Restaurant Review: Burgundy Room

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

With nearly 50 winning wines available by the glass and an inexpensive list of sexy, flavor-packed multi-sized dishes, the Burgundy Room is a terrific place for a little hangout or a full-fledged dinner. Throw in super- friendly servers well-versed in the cuisine and drink pairings, and you have a can't-miss recipe for dining revelry.

But I don't need to tell you that, you can read it in the animated faces of the good-looking crowd glowing in the hushed lighting. In fact, the Burgundy Room is such a hospitable and happening place that even when it screwed up my order once, I still wound up having a bang-up time (luckily, I wasn't in a hurry).

I'll get to that service negative later, because it was heavily outweighed by a ton of positives, and besides, I'd rather concentrate on the reliably delicious food.

A seasonal, spring-loaded menu is currently stretching into place, but in general, the food here is smaller-sized - and priced - servings of crowd-pleasing classics given interesting twists. There's also a sound tendency to balance components with cleverly chosen counterpoints.

And the something-for-everyone food list - which recommends drink pairings for every single item (and allows you to buy a sipping "taste" for only a few bucks) - is designed to facilitate dabbling, mixing and matching, or whole-hog gobbling.

So there's homemade corndogs ($9), but their fried cornbready cloaks enveloped mild, white bratwurst-like duck sausages. Looking like four fatty lollipops, the dogs were lightly smeared with a zest-perked blood orange marmalade, and the snack's sweet and soft elements were tempered by a thick-cut, raw and bitter fennel slaw.

Even better was the excellent roasted asparagus ($8.50). A generous plateful of seared spears were given punch and crunch from tiny pungent fried garlic chips, and a richness came from a perfectly poached egg and a knockout porcini hollandaise I would down shots of.

And, oh, the scrumptious Shrimp and Grits ($9.50). That one showcased two of the kind of shellfish too many other menus falsely claim to offer - meaty big boys with a sweet flavor. Those beauteous bubbas were perched atop a dense and intense mound of wonderful cheddar grits and were further flattered by a rich and racy tomato sauce made chunky and smoky by diced pork belly and bacon.

Rising right to that level was the crave-able Fried Chicken ($10). One of the better deals here, it layered two boneless poultry bundles above outstanding greens (vinegary and porky) atop a light and loose cornbread stuffing. Firing up the whole ensemble was a homemade hot sauce that tasted like buttered-up Frank's.

OK, that service slip-up. On one recent visit, as I stared at my empty tabletop while watching an army of plates being dispatched to others, my long wait resulted (as I had feared) in lukewarm food. But sharing this story only demonstrates that the Burgundy Room actually knows what it's doing. That's because the place quickly made this up to me with perfect replacement entrees and a comped dessert.

And so that evening ended on a sweet note - literally - with Panna Cotta (like a stiff vanilla pudding) drizzled with caramel sauce and showered with chopped hazelnuts. In a play on creme brulee, its homemade whipped cream topping had been enticingly scorched to a crusty golden brown.

So here's the moral of this story: Many a restaurant could learn a thing or two - or 20 - from the terrific Burgundy Room.

Don't worry, be happy

The Burgundy Room's happy hour, which runs Monday through Friday from 4 to a generous 8 p.m. has $4 martinis, $5 house red and white wines by the glass plus discounted pitchers of sangria and domestic beers.

Three tempting tapas plates are available for $6 each after 5 p.m. Currently, they include Chicken Rillettes with Mostarda; P.E.I. Mussels in a winey broth with attractively grilled bread and a rouille (like a spicy mayo, but not really necessary here); and a half-dozen irresistibly soft, juicy, tender and Greek-tastic lamb meatballs drizzled with a garlicky yogurt sauce - they're highly recommended.

Burgundy Room

641 N. High St., Short North



Price: $$ ($11-$20 per person)

Cuisine: Contemporary American

Hours: 4 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Friday-Saturday