Editor’s note: Robyn Davis Sekula is a freelance writer and social media consultant who works for the Asher Agency, which handles marketing work for Eddie Merlot’s. We asked Robyn, who had never dined at Eddie Merlot’s, to take a trip to Cincinnati and enjoy a meal and give us her impressions. Robyn writes most of the posts on this blog and maintains our Facebook page and responds to reviews on Yelp for all of our locations.
So it’s January. It’s cold. You know what sounds great? A relaxing meal, the kind that makes you forget about collecting all your receipts for the tax man (GAH) and the fact that you got your brother-in-law the entirely wrong present for Christmas. Again. We sent our three kids to grandma’s for the evening and high-tailed it to Cincinnati, our nearest Eddie Merlot’s, to enjoy a nice meal. We’ll be able to do this a lot closer to home when the Louisville location opens in another week.
My husband and I fought traffic on snowy roads for more than two hours trying to make it what should have been an easy half-hour drive. We arrived frazzled, cold and hungry.
But it was so worth it.
We could have taken advantage of complementary valet parking, but chose instead to park our filthy car ourselves, mostly out of shame. We’re parents; our car is full of the detris of life with kids: snack crumbs, wrappers, discarded, torn books and plastic toys. (Don’t be stupid like us – let them park it.)
Our waiter was the incredibly competent David Sandy, a standout guy who knows the menu, knows food and made recommendations to us that greatly enhanced the dining experience. I love a great steak, and crave good seafood, but wasn’t sure about portions and what might be share-able, and what would leave us in a fork-battle for the last bite. I also was unsure of wine pairings with my food. While some diners might really know exactly the wine they want with their filet, I don’t know wine well enough beyond red with meat and white with… other stuff to choose confidently. But David had terrific suggestions.
The second we set down, he offered us a Pomegranate Martini, which I gratefully accepted after our harrowing drive. “Well, looks like I nailed that one,” he told us. It was garnished with grapes rather than olives. Every drop was perfect. And yes, I’m well-aware that it’s pink and a girl drink. So sue me. David’s not exactly psychic but he’s a good guesser.
My husband ordered a glass of 2008 King Estate Pinot Gris, and after a look over the appetizer menu, we settled on barbecued shrimp.
The barbeque shrimp is a signature Eddie’s dish. Four large shrimp are wrapped in bacon and douced in a barbecue sauce that’s simple and clean but has just enough kick to set off the taste of the shrimp. Two apiece was the perfect starter.
General Manager Bill Vezeau stopped by to talk menu and business with us for a while, and he pointed us towards a few dishes that we enjoyed, including the spinach salad. Tender spinach topped with bacon, egg and a light dressing works well together and as a bonus, lets you believe you’re doing something healthy. We supposedly shared the salad, which was generously portioned, but every time Greg looked away I stabbed another fork-full.
For dinner, Greg took one look at the menu and knew exactly what he wanted: the stuffed shrimp. Bill Vezeau told us only to order it if we liked blue cheese, which Greg does. Bill told us that some diners are surprised by the taste of the blue cheese and, since it has a strong flavor, are overwhelmed by it. But we didn’t find that at all. The shrimp were decadently stuffed with crabmeat and blue cheese. Just four was more than a full dinner.
For steak, I chose the 12 ounce Wagyu ribeye, which David recommended. He shared with us that this is a cut of meat you don’t want to overcook, so I ordered it medium rare, which I usually don’t do. But it was fork-tender and juicy, flavorful. We ordered Lyonnaise potatoes, which are crispy and lightly seasoned, as the complement to both dishes. The side dishes are intended to be shared. Many other choices were tempting, but this simple dish was all we wanted against the strength of the stuffed shrimp, and being a steak loving girl, I really didn’t want much else to distract me from the flavor of the beef, and it was a solid decision.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with it, Wagyu Beef is a Japanese-style beef that’s flavorful and tender. It was primarily raised in Japan, but also in New Zealand, and is prized for its high amount of marbleing, which lends to a particularly tender steak. If you overcook it, you’ve ruined a very nice and pricey cut of meat. Best to let the experts at Eddie Merlot’s do it for you. If you’re going to have a steak, go ahead, make it this one.
My final choice for the evening was the wine to go with the Wagyu. David’s recommendation was a glass of 2006 Charles Krug Cabernet. Since I simply can’t top this description of it by Wine & Spirits, I’ll just borrow it for you here (from the Charles Krug web site):
“An impressively cool and brisk cabernet, predominantly from Charles Krug’s estate vineyards in Yountville, this starts out on black plum and grows increasingly more generous with air. The wine expands into deep purple-black fruit and potent tannins, which bring out some warmth to balance the fresh, minty aspects of the flavor.”
There’s a lot to the Eddie Merlot’s menu – and much more to the experience. I’ll be writing more about the interiors in future weeks, especially as the Louisville location comes to life. Think decadent, think relaxing, and some of the best food you’ve ever had. Great service just helps to bring it all to life.
Tell me what you love to eat at Eddie Merlot’s.