The Petersen family enjoyed several successful years as restaurateurs with three locations: downtown (now Aioli), Clifton (now Biagio's Bistro) and Mount Adams, where they expanded to add the Promontory Bar to their popular dining room. Dan Chrzanowski, a transplant from Miami and the new chef/owner of the Mount Adams location, purchased the rights to the Petersen name, built a new kitchen, spruced up the dining room and re-opened last fall.
Several years in a sunny climate seem to have influenced Mr. Chrzanowski's choices for décor: The rooms are painted to exude warmth and light. The look and feel of the main dining room is "contemporary cozy." The odd part of the decor is the brown craft paper over the white tablecloths — I was tempted to ask for crayons and, indeed, on both visits saw patrons drawing on the paper overlay while waiting for their meals — sort of upscale Cracker Barrel.
Chrzanowski's menu, although more adventurous, echoes the original Petersen's Modern American Fare. Prices and portions are reasonable, and plate presentation runs the gamut from Aunt Bea Simple to composed Plate-as-the-Palette style. Overall, I found the execution of the menu inconsistent, and the service earnest and friendly but unpolished.
On our first visit, our young, pretty server handed us one piece of paper with the daily specials, which we assumed we were to pass around since we were a table of four. I am often exhausted after a long-winded explanation of the daily features and have forgotten them by the time I peruse the menu (No, I do not have ADD!), so providing a printed list of features is a trend I like.
With that said, we opted for the regular menu anyway, ordering an appetizer, salads, a "mainplate" salad, entrées and wine to be served with our main course.
We were pretty sure we had been specific about sharing an appetizer first, but out came the salads instead, along with bread and a wonderful flower of roasted garlic to spread on it. The Tri-Color Salad (8.95), with radicchio, endive, arugula, sliced oranges, toasted walnuts, gorgonzola and chicken breast (additional $2.95) tossed in balsamic vinaigrette, was appealing to the eye and dressed perfectly, but the added chicken was dry and cold.
Not so appealing was the Classic Caesar Salad ($5.95) with focaccia croutons and parmesan. A plate of chopped, anemic romaine lettuce — the yellow, root end of the romaine — with three small croutons sat in front of us for several minutes before any of us would try it. There was literally not one piece of deep green on the plate. The flavorful dressing was the only element to redeem this salad.
Our appetizer arrived in the middle of our salads — Buffalo Mozzarella (7.95) with marinated tomatoes, chive oil, polenta cake, argil and balsamic glaze. Here is where I make an appeal to Cincinnati chefs: It's early spring in the Midwest! Why feature a menu item with picked-green-and-gassed-during-transport, flavorless, pale, winter tomatoes? This appetizer would have been delicious on a summer menu when tomatoes are in season. The rock-hard, green-edged tomatoes on this plate detracted from an otherwise tasty dish.
Our entrées ranged from the fabulous to the "so not memorable I can't remember what I had" (an actual comment from a guest). In the fabulous category was the Almond Crusted Filet of Seabass ($21.95), steamed basmati rice, sautéed spinach and yellow tomato-saffron sauce. The fish was tender, flaky and succulent; the almond crust a nice textural contrast to the beautiful sauce.
In the latter category was the Farfalle with Shrimp ($14.95), baby green beans, roasted bell peppers and mascarpone-tomato sauce. Lukewarm in temperature, bland in flavor with overcooked, dry shrimp, this dish was tasted by everyone and left unfinished. Rigatoni ($12.95), wild mushroom cream sauce, peas prosciutto and parmesan fared a little better, though flavors were muddy. The Rosemary Roasted Chicken (11.95) with garlic mashed potatoes won applause on this chilly evening for "upscale comfort food."
Petersen's restaurants were known for their pies, and former server of said pies, Tracy Andrews, has stepped into the role of dessert chef for the Promontory Bar and Grill. While no pies were on the menu during our visits, we especially enjoyed her Mascarpone Cheesecake. Light, delicious and beautifully presented, it was served with not-too-sweet poached apples and crowned with a crisp honey oatmeal tuile. We weren't quite as fond of her Tiramisu, which suffered from too much cream and not enough "pick me up."
After dinner, we walked into the attached Promontory Bar a Scotch-and-Jazz soaked club featuring live nightly music. This evening I was thrilled to hear The Steve Schmidt Trio pounding out a Thelonius Monk number, so we pulled up a stool, ordered drinks and hung out a while longer.
If the chef can train his kitchen to turn out consistently (the keyword!) good food and attend to detail, The Promontory Bar and Grill will have some longevity in this fickle food town and attract much more than the neighborhood and Playhouse in the Park crowd. ©
Petersen's Promontory Bar and Grill
Go: 1111 St. Gregory St., Mount Adams
Hours: Lunch: Monday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 5-11 p.m.
Payment: Major credit cards
Beyond Red Meat: Salmon, seabass, chicken entrées, pastas and salads;
*Vegetarians are limited to one entrée, several salads and three appetizers.
Other: Reservations are recommended on weekends.
There is limited street parking; a nearby parking garage costs $2.