Explorative new restaurant Please tests the waters with small, inventive plates and prix-fixe menus

Tucked away on Clay Street in Over-the-Rhine, Please is serving multiple courses of food you might not immediately recognize when you look at them.

click to enlarge Please’s creative multi-course menus are perfectly paced for a delicious, leisurely evening. - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Please’s creative multi-course menus are perfectly paced for a delicious, leisurely evening.
Tucked away on Clay Street in Over-the-Rhine, a new restaurant called Please is serving modern and artful small plates — multiple courses of food you might not immediately recognize when you look at them. Thankfully, the helpful staff explains each dish as it arrives — for instance, spaghetti squash with cured egg yolk. And at the end of the meal you realize you’ve just been introduced to a new kind of horn of plenty, one filled with truly delicious ingredients like mushrooms that taste like bacon, shavings of Scandinavian brown cheese that melt in your mouth and an enticing cocktail successfully made with beets.

Chef Ryan Santos has helmed Please as a gypsy pop-up concept since 2011, crafting creative multi-course meals in locations ranging from his former Prospect Hill apartment and Cheapside Café to Carriage House Farm, all the while working toward the dream of eventually owning a stationary restaurant. After private backing and a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $35,000, the dream became a reality this past November.

One of the perks of eating at Please’s brick and mortar is the location. It’s situated a couple blocks away from OTR’s well-worn Vine Street corridor on an alluring clandestine side street that makes parking a feat worth undertaking and feels like you’re walking through a tiny European village when you start exploring the cobbled alleys.

With an indigo exterior and a restaurant build-out that was recently featured in architecture magazine Dwell, the design of the cozy space is note-perfect down to the very instagrammable bathroom (search #pleasepotty for guest selfies with the abstract hand-painted wall tile). And while the front dining room has plenty of big windows through which to watch hip passersby, my dining partner and I ate at the bar in the back (where they seat diners without reservations), and I don’t know that I’d want it any other way. 

The exposed brick and long wooden bartop create an intimate and quiet ambiance, punctuated by the occasional suggestion or comment from the staff behind the bar, whom you nearly have to yourself. It feels like a first-class affair because it is one — each four-course dinner is $52 and served with fanfare and attention.

Diners can choose from a vegetarian, pescetarian or omnivore menu, although gluten-free options are always available and Please’s website does say that vegan menus can be created with advance notice. 

All of the menus change with the seasons — sometimes more frequently as ingredients run out. Once you make your selection, each dish is brought out and carefully spaced to make for a long, lingering meal; the best way to spend an evening. 

My and my partner’s first course, in fact the same dish for all three menus, was the aforementioned spaghetti squash — two spoonfuls mounded on top of an almond beurre blanc sauce and topped with lemon zest, almond slivers and cured egg yolks. The citrus shone through, and the beurre blanc was one of those sauces that you try desperately to very quietly scrape up every last drop of from your plate without other patrons or the waitstaff noticing. 

My second course (pescetarian) was again the same as my partner’s (omnivore), and it was our favorite: a piece of perfectly cooked fluke on a bed of pomelo and avocado with a vibrant green sauce made from local watercress, topped with thinly sliced pieces of celtuce, a crunchy, mild vegetable. It felt there might be too many pieces to the puzzle, but they all fit in a way neither of us questioned.

For our third courses, I had a piece of trout with a deeply flavored beet mole sauce and a roasted vegetable medley with beets, parsnips and several types of mushrooms, one of which was the bacon impostor — a plant I’ll surely seek out when I cook for my vegetarian family. 

My partner’s third course was a piece of Kentucky beef wrapped in turnip greens. 

At this point, we were waiting for our final course — dessert — when the waitress asked if we’d like to try a new plate of pancake balls with apple filling, topped with a shaved, sweet cheese. “What the heck! We’ll take our chances,” I said, trying not to look too overwhelmed with joy. Two desserts is obviously the best way to end a meal. 

One of the servers mentioned it was Please’s ode to Skyline, which became apparent when the dish came out piled high with dainty shreds of cheese. It was delicious. The cheese dissolved into a decadent creamy puddle and underneath were the softest pancake balls. We ate them with our hands, as recommended.

By this point I think we were both feeling the strain of four courses. The plates are deceptively small but the food is rich and filling, which is partially why the final dish of the night, an icy sweet concord grape granita, tasted so good. It was a perfect closer. 

The plate also came with a dense, not-too-sweet whole-wheat cake, but the granita left my palate feeling so refreshed that I could hardly take a bite.

At the end of the meal, our cocktails, lovingly named after the people who donated to Please in its infancy, were long gone. Had we the funds leftover, I would have gladly sat around for another. Each carefully crafted cocktail is a flavorful $10 sipper. Mine was a sweet lemon and golden beet number, a perfect pairing with a flapper dress. My partner’s was a warm bourbon and brandy mix.

Word on the street is that an à la carte menu is in the works, leaving the menu up to the diner. Even so, next time I go, I think I’ll trust the chef.


Please

Go1405 Clay St., Over-the-Rhine; Call513-405-8859; Internetpleasecincinnati.comHours5:30-10 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; reservations recommended.

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