'Plas Food and Drink excels at fun, unfussy fine dining

The Short North newcomer is on the short list for the best new Columbus restaurant of 2021

G.A. Benton
The vegetarian charcuteri board at 'Plas Food & Drink

This is a “don’t bury the lede” kind of story, so I won’t: ‘Plas Food and Drink is on the short list for best new Columbus restaurant.

As its odd name suggests — “'Plas” is self-created slang for mise en place, a French phrase that describes a chef’s “everything in its place” cooking station — 'Plas is serious when it comes to food, but not when it comes to attitude. It’s a fine-dining establishment that successfully aims to be fun, not fussy.  

Yes, 'Plas has a labor-intensive, French-and-Italian-influenced cooking ethos expressed in house-made cheese, pastas, charcuterie and bread. But unlike a self-consciously fancy eatery, 'Plas fuses its handmade sensibility to a farm-to-table-style rusticity that I sometimes label the “wine country aesthetic.” This easygoing sophistication is reflected in 'Plas’ ambience. 

Assuming the Short North address once claimed by The Table — and offering an attractive, secluded patio — 'Plas’ main space is a window-filled, lively room whose simple white, gray and black tones play off farmhouse-style wood and abstract artworks by local painters. Visitors to the notably friendly operation are frequently greeted with a hardy “hello” from chef/co-owner Jamie George (formerly with Z Cucina di Spirito), who is often working hard in the semi-open kitchen that borders the front door. 

Heirloom Tomato Caprese at 'Plas Food & Drink

Visitors will also be greeted by a personable server who’ll gift them with a platter of house-baked focaccia matched with a compound butter (like chile-cilantro or Parmesan-caper) and embellishments such as a blackberry gastrique and pickled and roasted fruits and vegetables.

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Expectations raised by this taste of 'Plas’ food and approach — handmade, but not precious; bold, but widely approachable — are further elevated by scanning a great-looking menu rife with local and seasonal ingredients. Many such expectations will be met, or even exceeded, especially with the starters (aka “pieces”), the best-bang-for-your-buck section of the menu.

It’s August in Ohio, so high-quality tomatoes and corn enhance several large and outstanding starters. These include: sweet corn panna cotta ($12) — an inspired dish that partners Mexican-style street corn with its reimagined form as a soothing corn pudding; a terrific heirloom tomato caprese with milky, house-made mozzarella, pesto-like flourishes and a medley of delicious tomatoes; the deceptively titled “chopped beets” ($14) — a huge, healthful and tongue-tingling collection of compartmentalized pickles, peppers and marinated, relish-like veggie creations, plus grassy greens with (uncharacteristically shy) gorgonzola-buttermilk vinaigrette drizzles.         

Pickled watermelon salad at 'Plas Food & Drink

Entrees showcase fine ingredients, too. A fragrant fennel salad, house sesame oil and ginger worked as the thematic bridge between beautiful, sashimi-style fish (with a wonderful crust of blackening spices) and ripe fruit, like blackberries and peaches, in the pricey but delightful seared tuna ($38).  

House-made pastas are featured in several interesting dishes. The extra-large “everyday gravy” ($25) was a no-holds-barred production with lovely pappardelle, a meaty and acidic tomato sauce (acidic brightness is prevalent here), minced aromatics, good-tasting but extra-firm meatballs, sausages, peppers, herbs, raisins, you name it.

I liked the “sweet n spicy roasted chicken” ($27) at least as much: tender pulled meat and chile-spiked wide noodles boosted by a slightly sweet, zippy sauce enriched with mozzarella and a creamed corn-like garnish.

Seared Tuna entree at 'Plas Food & Drink

My experiences weren't perfect. Although great-tasting, my sweet corn ravioli ($26) had textural issues. And a frustratingly long wait for cocktails on a busy night resulted in the easy-drinking — but expensive ($14) and not particularly nuanced — zaragoza zinger (tasted like gingery lemonade) and “reverse Manhattan” (with an amusing branded ice cube).

Given 'Plas many positive qualities, though — which include offering house gelatos ($7) and appealing, food-friendly wines (the versatile $7 per glass Cantina Settecani lambrusco, with tart berry notes and a slight fizz, is a quintessential summer beverage) — such minor deficits don’t detract from the fact that ‘Plas is one of the best Columbus restaurants to open in 2021.     

Hazelnut pots de creme at 'Plas Food & Drink

'Plas Food + Drink

21 E Fifth Ave., Suite 101, Italian Village