A visit to this new Downtown steakhouse will treat the taste buds … and terrify the wallet
Confronted with the wallet-wrenching prices in an expensive new Columbus restaurant, I thought, “Wow, Jeff Ruby's Steakhousebetterbe very good.”
Turns out, it is.
After a few visits, I can attest that the cost of eating at Jeff Ruby's entitles diners to hospitality that's easily among the best in town. Most visible in this team effort are personable servers in crisp, white jackets who are well-versed in the nuances of the food and drink menus and seem unusually adept at anticipating a table's needs. That takes a lot of training.
And it took a lot of money — about $5 million — to transform the former 89 Fish & Grill into one of the most opulent restaurants in Columbus. The head-turning establishment features an elaborate collection of chandeliers, stained glass, showy mirrors and dramatic swaths of red from accoutrements such as floral-patterned carpets and velvet curtains.
A rhythm-and-blues-leaning soundtrack and date-night-worthy lighting help set a relaxed mood throughout the restaurant's multiple spaces. So do vintage-looking French liquor ads in the “Venetian” room and the chandelier that incorporates a tuba that brightens the secluded, OSU sports-celebrating “Buckeye” room.
Jeff Ruby — no shrinking violet — has put his initials all over the place, too. They even grace the oversized pat of two-flavored house butter — creamy-sweet alongside mushroom-truffle — served with thick slices of extra-crusty warm sourdough and salted rye. This adds up to excellent complimentary bread service.
The potent-yet-smooth A.P. Negroni ($13), made with local gin and a huge ice cube, and the citrus-kissed, egg-white-frothed Yuzu Sour ($13) are also terrific. Although California-heavy, the wine list kindly offers a steak-friendly Chateauneuf-du-Pape by the glass from Cellier des Princes ($13).
These drinks play nicely with a dish that reminded me how delicious an overused ingredient can still be: Fried Pork Belly ($18) — three hefty, fall-apart, sear-crusted cubes prettily plated with smoky carrots and house apple butter.
Oysters are handsomely presented as well. Fans of sweet, cucumber-hinting West Coast half-shells can rejoice that prized Kumamotos are sometimes available (but $6 apiece).
Thumbs up, too, for the shareable Classic Caesar Salad ($13), whose assets include a bold-yet-balanced dressing, little house croutons, frico wafer and chilled plate.
Rephrasing Shakespeare, though, diners have not come to praise Caesar, but to bury a steak. Jeff Ruby's steaks are priced from $44 to $115 — that's a la carte — and organized in two groups: aged bone-in cuts and filets mignons.
My bone-in ribeye “Cowboy Steak” had a thick and dark, expertly seasoned crust above perfectly cooked meat bearing the alluring tang of aging. It was delicious. Downside: It's $69 and serves one hungry person.
My similarly prepared, likewise delicious Barrel-Cut Filet Mignon ($58) was shy of melts-in-the-mouth-tender except at its ruby core. It was served atop a pool that was more melted butter than beef juice.
For a relatively smaller investment, you can score an excellent, decked-out burger partnered with plenty of good fries ($22). For an impressive seafood meal, the delicate and sweet Dover Sole (market priced; about $45) is deboned tableside and presented with a vibrant herb-lemon-butter sauce.
Sides (most are built-for-two) help flesh out a la carte entrees and include intense and wonderful Macaroni-and-Cheese ($13); buttery, garlic-flecked haricots verts (Sauteed French Green Beans, $10); thick but not woody, lemon-livened Grilled Asparagus ($13); and by far the largest side dish I tried, the Potatoes Anna ($12), which resembles a Bundt cake made from crisp, thin-sliced spuds.
If you save room and money for dessert, the Cheesecake ($10) is rich in real cheese flavor yet among the least expensive options.
But who's here for a deal? No, diners show up to Jeff Ruby's for a “special occasion” meal and evening, and that's exactly what they'll get.