Restaurant review: Vonn Jazz & Blues

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Vonn Jazz & Blues recently hired Michael Black, a new kitchen bandleader with an impressive dish-ography. See, Black developed smokin' chops by gigging with chart toppers like Alana's, G. Michael's and the Burgundy Room. Now that Black has brought his axe to Vonn, I figured I should catch a couple sets and report back to you cats (and with that, I lay to rest the music/cooking pun and metaphor making).

If you haven't been to Vonn's, the place is a stunner. For starters, right by Vonn's entrance is a glass case that sells boudoir-oriented accoutrements like lotions and, especially noteworthy, shower robes and wine bottles bearing the place's name and logo.

Past this is a huge music hall/bar/dining room with stone archways serving as its sort of skeleton. Fleshing that out is an elaborate, splashy and wild-looking design scheme that uses sexy light fixtures, black, white and especially lurid red (plush curtains, painted chandeliers) to achieve a sort of hoo-doo voo-doo lounge cum house-of-ill-repute vibe - New Orleans' style.

But a series of large-scale portraits of local musicians completely rimming the massive room on what look like blackboards show where Vonn's true, tune-loving heart lies. Thing is, I was more concerned about my stomach.

On that count, though the friendly wait service could be painfully slow and wine prices are borderline scandalous, Vonn's acquitted itself quite well. In fact, its cuisine - Southern-meets-Asian-influences-meets-seasonal ingredients - generally looked great and ate the same. (Note: Between visits, Vonn's menu shifted to its fall version, so all of the following dishes might not be presently available.)

Restaurants often implement stuffed spuds to hint at their personality. For example, Chef Black's time in the Carolinas was evident in the unusual but good Southern Style Potato Skins ($8). Four crisply fried tuber halves were layered with firm black-eyed peas, five-spicy barbecued pork and tangy greens.

Other decent starters were a bowl of roux-built, rich and zesty Gumbo ($6) with seafood, rice, spicy andouille sausage and chicken - a soup so thick my spoon stood straight up in it; and the Vonn house salad - impressively fresh greens with an aggressive champagne-orange vinaigrette, hearts of palm, grated gouda cheese and tartness-relieving sweet dried cranberries.

Japanese influences showed up in the excellent Arborio-encrusted Tuna entree ($24). Resembling a shogun's helmet on the plate were an assemblage of beautiful raw fish with an almost popcorny, rice-studded crackly exterior sear, nifty sauteed bok choy, pickled onions and an inspired "succotash" made with edamame, corn and red pepper.

Another big seafood success was the autumnal-inflected Pan Seared Sea Scallops ($22). A quartet of marginally salty shellfish with an elegant ginger and carrot beurre blanc sauce played very nice with a rockin' risotto high on mushrooms (lots of shiitakes) and chunks of butternut squash.

Fall fell forcefully - and in a sweet and sour fashion - on the Cherry Smoked Pork Chop ($24). A fist-sized wedge of lightly smoked pig was served with a pickly and spicy tropical fruit chutney plus an addictive, vinegary German potato salad. Also along were bacony Brussels sprouts, which tasted great but were undercooked.

A silky smooth tart and rich Key Lime Pie ($7) would easily feed two - unless I ordered that buttery graham-crusted beauty. In that case, get your own - because, like several dishes here, it was just too delicious to share.

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Vonn Jazz & Blues

245 East Campus View Blvd., Worthington