aul Sturkey’s Mesh was one of the best restaurants in Greater Cincinnati, and its replacement certainly has some big shoes to fill. While Stone Creek Dining Company retains Mesh’s good looks and fine dining prices, we wanted to see if the cuisine stood up to its predecessor’s great reputation.
On a recent Thursday at the West Chester spot, newest of a regional six-restaurant chain, my husband John and I were greeted and seated quickly. Our table faced an inviting ceiling-to-floor temperature-controlled wine storage area and, as my eyes took in the tastefully appointed room, menus — which resemble bound volumes by Voltaire — were delivered for our ordering consultation.
We were eager to get started. Chris, our server, took an interest in helping me find the right wine when the first red offered was somewhat lackluster. I settled on his recommendation, Justin Cabernet ($15 by the glass), while my husband enjoyed a delightful melon martini nicknamed The Island ($10) that seemed to glow in the dark.
The dining area was a relative ghost town and there wasn’t a soul in the bar. We were doted on by more than one attentive server and our first taste, the Seafood Trio ($24) appetizer, arrived quickly. I was an immediate fan of the Sesame Seed Encrusted Ahi Tuna. It reminded me of a lazy man’s sushi — seared, sliced and served over a Napa slaw with a side of pickled ginger and wasabi. It would have been perfect if it were served with a side of sticky rice.
The calamari was tender and juicy with a delicate breading and light glaze of spicy red chili aioli. Served with a side of blackberry balsamic greens, it achieved a quick flavor balance, which we both appreciated. Rounding out the appetizer were three light and flavorful lump crab cake bites accentuated with a creamy lemon-caper aioli.
Chris came back to check on us and deliver some bread and house dipping oil. He readily listed the eight or so ingredients in the concoction, which seemed rather complicated. The sauce was red, a little soupy and not very memorable.
Stone Creek’s menu is probably best described as “American Fare,” complete with the common surf-and-turf options, chicken dishes and pasta plates one expects at this type of restaurant. Most people would consider it upscale dining, but the menu choices felt a little too accessible. Honestly, it was a tad awkward for that reason.
John ordered the Topia Steak Medallions ($20), which arrived hot, well seasoned and crispy on the surface, and grilled perfectly to his specifications. The rest of his plate was unremarkable, with a smattering of sautéed spinach, bacon, tomatoes and Gorgonzola cheese.
My Stone Creek Combo ($29) featured Garlic Herb Scallops and a Lump Crab Cake, and I asked to substitute my vegetables for an Iceberg Wedge Salad, but later saw on the receipt I was charged the full price of $7 for the salad. The wedge was notable because, even though it is a common steakhouse salad, it was uncommonly good: served chilled and crisp with a hearty amount of blue cheese and bacon, and the homemade French vinaigrette was light and delicious.
Unfortunately, the crab cake on my entrée plate did not taste as good as the cakes in our appetizer. Salty and over-seasoned, it was a disappointment. The scallops were succulent and buttery and a highlight of the meal, though I wished there were more (there were only two on the plate). I consoled myself with a second glass of wine and decided to focus on the future: dessert.
I really have a thing for homemade desserts when dining out, especially at “upscale” restaurants. When the server mentioned the Caramel Cheesecake ($7) was pre-sliced, I was pretty confident it wasn’t homemade. My husband ordered it anyway. Served with a moderate amount of caramel sauce, it was still good cheesecake.
Passing on my personal favorite, Creme Brulee, I decided to take a chance on the Chocolate Mousse ($7) paired with a Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port ($6). Intensely fruity and smooth, it’s a solid ruby port to pair with a simple dessert. It held up well while I savored the mousse. Rich and appropriately bittersweet, the mousse was very good.
I reserve “must return status” for restaurants where there is something on the menu I don’t feel another restaurant can adequately re-create. While the food was pretty solid, with a price tag of $140 (before tip) I’m not sure when, or if, we’ll go back to Stone Creek.
STONE CREEK DINING COMPANY
Go: 6200 Muhlhauser Road, West Chester
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
Entrée Prices: $10-$30
Red Meat Alternatives: Plenty
Accessibility: Fully accessible