I had never tried any of the restaurants in The Edgecliff private residences high-rise on the border of Eden Park in East Walnut Hills, but when our city’s most beloved restaurateur, Jean-Robert de Cavel, announced he would be revamping and reopening the space as Le Bar a Boeuf, I knew that would change.
Based on its track record, the location has seemingly had a tough time keeping a restaurant afloat; it has previously been home to The Edgecliff Room, View and Coach & Four. But if anyone can turn it around, my money is on de Cavel and his team. Although de Cavel is owner and not chef at Le Bar a Boeuf — the chef is Mirko Ravlic, a colleague from Jean-Robert’s Table — the menu is vintage de Cavel and he has overseen every detail of the restaurant. Also prominent at the new place is general manager Richard Brown, a longtime associate of de Cavel and a familiar presence at the city’s best dining venues.
Le Bar a Boeuf — French slang for “beef bar” — has a lot going for it: a beautiful dining room, a spacious lounge and spectacular panoramic views of the Ohio River. And it won’t be long before the 40-seat patio opens; tables for which I’m sure there will be a great demand.
But high demand could turn into a problem for this operation, thanks to a very small kitchen. It’s one of the quirks about this restaurant’s design: The expansive dining area is served by a terribly cramped cooking space, which will have to produce hundreds of meals a night.
Another unusual feature is the neighborhood, which is entirely residential. The building itself is a 26-story luxury condo high-rise, and several other large condo buildings are within walking distance. As Brown explains, the residents of those condos tend to drop in for drinks or dinner and stay all evening, which makes it hard to manage reservations throughout the hours of business. (In fact, Le Bar a Boeuf only takes reservations at 5:30, 6 or 6:30 p.m., and puts you on a waiting list after that.)
We showed up for a 6:30 p.m. reservation and were happy to find a garage under the building for restaurant patrons, which is great in a neighborhood with little or no on-street parking. The view from the bar and dining room really is stunning, and a well-heeled crowd filled almost every table. We were seated promptly and started with interesting cocktails ($11 each) and glasses of wine from a short but clever array of choices ($8-$14). I heartily recommend both the “Sacred Cow” (a bourbon drink) and the lovely Loire Valley Vouvray ($10).
The raison d’etre of the place is, of course, the “boeuf” — ground meat (beef, bison, lamb, fish or wagyu) served without a bun but with potatoes and veggies, along with a selection of sauces, cheese and garnishes. Two of our party selected from the boeuf menu section and went with the server’s suggestions about how to dress their meat. My husband selected bison, topped with goat cheese and a delicious “forestiere” mushroom-based sauce ($22). It was perfect in every way. The lamb patty topped with a fried egg ($16) disappointed, however, mostly because the meat was overcooked. I’m sure the house would have replaced it but our friend didn’t speak up and ate the whole thing anyway.
I wanted to sample something from the short list of “main course” options — classic French dishes such as calves liver with onions and duck leg confit, each accompanied by potatoes and veggies. My entrée was an excellent trout amandine ($21), perhaps the best plate of the night. The sliced, toasted almonds atop the delicate, lemon-scented fish lit up my taste buds. Another friend ordered the duck ($18), served with forestiere sauce, but we all agreed it wasn’t a successful preparation, at least that night; the meat was dry.
Upon the recommendation of Brown, we split a side order of béchamel mac and cheese with braised beef cheeks ($13). It was insanely rich and utterly fabulous; do give it a try, but don’t expect to finish it unless that’s your main course.
We managed to try one of the desserts, recommended by our server: a duo of chocolate mousse with crepe ($8). But, truthfully, we were too stuffed to appreciate it. Also on the dessert list is a pot de crème ($7), which was my favorite sweet treat at the former Jean-Ro Bistro, and next time I will sample that.
We couldn’t get to other intriguing menu items, either, including beef barley and fish velouté soups, and an array of creative side dishes and appetizers such as “shrimp Maisonette style” ($11), crab cake ($14), snail en papillote ($12) and beef tongue French dip ($16). More reasons to return!
Le Bar a Boeuf
Go: 2200 Victory Parkway, East Walnut Hills;
Hours: 5:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 5:30-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday.