One of the best Columbus restaurants to open recently, this hip establishment run by talented and creative chef-owners offers a well-executed, eclectic and frequently changing menu
Ambrose and Eve isn’t a particularly easy restaurant to review because its eclectic menu changes frequently. For that reason — and many more — Ambrose and Eve is an easy place to like. In fact, it’s among the best Columbus restaurants to open recently.
Launched in late 2018 by hard-working, creative chefs Catie Randazzo and Matthew Heaggans — the same duo behind the sensation that is Preston’s: A Burger Joint — Ambrose and Eve is named after Randazzo’s grandparents. This familial reference informs the restaurant’s ambience.
Occupying what still looks like a quaint old Brewery District house, A&E offers a little porch patio, plenty of interior wood and vintage brickwork, floral-patterned white wallpaper, a fireplace, loads of family photographs, plus gracious service. Don’t mistake this for suggesting that the place is staid — Wu-Tang Clan references adorn the bathroom in this hip, lively and sometimes-loud eatery.
While all of my visits resulted in some terrific fare — and freshly retooled menus — my most recent meals revealed A&E to be more consistent and operating at the top of its kitchen game. That game involves playfulness, occasional elegance and inventiveness backed up by great flavors.
The cliche-shattering Calamari ($14) is Exhibit A. Plated like an abstract-expressionist artwork, it’s a salad of poached and braised, spork-tender squid strands that resemble rice noodles atop pristine local greens. Completing the outstanding dish are radishes, plus an ingenious charred-lemon aioli that’s nearly black (from activated charcoal) yet brightly flavored.
More delicious seafood arrives with the Halibut ($17). The expertly sear-crusted fish with flaky, snow-white flesh is joined by a too-thick but smoky, spicy and irresistible jambalaya risotto.
Two other new entrees are just as good: The hearty “Beef-a-Roni” ($16), with a crowd-pleasing pepperoni-bolognese sauce, and brothy and photogenic Chicken and Dumplings ($16) reimagined as a springtime Roman-style dish ($16) with peas, asparagus, a breast piece and huge gnocchi.
The Cucumber Carpaccio ($10) is a must if you enjoy genuine Sichuan flavors, creative touches, a striking presentation, a large size and a $10 price. I also enjoyed A&E’s whizzed-together, creamy-and-tangy riff on seven-layer dip ($10).
I was told the inviting beverage lineup might be altered soon. If so, you can likely count on the continuation of an A&E staple that’s exceptionally rare: affordable, real-deal French champagne sold by the glass (currently, it’s Drappier Carte d’Or Champagne, $13). Here’s hoping the lovely, refreshingly bittersweet and frothy (from egg whites) Super Bloom cocktail ($11) made with Vim and Petal gin, OYO Stone Fruit vodka, Campari, Byrrh, Suze, hibiscus and a floral garnish, stays put, too.
There’s a precedent for limited items to remain when the menu undergoes a periodic overhaul. Among mainstays are the addictive Crispy Brussels sprouts ($9), which are distinctly tangy from garum (Roman-style fish sauce), honey and feathery shaved pecorino. Other menu stalwarts: a built-for-two wedge salad ($11) with an eight-minute egg and pork-belly blocks that outclasses most others; and the impressive “Liver and Onion” ($9) — smooth chicken-liver mousse and jammy caramelized onions presented like a parfait in a jar — that may well persuade offal haters.
Another carryover is the Fried Chicken dinner ($33), which feeds about three lucky people. The crackly crusted whole bird with juicy meat is amusingly served in a bucket and with “rotating fixins.” On my visit, this meant superior macaroni-and-cheese; excellent, horseradish-kissed potato salad; and al dente green beans. The feast also includes bread, such as house-made biscuits, which though good, are eclipsed by the pimento-cheese-enhanced cornbread.
Teaming flaky pastry with house buttermilk ice cream, the McDonald’s-inspired Cherry Fry Pie dessert ($9)slightly edges out a delightful “Scooter Crunch”-style semifreddo take on Strawberry Shortcake ($9). With A&E’s quick-changing menu, I recommend ordering both.