Restaurant review: Alana’s revamp is coming, but current, seasonal menu is still aces

By Columbus Alive
From the August 15, 2013 edition

Alana’s Food and Wine is closing for its annual summer vacation on Aug. 26, but when this queen of locally sourced creative cuisine reopens after Sept. 5, it’ll be like a whole new restaurant. While dishes here forever will be what’s-fresh-from-the-farmers-markets driven and nothing is set in stone yet, the working plan now is to offer an online-posted, weekly changing “way more casual” menu that will allow the eclectic chef to “finally embrace a sandwich” (foie gras hot dog anyone?). But that’s just the half of it.

See, the revamped Alana’s — which intends to be open every day of the week from noon till 9 p.m. (lunch!), and hopes to have a special breakfast dish always available — will also offer two different, reservations-only, serious-ass degustation menus. The shorter regal meal would be about $65, and the full royal treatment should go for about $125. So the future for both casual and highfalutin dining at Alana’s looks great.

But the flavor of Alana’s present is wonderful too (natch), especially since the summer harvest has brought back the deservedly famous Tomato Stack. Before ordering that seasonal must-have though, I suggest further immersing yourself in beautiful and just-outta-the-ground, vine-ripened local ’maters by starting off with a delicious Tomato and Basil Martini ($10). Made with tomato water (a pale goldish liquid produced by literally straining the essence out of the fleshy fruit), fresh basil and vodka, this pretty and frothy-on-top cocktail tastes exactly how an Ohio garden in August smells.

Next up — hopefully it’ll be offered when you visit too — should be a thematically consistent, refreshingly chilled and terrific Turkish Tomato Soup ($5). I loved that super-tangy-yet-rich pureed potage enlivened by peppers, onions and red wine vinegar. Providing textural fun were some sourdough bread clump “croutons.”

This brings us to the lush Tomato Stack ($14), a shining star of summertime dining in Columbus. It’s like a double-decker sandwich, only with slices of killer tomatoes (in place of bread) embracing sweet crab meat, cheddar cheese and crisp local greens. Tying things together — and adding to the heady richness (which is cut some by the red giants) — is Alana’s cabernet buttermilk dressing (think fancy Ranch). Seriously, enjoy this carpe diem wonder while you can!

Photo by Meghan Ralston