A Detailed description

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The single, hand-delivered shrimp was unusually dusted with a sooty-looking substance. Even odder, it played pincushion to a toy-like plastic syringe pricking it in the middle. When I bit into the fatty, chilled crustacean, its pure, clean flavor was enhanced by a visually absent lemon.

Upon finishing the shellfish, as per instruction, I inoculated my gaping mouth with the shot's contents - and was flooded with an explosion of brazenly spicy Bloody Mary cocktail; the spike was spiked! When I returned the soft "needle" to its mound of under-lit, sparkling blue ice, I was informed the shrimp was peppered with a sort of reduced essence of lemon spice from Abu Dhabi.

I loved that distantly sourced play on a shrimp cocktail and the double pun of a shrimp shooter coming with a shot loaded with a shot of vodka. Naturally, I could only be dining at Details in the Short North.

Details occupies a two-story slice of tight, tall and thin space which holds maybe 50 people. This minimal and modern lounge is joined to its much pricier progenitor, the redoubtable Rosendales, by pathways linked by an opposing glass-partitioned stairway sometimes trafficked by both waitstaffs.

In Escher-esque fashion, Details' long metallic downstairs bar fancifully climbs the steep wall to seamlessly form a work surface for the chefs behind the upstairs bar. Think of that as symbolic of something Details does well - connect the high to the low.

Here, lowbrow grub like chili, pork rinds, chips, burgers, fries and ice cream sandwiches get witty high-style makeovers. Incredibly, most of the magic is performed using only a couple of panini grills, a fryer and a few whiz-bang high-tech gadgets like an anti-griddle, which can quickly lower foods within reach of its negative-50-degree surface.

Unquestionably the best view of the cooking action -really the only one -is at the six-seat upstairs "Minibar." Heavily influenced by Caf Atlantico's same-named six-seat Minibar in D.C., Details' Minibar is where just one or two very talented and busy guys surprisingly bend, sear and assemble most of Details' labor-intensive yet inexpensive comestibles.

Like crispy, meaty fries ($4) with three potent dipping sauces and those pork rinds ($4). The latter were light, airy yet crackly piggy strips sprinkled with dehydrated Frank's Red Hot sauce (who else does that?) and evanescent in the mouth.

Characteristically, Details proudly smokes and cures its own meat, presenting its irresistible fancy cold cuts (and more) on a Charcuterie Specialties plate ($11) but also in the Old-Fashioned ($9), a pastrami sandwich with vivid Reubenesque flavors.

The excellent Tuna Tar Tar Tacos ($9) are deservedly popular. Japanese sushi flavors get recontextualized into Mexican form as fried wontons curved like tacos carry the pristine goodies and deliver the crunch.

Though there's no devil in this Details, sometimes an imp creeps in. As with oily but otherwise nice Potstickers ($6.50) and a misnamed Spanish Chorizo Chili ($4.50), which tastes great but (at least the times I tried it) is made with ground Mexican chorizo.

And I've had the Details burgers ($9.50) - three sumptuous steak-slabby Angus beef sliders on outrageously wonderful brioche rolls - served to me both warm and cold. I liked them better warm.

But I liked them best made with Elysian Fields lamb and plucked from their sous-vide packet in front of me. That happened during a two-hour, fun and informative, chef one-on-one "Detailed Experience" Minibar tasting ($55).

It was then, while explaining his intricate techniques and beautiful ingredients a la Mr. Wizard-meets-a sushi master, that the gifted chef personally presented me with that clever shrimp cocktail and many, many other incredible nibbles (see box).

Details might be small but its flavors are large. It has knowledgeable and friendly servers and the most interesting cocktails in Columbus, and a truly top-notch wine and beer list and - oh, just go already.