Diner: Born Again

The Coach & Four is back with a menu of upscale homestyle dishes

Design-aroused gals that we are, the three of us stop to admire the very groovy orange wall sconces that illuminate the otherwise generic entrance hallway of The Edgecliff, home of The Coach & Four. Once through the restaurant's handsome doors we're hushed by the martini cool-weds-solemn-elegance of the dining room: Medium-hued lamb's-ear-gray walls, modern glass and dark woods complemented by muted jewel-tone upholstery and flattering, warm light from a central, open-sided fireplace. This room whispers to my inner Ava Gardner.

Coach & Four built a solid following of customers in the 1980s at its first site, a diminutive house on Covington's riverfront, just beyond the Suspension Bridge. Soaring costs and demands for land from nearby riverfront development squeezed out small businesses, forcing owners Tom Ferguson and Kevin Porter to close Coach & Four's doors.

The new menu resurrects some of the upscale homestyle dishes that built Porter's reputation in the first incarnation of the restaurant: Old-school style Pecan Chicken, Meat Loaf with Mushroom Gravy and Sweet Breads share menu space with new-school Fresh Fennel and Spinach Pizza and Sea Scallops served with Broccoli Rabe.

Having never tried sweetbreads, my two gal pals were at once curious and wary. Neither sweet nor bread, this "meat" is not a frivolous item to order — one must commit to the reality of eating thymus glands. Sweetbreads are prized by gourmands throughout the world because of the delicate flavor and creamy-smooth texture. Sensing the uncertainty and perhaps weary of our probing questions, owner Tom Ferguson sent a complimentary first course of sweetbreads to the table.

(They are listed as an entrée on the menu, but available as a tasting portion.)

There is something quite sexual about eating a gland. Lightly sautéed with spinach, mushrooms and tarragon in a lemony brown butter sauce, we literally moaned through the entire dish and as new converts mused about sheep's testicles being the next new culinary adventure. Paired with a lovely Pinot Noir, we were so bewitched by the sensuality of the dish that word was delivered to the kitchen of our stirring reaction.

We loved the simple deliciousness of the salads — especially the Cliffside ($8 as a main salad or $2 up-charge for dinner salad), a mesclun mix tossed in a light vinaigrette with spiced pecans, golden raisins and dried bleu cheese crumbles. All three of us noticed the superior, piquant quality of the cracked pepper milled by the server: Such a mainstay of service nowadays that I often am cynical about it; I couldn't imagine this particular salad without it.

Main courses were very good but didn't elicit the intense orgasmic response of the appetizer, although I'm certain a sauce made from pheromones would have prompted some. The gumbo portion of Green Gumbo With Fried Oysters ($16.75) was a bit too vinegary, yet the plump cornmeal-breaded oysters that topped it were succulent and quite tasty. The angel-hair pasta in the Mussels and Vermicelli ($14.75) was overcooked and fell apart on the tongue, although its wine, butter and garlic sauce was splendid. Spanakopita ($7), even though listed as an appetizer, was generous and satisfying enough for an entrée.

Delightfully satiated, we didn't hesitate for a moment to keep going with three forks and one slice of Chocolate Mousse Pie ($4.50) — the dense bittersweet mousse, topped with an inch of vanilla-scented cream, was the perfect accompaniment to conversation about boys we like to kiss.

In retrospect of our evening at Coach & Four, I'm borrowing from our clever and funny CityBeat writer, Anne Mitchell, when I wonder if my gal pals and I were given the vibrating seats. ©

The Coach & Four
Go: 2200 Victory Pkwy., Walnut Hills

Call: 513-559-9900

Hours: 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday brunch, 5-9 p.m. Sunday dinner. Closed Mondays.

Prices: Moderate to Expensive

Payment: All major credit cards

Red Meat Alternatives: Lots of seafood and poultry, four vegetarian dishes including a fresh fennel and spinach pizza.

Grade: B+

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