A clean, well-lighted place

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

It was spare, dark and masculine. It was rich, earthy and deep. It had a hard-polished exterior. And lurking barely beneath the surface, it whispered always of blood.

What could I be referring to? Two things - the hugely influential writing of Ernest Hemingway, and a lusty, meaty appetizer I eagerly sliced through at the Short Story Brasserie. And the two are related. But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.

The quaint yet impressive Short Story Brasserie - with chefs who've worked at the Refectory, L'Antibes (which this place most resembles) and Handke's Table - is yet another reason to visit quaint old Granville.

In the "forward" to its playfully eccentric, literary-touched menu (which has ethnic influences from Hemingway's many famed locales and a dessert list called the "Denouement"), the brasserie states its desire to deliver "a world of flavor and culinary adventure" to diners in the same spirit that Hemingway brought the world to this restaurant's owner via books.

At first sight, I thought that seemed like a tall order from a short structure that resembled a mobile home. Upon later reflection, though, I decided Papa was a rolling stone and, besides, I shouldn't judge this Short Story by its cover.

Good thing, too, because on the inside, the 34-seater was utterly charming. A small white-shirt-and-tie-clad staff oversaw a granite-y bar and a single dining room. Small but uncramped, the two rooms bore the stamps of world travel - literally - on their walls.

The main room also carried a portrait of Ernest; a wide, space-stretching mirror; alternating matte orange, green and gold walls; and shiny curtains that picked up those coral colors.

In this sleek and modern setting, perfectly volumed jazzy and Waits-ian music played, top-notch aperitifs and cocktails were sold on the relative cheap (Lillet enhanced with orange peel, $5; Grey Goose Martini with ginger syrup and pear liqueur, $7.50) and an enticing list of wines was graciously available for a mere $10 above state minimum (Short Story shares owners with the nifty wine shop it sits above). Therefore, I say, follow Hemingway's un-dry way and drink up!

And eat up, too, because the food is terrific. After a simple but effective amuse bouche (bacon-stuffed mussel), I dug into that previously described appetizer - two medium-rare, rosemary-scented lamb tenderloin hunks linked with black-crusted, spicy merguez sausage pieces, a delicately diced ratatouille (no tomato) and a flattering pool of intense, olive-salty, demi-like sauce ($10).

A Plantain-Crusted Tuna app ($10) was just about as delicious. Its entree-sized block of medium-cooked fish arrived with a hard-candy-like crust smeared with a textured, high-toned, dark jerk glaze. Providing bright contrast were a pretty pineapple, mixed pepper and red onion salsa, and sugar snap peas - which waved out underneath the tuna like the blades to a chlorophyll-filled fan.

Entrees were also right on. The Pan-Seared Sea Scallops ($21) were four hefty specimens with light crusts that yielded to melt-in-your-mouth textures. These rested above a creamy, peanut-butter-colored sauce with a richness pointed up (but not overwhelmed) by bacon. The bacon effectively bounced off sauteed shiitakes, and the whole assemblage found a crunchy green vegetal foil in al-dente snippets of daintily clipped asparagus.

Fresh tomatoes provided some fruity leavening for a huge bowl of creamy Bolognese of Braised Veal Short Ribs over pappardelle ($18). The long, fat strands of homemade pasta were perfect, and their powerful, pot-roast-y, rich and meaty sauce somehow never "ate" monotonously. But talk about lush!

A chocolate tart ($8) also had me speaking in a tongue that wagged with joy. A thin, gnarly chocolate twig balanced atop a sphere of caramel ice cream with coffee notes. This sat above a dense layer of chewy dark chocolate that had been poured into a little flaky crust. Surrounding this - like a ring of Saturn - was a creme anglaise with caramel dots. Talk about out of this world.

So why not emulate Hemingway and get out of this town to visit a new place to eat and drink? G.A. says check out the Short Story Brasserie.