I celebrated Trick or Treat a little early the other night with dinner at Sage American Bistro. The trick was a surprising (even enlightening) dish of fish ribs that ate like they originated from a pig-starring barbecue. The treat was the entire, delicious dinner, from start to finish.
Sage's current batch of refreshingly inexpensive specialty cocktails ($5-$8) are an efficient way to dip into the harvest moon season.
A fruity and astringent Carpano Old Fashioned (featuring killer maraschino cherries) mixed whiskey, bitters, Italian vermouth, gritty raw sugar and orange discs into a thought-provoking sip that faintly hinted at red hot cinnamon candy. And the horror-movie-titled Corpse Reviver (Tangueray 10, Lillet and Cointreau) just might enable you to conjure up some Halloween-appropriate zombies or hobgoblins.
But if those quaffs sound a bit more involved than your palate's present mood, then target the simple charms of the Autumn Delight - an enjoyable blend of apple cider and bourbon.
As you suck those back, enjoy the autumn bonfire-like flavor emanating from the smoked black salt, whose large, crunchy crystals adorn every serving of butter at Sage.
The Fall House Salad ($8) was one of those nutty and fruity concoctions that can seem excessively busy in other hands. I say this because I think Sage's intriguing leaf and cool-weather-spiced texturefest actually worked. Long, thin, cinnamony pickled carrot ribbons and licoricey fennel strands played nicely with dried cranberries, spiced pecans, fresh greens and a pert peppercorn vinaigrette.
You could easily argue that the brilliant Pacu Fish Ribs ($10) served with beautiful watermelon radishes harkened back to a summertime barbecue. I'd say a plate that great was forever in season.
I was informed Pacu was a large Brazilian fish and I now know it provides meaty and wonderful rib eating. At Sage, those baby-back-sized babies arrived with a dark and crusty grilled exterior encasing supple, rich, delicious, fatty and unfishy meat.
A tangy, mildly spicy tomato jam played the part of barbecue sauce, and the earthy-tasting radishes paired with microgreens (dressed with a bright, white balsamic vinaigrette) literally grounded the flavors while providing a visual reminder of warmer weather. This appetizer is a knockout and one of my new favorites.
A Duck Confit ($26) entree also soared high. Again, wonderful crustily seared skin gave way to tender, juicy meat. An herby leg and thigh quarter was crowned with those cinnamony carrot threads and placed atop an addictive Brussels sprout-enhanced succotash. Adding extra oomph was a relatively light-eating, dark-shaded "mustard jus."
Sage - a place where the actual chef is almost always in the back doing lots of the cooking himself - is a great restaurant to tap into the spirit of this new and chillier season.
For more local food news and reviews, click to G.A. Benton's blog at blog.columbusalive.com/underthetable