Forward-thinking on Parsons Avenue
The Lower East Side in Manhattan might be the hippest neighborhood on the planet. Comune on the South Side of Columbus would fit perfectly into that edgy and arty part of New York City. Welcome to the fanciest vegetarian restaurant in town.
And welcome to the fruit of an enduring friendship between co-owners Brook Maikut and Joe Galati, who, after traveling the world seeking culinary adventures, eventually embraced a self-described “plant-forward” philosophy. Once the duo hired Comune chef Ben Kanavel, whose resume reads like an all-star roster of local eateries, that philosophy metamorphosed into beautifully plated, mostly vegan dishes so delicious they could please the staunchest of carnivores.
With stark white walls contrasted by numerous black accents and a less-is-more design scheme, Comune epitomizes an ultra-chic, contemporary eatery. Black and white are also the respective tints in the bathrooms, both of which surprise visitors with the piped-in voice of American author Henry Miller holding forth on provocative topics.
Everything's not black and white. Multiple windows, a couple of abstract artworks, live plants, a zesty soundtrack and date-night-worthy low lighting add to Comune's “wow factor.”
Ditto for a small list of uncommon wines. The fine craft cocktails also mine an admirable aesthetic: They can sound exotic, but wind up tasting like something familiar given new life. Example: The Matcha Matcha is basically a martini with a lemony green tea finish.
Comune's food follows suit. Its hefty, spicy, peanut-sauced dan dan noodles are a strikingly presented, veggie-heavy home run. Other reinvented classics that knock it out of the park include the stir-fried spaghetti squash (read: clever vegan pad Thai), fantastic fresh semolina pappardelle with a walnut-maitake “Bolognese” sauce and Comune's signature Bread + Spread—a mammoth, koji-spiked, grill-marked house pita served with three vibrant dips, such as kimchi-hummus.
Meet the Chef: Ben Kanavel
Resume: Kitchen manager, The Sycamore; sous chef/co-executive chef, The Worthington Inn; kitchen manager/sous chef, Salt & Pine
Favorite piece of kitchen equipment: “Currently, the pasta roller”
What is the dish you're most proud of? “Fresh semolina pappardelle”
What does Central Ohio need? “True seasonally driven menus and more Thai restaurants”
Most-Instagrammed item on the menu? “The whole table”