Many Cliftonites rejoiced last summer when Red Feather chef/owner Brad Bernstein and partner Devon Barrett purchased what had been La Poste Eatery and, later, Harvest Bistro. The change promised to inject new energy into the neighborhood’s only fine-dining establishment.
A couple months ago, Bernstein closed the place for renovations and to revamp the menu. It reopened as Postmark early this fall. Once again, Clifton and its surrounding ’hoods can enjoy a full-service, white-tablecloth, wine-oriented restaurant that harkens back to the early days of its namesake, the beloved La Poste.
Years ago, the building housed a branch of the U.S. Post Office, which led to the various postal-themed names. The majority of the recent renovations happened behind the scenes as kitchen upgrades, but also included changes to the dining room décor, lighting and bar area. Now Bernstein and his team are settling into what he calls a “fantastic” reception by the neighborhood as they hope to attract interest from adventurous diners in the metro area.
This new ownership definitely raised my hopes that Postmark might scale the culinary heights of the original La Poste, owned by Jens Rosenkrantz and partners — a restaurant I felt incredibly lucky to have within walking distance of my house. An interim owner changed the name to Harvest but eventually sold to Bernstein and Barrett, and after the reopening as Postmark, we didn’t waste any time booking a table.
My reliable dining companion (my husband George) and I lined up four neighbors for a weeknight dinner at Postmark. As it turned out, one couple already had become regulars and knew all the staff by name — a Maker’s on the rocks for one of them seemed to arrive before the rest of us had settled into our seats.
We caught up soon enough with glasses of wine from the daily happy hour list. Until 7 p.m., Postmark offers three different wines, usually at $6, each paired with a small bite of food. For instance, an earthy Italian red came with prosciutto crostini. It was the tiniest morsel but enough to hold us while we chatted with our friends over drinks.
My favorite thing about La Poste was the depth of the staff’s knowledge about both the wine and the cellar they served it from, giving me hope that it can become one of the best places in town for wine lovers. Working with top regional distributors, they offer 22 glass pours ($7-$13) and dozens more choices by the bottle that range from familiar California varietals to more unusual Old World finds. With so many wine riches, on this visit I wasn’t tempted by the craft cocktail list ($10-$12), but I could see dropping in some evening to try a drink at the bar.
On this night, our group was able to try the majority of the nine entrées, plus a daily special and a few of the appetizers as well. While the restaurant has played with a couple different ways of presenting the menu in its short life thus far, when we dined the categories were “Introduction” — eight appetizers ($8-$14) — and “Body,” or nine main courses ($18-$29). More recently, they’ve started handing you a large-format postcard with a slightly different organization of about the same number of dishes. This all plays a little too cutely with the postal theme, but Bernstein and company obviously are having a little fun with it.
Standouts among the appetizers included French onion soup, steak tartar and a special off-menu foie gras. My onion soup ($10) came classically prepared with a rich, oniony broth enhanced by bone marrow and topped with toasted garlic baguette and plenty of melted Gruyère cheese. Too many places put French onion soup on the menu and then riff on it until the result becomes unrecognizable. Not so at Postmark. I’d go back just for the soup, a real highlight of the meal.
Our entrées ranged from a stuffed pasta called agnolotti ($21) to a duck breast special ($31) and a couple of fish dishes ($28-$29). The pasta stuffing included white corn, hen of the woods mushrooms and a hint of black truffle oil; its richness made the diminutive portion quite sufficient. I thought the halibut was interesting — the Postmark version came with radishes, beans and creamy polenta.
Since our visit, duck breast has become a regular menu item, served with pumpkin purée and pepitas.
As with the appetizer course, I also lucked out in my choice of entrée, a delicious deckle steak ($28). Tucked into the thickly sliced layers of meat were chunks of potato, piquillo peppers, arugula and romesco sauce (based on almonds, garlic and puréed red bell pepper). A bit of salsa verde and a sprinkling of marcona almonds were ladled over top.
There’s no printed dessert menu, but the house usually offers four choices ($8 each); on our visit the list featured bread pudding, crème brûlée, key lime pie and chocolate cake. I find bread pudding too heavy after such a big meal, but my husband managed to scarf up his portion while I finished with the custardy crème brûlée.
Chef Bernstein told me in a later interview that while he thinks of his original restaurant Red Feather Kitchen as revolving around “high-end barbecue,” with Postmark he’s shooting for a more produce-centered “farmhouse refined.” The evolving menu will reflect “Ohio river culture and Creole and Southern influences,” he added, “with classic French training” mixed in. Overall, he hopes to present diners with an evening of entertainment and community in a unique in-town neighborhood. Anyone who wants to visit our corner of Cincinnati is more than welcome, too.
Hours: 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 5-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
3410 Telford St., Clifton, 513-281-3663, postmark.restaurant.