'Plas Food and Drink excels at fun, unfussy fine dining
The Short North newcomer is on the short list for the best new Columbus restaurant of 2021
This is a “don’t bury the lede” kind of story, so I won’t: ‘Plas Food and Drink is on the short list for best new Columbus restaurant.
As its odd name suggests — “'Plas” is self-created slang for mise en place, a French phrase that describes a chef’s “everything in its place” cooking station — 'Plas is serious when it comes to food, but not when it comes to attitude. It’s a fine-dining establishment that successfully aims to be fun, not fussy.
Yes, 'Plas has a labor-intensive, French-and-Italian-influenced cooking ethos expressed in house-made cheese, pastas, charcuterie and bread. But unlike a self-consciously fancy eatery, 'Plas fuses its handmade sensibility to a farm-to-table-style rusticity that I sometimes label the “wine country aesthetic.” This easygoing sophistication is reflected in 'Plas’ ambience.
Assuming the Short North address once claimed by The Table — and offering an attractive, secluded patio — 'Plas’ main space is a window-filled, lively room whose simple white, gray and black tones play off farmhouse-style wood and abstract artworks by local painters. Visitors to the notably friendly operation are frequently greeted with a hardy “hello” from chef/co-owner Jamie George (formerly with Z Cucina di Spirito), who is often working hard in the semi-open kitchen that borders the front door.
Visitors will also be greeted by a personable server who’ll gift them with a platter of house-baked focaccia matched with a compound butter (like chile-cilantro or Parmesan-caper) and embellishments such as a blackberry gastrique and pickled and roasted fruits and vegetables.
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Expectations raised by this taste of 'Plas’ food and approach — handmade, but not precious; bold, but widely approachable — are further elevated by scanning a great-looking menu rife with local and seasonal ingredients. Many such expectations will be met, or even exceeded, especially with the starters (aka “pieces”), the best-bang-for-your-buck section of the menu.
It’s August in Ohio, so high-quality tomatoes and corn enhance several large and outstanding starters. These include: sweet corn panna cotta ($12) — an inspired dish that partners Mexican-style street corn with its reimagined form as a soothing corn pudding; a terrific heirloom tomato caprese with milky, house-made mozzarella, pesto-like flourishes and a medley of delicious tomatoes; the deceptively titled “chopped beets” ($14) — a huge, healthful and tongue-tingling collection of compartmentalized pickles, peppers and marinated, relish-like veggie creations, plus grassy greens with (uncharacteristically shy) gorgonzola-buttermilk vinaigrette drizzles.
Entrees showcase fine ingredients, too. A fragrant fennel salad, house sesame oil and ginger worked as the thematic bridge between beautiful, sashimi-style fish (with a wonderful crust of blackening spices) and ripe fruit, like blackberries and peaches, in the pricey but delightful seared tuna ($38).
House-made pastas are featured in several interesting dishes. The extra-large “everyday gravy” ($25) was a no-holds-barred production with lovely pappardelle, a meaty and acidic tomato sauce (acidic brightness is prevalent here), minced aromatics, good-tasting but extra-firm meatballs, sausages, peppers, herbs, raisins, you name it.
I liked the “sweet n spicy roasted chicken” ($27) at least as much: tender pulled meat and chile-spiked wide noodles boosted by a slightly sweet, zippy sauce enriched with mozzarella and a creamed corn-like garnish.
My experiences weren't perfect. Although great-tasting, my sweet corn ravioli ($26) had textural issues. And a frustratingly long wait for cocktails on a busy night resulted in the easy-drinking — but expensive ($14) and not particularly nuanced — zaragoza zinger (tasted like gingery lemonade) and “reverse Manhattan” (with an amusing branded ice cube).
Given 'Plas many positive qualities, though — which include offering house gelatos ($7) and appealing, food-friendly wines (the versatile $7 per glass Cantina Settecani lambrusco, with tart berry notes and a slight fizz, is a quintessential summer beverage) — such minor deficits don’t detract from the fact that ‘Plas is one of the best Columbus restaurants to open in 2021.
'Plas Food + Drink
21 E Fifth Ave., Suite 101, Italian Village