Cris consults for different places around town. I joke I am unofficially on her opening team-she creates cocktails, and I go in to maintain the standards."
Vann has held several positions, from helping to open Pie's Gourmet Pizza Bistro in Reynoldsburg to a recent stint as bar manager at Powell's Prohibition. He's also a freelance bartender for weddings and special events. And now, he's a bartender at M, Cameron Mitchell's flagship restaurant, located at Miranova. Vann is not only excited to be working side-by-side with Dehlavi at M, but also to be a part of a team that answers every question with a "yes" instead of a "no."
"M is fine dining without being pretentious," he says. "We really care about the guests we serve, and we encourage patrons to come in and celebrate any occasion, whether it be an anniversary, birthday or just a Tuesday."
What is your favorite cocktail at M? I would say the margarita. What makes it different is that it has jalapeno agave.
And what's your drink specialty? The Marquee, with Cointreau Noir, Belvedere Citrus, agave nectar, lemon juice, blood orange puree and egg white. It has the symbol for M [stenciled with angostura bitters], and it's a nice design. If you sip it, the M gets smaller. It keeps its shape.
Favorite thing to eat at M? I love sushi. They have a fantastic sushi selection. I am torn between the Dragon Roll and the Caterpillar.
Can you recommend a good food and drink pairing? We have a drink called Peach Bourbon, new on our spring menu. It will go well with the burgers-they are our appetizer here. You get two sliders with some fries. The sweetness of the peach matches the caramelization of the onions [on the burger].
If someone hasn't been to M before, what should they try? I highly recommend the Steak in a Bowl. It has been an entree on the menu from day one. There's truffle, blue cheese and steak. It's amazing. For drinks, we have The Billionaire. I like it because it has the absinthe in there.
Where do you like to frequent in your neighborhood? Kraft House No. 5 has a Waikiki Burger I like. They think outside the box with their food. A lot of the kitchen and bar staff has Short North backgrounds, and you can see that. They also have lobster rolls that are good.
Where else around town do you like to grab a drink? Mouton or Curio.
What's a good seafood spot? M has lobster mashed potatoes that are awesome. And an amazing sea bass. It's been the same dish since the restaurant opened.
Who has the best brunch in Columbus? I have to check out Lindey's. I hear a lot about that one. But 101 Beer Kitchen-they have a breakfast pizza called the BELT.