Restaurant Review: Sage

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

I could see the dreaded yellow tape bound to orange barrels staring back at me in a reflection on the front door to Sage American Bistro. That strip of plastic sadly twisting in the breeze delineated the rubbly barriers of a badly chewed-up stretch of High Street. The tape dumbly repeated an all-too familiar word over and over again: Caution.

Well, dear readers, let me strongly urge you to throw the tape's message to the wind and make the minor effort necessary to traipse across some nasty terrain and step into Sage and one of the best brunches in Columbus.

Once you make it inside on a Sunday, you'll be treated to a feast that for price, portion, flavor and service is nearly impossible to beat in our city. One reason I'm writing this is because in these tough economic times, you deserve to eat the bold, brunchy food sold on the relative cheap at Sage. Another reason is that Sage deserves a loyal clientele to help it last through these days of seemingly endless High Street construction.

Fortunately, so far, the place doesn't seem to be hurting much for Sunday business. I'd say there's a bit of a buzz about Sage's brunch, but if you haven't heard about it yet, then listen up.

Like its supper menu, Sage's brunch list is refreshingly abbreviated. It's also headed for a mini makeover, but I've been assured that most every dish I recently tried will make it onto the newer model.

One entree that won't carry over is the Chef's Crepe ($8), so if you want it, get it soon. You'll get two huge blond tubes with a neutral flavor but a mouth-soothing smooth texture. Served cool and stuffed with (usually) lunchy fare, the crepes far outclassed any old wrap and came with a small designer greens salad.

A similar tuft of tender leaves crowned my Shiitake Mushroom and Pancetta Frittata ($8). That herb-inflected raised egg patty was rich and pungent with a deep reservoir of gorgonzola plus the diced meat. What's more, the flavor-bursting frittata arrived handsomely barely browned and with a snappy texture.

Maybe even better was the brash Chorizo, Black Bean and Sweet Potato Hash ($8). That dish pulled no punches in the spice department, as its sliced chorizo packed quite the wallop. Topped with two semi-hard fried eggs was a loose assemblage of ribbons of peppers, little discs of orange spuds, a sprinkling of beans and the searing hot sausage. The result was colorful, sweet, salty, utterly wonderful and came with a charred salsa on the side. Warning: not for sissies.

Sage's signature Creme Brulee French Toast ($8) is for everyone - I can't imagine anyone not loving it. Four pieces of baked eggy bread absorbed an avalanche of warmed fruit (berries and bananas) with a vibrant, concentrated flavor obtained through sauteeing. Gilding the lily, warm maple syrup was married to the liquefied fruit essence, and their union - a bright purple, fragrantly fruity sauce relatively restrained in sweetness - honeymooned on the slowly drenching crusty bread. Wow.

A little lighter sweet-sider was the healthy and fun-to-eat Granola and Yogurt Parfait ($7). It might've been layered like a fruit trifle, but this was no trifle - it was massive. A fat goblet was filled with an abundance of chewy granola, fruit, some toasted coconut, slivers of almonds and just enough low-fat yogurt to soften the crunch.

So make it over to Sage's brunch - I guarantee you'll be glad you did. And when you pass that silly yellow tape outside, consider it a warning to other local restaurants hubristic enough to serve lesser Sunday brunches.

Sunday Service

Sage gamely works around their no-liquor-on-Sunday license by serving a great array of beers, wines and "Signature Drinks" using Cordoniu, a very fine Spanish cava, as their base. Try a Bombay Bellini (cava plus mango nectar), Marilyn Monroe (mixed with grenadine), or my favorite, the Champagne Cocktail (with a splash of bitters). Something new for fall: Sage's all-you-can-drink mimosas for $12!