Visitors and Cincinnati residents alike can't help but notice the dozen or so awards adorning the walls of the Riverview Revolving Restaurant lobby on the 18th floor of the Clarion Hotel in Covington. Newly redecorated from top to bottom, the hotel and restaurant are owned and operated by the Maier family, also of Frisch's fame. Cute as Big Boy is, you won't miss him on this cosmopolitan menu.
The busy reception area seemed to indicate we'd arrived in time to be shoehorned in to our reserved table. As we were escorted to the table, a variety of large groups, couples, families and friends filled many, if not most, of the tables. Booths were situated around the inside ring, offering a glorious view through full-length windows of Kentucky and Ohio at sunset. With no more than three tables between the booths and the windows, the Riverview feels intimate and cozy from virtually anywhere, in spite of its ability to seat 250.
Although one's eyes are continually drawn outside the windows, the appointments within are few and exceptional. Sage green, hunter green, gold with beige, dark plum and navy accents adorn well-chosen fabrics on benches and chair seats, as well as the carpeting. The muted, sophisticated color combination with cherry wood is both unconventional and pleasing.
A complete revolution of the restaurant takes about 55 minutes. The center of the restaurant includes the kitchen, the salad station, a bar and a small café area with a small, elevated stage where a woman in a vintage 1940's frothy white chiffon dress with black flocking melodically strummed a large golden harp.
Appetizers were featured in several of the awards in the lobby, and the two we chose were good indicators why. Two large Southwestern Seacakes ($5.95) were perfectly browned, full of crab and shrimp, but without grease or excessive breading. Centered over a mild chili sauce with jalapeño ribbons, this striking presentation was every bit as pleasing to the taste buds. The Chicken Artichoke Wrap ($6.95) included mozzarella with large cubes of meat and vegetables in a spinach tortilla, quickly fried and crisp, surrounded by a rich cilantro lime sauce and dotted with red peppers and parsley. These are large items, easily a meal alone.
The Caesar Salad ($2.50) had too much dressing, causing it to be wet and salty. The Riverview Salad ($1.95) blended romaine, field greens, iceberg lettuce, slivered carrots, sliced Roma tomatoes and cucumbers with a good sharp, house champagne vinaigrette for a nice, small dinner salad.
Entrée options feature a range of poultry and game, including ostrich, seafood, beef and pork. I ordered one of the specials: Oriental Grilled Swordfish ($21.95), which was accompanied with a mixed rice pilaf and a fresh ratatouille, nicely done with crisp tender vegetables in a zesty tomato base. The swordfish was moist, but the teriyaki marinade was too dark and overpowering for the fish.
A section of the menu highlighted Riverview Favorites, which included the Award-Winning Stuffed Pork Tenderloin ($17.95). Filled with spinach, dried apricots, wild mushrooms tucked in a light pastry, this is a beautiful presentation with an interesting blend of colors, flavors and textures wrapped in and around the tender meat.
The evening had been punctuated with occasional fireworks over Cinergy Field, causing hushed exclamations from diners. The neon lights of Oktoberfest at Mainstrasse, the golden lights on the Suspension Bridge, and a brilliant sunset all contributed to a lovely, changing environment for our meal. Service was a bit uneven, the only distraction from the experience. We needed to ask for cutlery for our entrées, allowing us to admire the presentation longer than we would have liked.
The are only a few dessert options that are memorable. The Apple Pie ($3.95), made on site, is a large wedge with a rich, butter crust and a tumble of apple chunks. Garnished with blueberries and raspberries, drizzled with caramel and dusted with cinnamon, this is a superb rendition of a classic at a bargain price. I have eaten my way through many versions of tiramisu in Tuscany, and I found the Riverview's ($5.95) an excellent offering. A satisfying, dense mousse tops deep coffee moistened ladyfingers in a large square dotted with berries.
While this is a good site for a romantic meal, a business meeting or one of the places you take visitors to explain how three states make a region, I'm beginning to plan my next appetizer-and-dessert dinner soirée with women friends atop the Riverview. ©
Riverview Revolving Restaurant
Go: 688 Fifth Street Covington
Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday; Brunch: 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Sunday; Dinner: 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Friday; 5-10 p.m. Saturday.
Prices: Moderate to expensive
Payment: All major credit card accepted.
Vegetarian Friendliness: Appetizers and seafood entrees options.