Restaurant review: Cameron Mitchell's The Guild House is one of his best

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The Guild House is the best restaurant Cameron Mitchell has opened since M. It’s also his hippest and most interesting restaurant.

Taking a cue from its setting — the stylish new Le Meridien, The Joseph hotel in the Short North — Guild House is upscale but neither pretentious nor stuffy. Rough-hewn wood and a soaring ceiling lend Guild House de rigeur rusticity. Cream-colored banquettes, Eames chairs and paintings in 19th-century French styles give it an airy sleekness. Toss in green chandeliers, great lighting and enormous vases with denuded trees, and the overall effect is that Guild House’s chic look might’ve been designed by the Anthropologie store across the street.

Guild’s menus (breakfast, lunch and brunch are served; I’m only reviewing dinner) were also designed with sophistication. They’re zeitgeist-savvy documents that speak minimally in list-of-ingredient nouns. Executive Chef John Paul Iacobucci’s food communicates with considerably more verve.

Titles for cocktails ($10) are characteristically understated too. I enjoyed the smoky, citrusy and basil-kissed Mezcal more than the lightweight (though made similar to a “perfect” Manhattan) Rye. Both hide their top-shelf alcohols behind lots of crushed ice.

Guild’s signature Cocktail for Two ($20) recalls a mai tai, and arrives in a huge flask-like vessel resembling a ship’s porthole. Made with rum, orgeat and citrus, it’s a ticklish quaff and presentation, but would taste better if $15. While price compromises some of the wine selections, Guild offers an expansive and food-friendly list.

Though not cheap, Guild’s best dishes warrant their cost. For instance, the eminently Instagrammable Tuna Ribbons ($15) — which visually mimic a flower — tasted almost as good as they looked. A pink rose of deftly folded raw fish strips sprouted above “sepals” of paper-thin radishes. Creamed avocado, chili oil and table-poured yuzu sauce helped bring the mild tuna’s flavor to blossom.

Guild’s Chicken Roulade ($21), which skillfully incorporates light and earthy elements, is one of the most impressive yardbird entrees in town. Thick pinwheel discs with bronzed skin enveloped tender, juicy and fresh-tasting chicken flattered by swirls of uncredited duck pate. Shaved black truffle, wild mushrooms and dainty roasted root vegetables accentuated the pate. Corralling the cascading presentation were a salty madeira reduction and buttery celery root puree.

Guild’s Sea Bass ($36) is the best new seafood dish I’ve tried this year. A vibrant micro-salad crested atop a beautiful hunk of fish with an exceptionally crunchy, golden-brown salted crust. Beneath this was snow-white flesh that practically melted like snow in my mouth. Contributing brilliant accompaniment was a lovely lobster broth rife with tender lobster meat and heirloom root vegetables. My single, niggling complaint is that it’s much easier eaten with a spoon — if, like me, you don’t get one, ask.

Among more affordable items, the charred Brussels Sprouts ($8) starter brimmed over its shallow bowl, and was therefore hard to eat. Too bad, because this warm “salad” laced with sweetly caramelized onions, mustard, white cheddar and toasted pecans was brash yet balanced.

I had no problem shoveling in every lusty morsel of the low-carb Pork Cheeks appetizer ($14). A rich, thick and salty ragu with melt-in-your-mouth pig nuggets used spaghetti squash strands for pasta and a blistered shishito pepper for heat.

The Kielbasa entree ($14) was a qualified success. I enjoyed the plump homemade sausage’s smoky flavor and kicky fontina cheese filling. And a vinegary slaw made with frilly Napa cabbage and onions brought bold counterpoint. But the kielbasa casing wasn’t snappy, and the accompanying spaetzle was bland.

Guild’s Trifle dessert ($7) capped strata of bright mango mousse, tongue-tingling lemon curd and light chiffon cake with a pretty pomegranate gelee, mango curls and real whipped cream. Representing Guild at its best, it was elegant, unpretentious and utterly delicious.

Guild House

624 N. High St., Short North