Diner: Saucy Secrets

Chateau Pomije soothes post-test stress

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I'd forgotten how unnerving standardized tests are. Feeling somewhat discombobulated after answering "D: Answer cannot be determined by the information given" to an extensive number of math questions on the GRE, I pick up my boyfriend and head to Chateau Pomije to recover. My first experience there might be aptly summed up in one word: Soothing.

The Scene
From its inconspicuous storefront amidst the antique shops and boutiques along Madison Road in O'Bryonville, Pomije's interior is surprisingly expansive. Two simply furnished dining rooms of booths, lavender walls and exposed brick connect to a wine shop with floor-to-ceiling displays.

It's all very quaint and pastoral, but the place to be is out back. Beneath a canopy of trees and stars, the two-level patio is buzzing with neighborhood clientele. Globe lights jut out from the wall making soft halos that mimic the glow of the nearly full moon. The Beatles' Revolver plays at the lowest discernible decibel. Even the service is serenely melodic. I heave a much-needed sigh.

The Scoop
Pomije allows guests to select a bottle from the store and have it opened at the table ($5 corkage), avoiding the usual wine list mark-up, though monthly glass and bottle features are also available at the table.

After lingering in the store, we settle on a familiar bottle of Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier ($11, plus $5). My boyfriend indulges my lesson in swirling and sniffing, making me proud when he, in true Epicurean fashion, proclaims, "mmm, apples," after sipping.

Though known for his fish creations, Chef Shawn Weinbender's menu also offers lamb, duck, chicken, steak and veal, as well as daily specials and plenty of vegetarian options, such as the Mushroom Risotto ($13.95). In a follow-up phone interview, owner Tim Shumrick scolded me for not trying the famed Ciopinni ($18.95), a traditional Italian peasants' seafood soup.

We start with the Parmesan Crostini ($7.95), warm cheese-topped French bread with tart, tomato-basil relish, warm artichoke dip and salty, herbed mascarpone butter — a mouth-medley of flavors and textures.

A simple Dinner Salad ($2.95) of field greens, Dijon vinaigrette and two juicy cherry tomatoes (a bit of a tease) is a nice interlude after the heavy appetizer.

I've recently fallen in love with arctic char, which resembles a hybrid of trout and salmon, so I'm excited to try Pomije's version of the fish ($19.95) prepared "en croute" — that is, steamed inside a puff pastry shell. The fish is topped with spinach and shiitake and oyster mushrooms (described as "exotic mushrooms" on the menu). All of the juices mingle with the butter from the pastry, swimming in a rich, bisque-like lobster-scallop sauce under an asparagus teepee. The char is overcooked for my taste, but the sauce is a fix-all, and we love the bitter/sweet contrasts of the dish.

I'm dating someone who always insists on ordering something I want to try. Works for me: His Tortellini ($12.95) is a hit. The pasta isn't house-made, but fooled me: Colorful cheese-filled tortellini, cooked al dente, come with sun-dried tomato pesto, mushrooms (the "exotic" ones) and roasted walnuts.

Though we enjoy the relaxed pace, our server insists that desserts are on the house due to a 10-minute interval between the salad and entrées. We sample the Crème Brulée and Tiramisu (both $5.95). The boat-shaped brulée, Chambord flavored this evening, is perfectly smooth beneath its caramelized sugar top. The addition of chocolate is an interesting twist on tiramisu, though slightly overpowering to the subtle flavors of whip cream, mascarpone and espresso.

The Sizzle
If you suffer from the order-by-the-sauce syndrome and are frequently disappointed when the sauce is so little of the overall plate, you'll find Pomije's menu-to-mouth faithfulness refreshing. There's nothing like a thick, dreamy sauce to take the edge off anything, even math. (Wine helps, too.) ©

Go: 2019 Madison Road, O'Bryonville

Call: 513-871-8788

Hours: Lunch: Tuesday­Friday 11 a.m.­2:30 p.m.; Dinner: Tuesday­Thursday 5:30­9:30 p.m., Friday­Saturday 5:30-10:30 p.m.

Prices: Moderate

Payment: Major credit cards

Red Meat Alternatives: Appetizers, salads, pasta, risotto and more

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