In my main review of Details Minibar and Lounge, I mentioned a feature adventure that they offer, The Detailed Experience. Maggi and I went with our friends Carol and Greg on Friday night to experience the Experience.
The Detailed Experience is available for groups of two to six people, and takes place upstairs at the open kitchen. The kitchen is set up like a very modern diner, with six seats at the bar counter, giving you a full view as the food is prepared. They offer seatings at six and nine, and the meal will last at least two hours. Ours took almost two and a half. The meal consists of ten courses from on and off the menu. The chef chooses which ten he’ll make, and in what order, for each Experience, and apparently the group before us at six had five different dishes than we did at nine. If our experience is any indication, they will ask you at least three times between when you make the reservations and when you start eating if you have any food allergies. It was amusing to me, but I suppose if you have any such allergies, this is another detail to appreciate.
Chef Drew Garms presides over the whole thing, preparing and serving each dish for you himself, explaining how it’s done, and also why, if you express interest. How much he talks to your group depends on what you want. If you are working a client, or fighting with your spouse, he’ll leave you alone. If you are full of questions, like we were, he’ll do a great job of answering them in as much depth as you like. He’s a charming and entertaining host.
And oh yeah, and he serves some fascinating and delicious food.
There’s no point in giving you the full menu, since if you go, you won’t have the same things at all. But I will talk about a few of the courses that exemplify the whole thing. Drew started out with a little molecular mixology, serving us a Liquid Nitrogen Margarita:
To freeze the Maragrita, Drew slowly whisks in liquid nitrogen into a classic Margarita until it reaches a perfect, slushy consistency. I was actually surprised at how long this took, but apparently if you do it too fast, you get a giant Margaritacicle on a whisk. I’ve had nitrogen frozen drinks before, but the twist he added was the salt. Rather than rimming the glass, Chef topped it with a dollop of
salt air. To make this, you mix salt water and lecithin, then whip it lightly. Spoon up what forms on the surface and you have a relatively stable puff of sea foam. Incidentally, this is more than just a show-off way of doing a Frozen Margarita. Maggi and I both agreed that the foam was a far superior way to deliver the salt. It is smoother and melds better with the drink.
Another dish that I took pictures of as Chef Drew prepared it was this one:
Not sure what it is? I didn’t know what is was at this point either.
It’s a Cobb Salad. Don’t beleive me?
How about now?
For the record, I’m not a big Cobb Salad guy. But I destroyed this.
There were a number of other dishes, including sushi tacos and a chocolate dirt pile for a final course, and they were all winners. Alright, there was a chutney with one dish that was merely OK. Personally, I actually felt reassured by this. It meant I wasn’t just loving the food because of the atmosphere. Chef Drew’s grumpiness that his chutney failed to enrapture me was just another sign, beyond the quality of the food, of his perfectionism.
The Detailed Experience is not a completely unique idea, of course. There are a number of high-end restaurants around the U.S. and the world that offer this kind of hours long, small plate dining experience. But my friend Greg, who’s tried a few others, confirmed several things I had surmised:
- There is enough food here. While, you won’t get stuffed, the combined courses add up to a true, full meal. And really, do you want to be needing White Castle after a meal of this quality? No.
- The food really is outstanding. Period.
- No, Columbus, it isn’t cheap. Not in absolute terms. An evening doing the Detailed Experience will likely run you almost as much as a spread at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. But in comparison to similar offerings in other cities, it is a steal. Try an eating adventure like this in New York or Chicago, and your check will literally be an order of magnitude higher, plus the cost of those sliders you’ll need afterward to fill you up.
The cocktails were as beautifully prepared as I expected, and the bar staff makes sure you don’t forget them while you eat. Though I did not mention it in my bar review, Details offers a nice beer and wine list (PDF) as well. The beers are a pretty esoteric selection of offerings (though
The Usual Suspects are available as well). The wine list has mostly european offerings. Though it isn’t long, there’s something there to float the boat of most wine drinkers.
Details really is an apt name for this restaurant. Go there and it will be as apparent to you as it is to me that this is both a labor of love and product of great skill.
Details is located on North High Street in the Short North District of Columbus, next door to Rosendale’s. Valet parking out front. 614-298-1301 for reservations for the Detailed Experience. You need to call at least 24 hours in advance. For my review of the cocktail bar area downstairs, go here.