L’Antibes - French Twist
772 N. High St. Suite 106, Columbus, OH 43215 (614) 291-1666
Chef Matthew Litzinger learned early in his college career that he wanted to pursue his passion for food. His trumpet playing earned him a scholarship at Miami University, but he soon realized while working at an area restaurant that culinary school might be a better path for him. It was after a stint in the Culinary Institute of America in Manhattan and working side by side with many acclaimed chefs that Litzinger resolved to come back to Columbus. He always knew he would. “I left Columbus to go to New York to come back to Columbus to open a restaurant,” he says.
This restaurant is open for dinner only on Tuesday through Thursday from 5-9 and on Friday and Saturday from 5-10. The restaurant only opens on Sunday and Monday for private functions.
Classic French this eatery is not, and Chef Litzinger is adamant that diners know that. Just because the name is French, he says, doesn’t mean he can’t serve Szechuan, for example. He aims for modern French, or simply “fine dining.”
The difference? In classic French restaurants, often you’ll find entrees plated on several dishes – starch on one, protein on another, and perhaps an accompaniment on a third. Here, the goal is to execute a modern French style defined by being very centered in the plating. You take one bite and all the flavors are in your mouth. In addition, French cooking is about more than the ingredients; it’s about technique and precision in the kitchen. As an example, consider but one of Chef Litzinger’s sauces, which takes three days to make.
Seriously, look away for a second and you might miss this spot. Look for a sign on the sidewalk that directs to a side plaza suite. The eatery does have its own parking lot, but it’s not very big, so have a plan B. Reservations aren’t required though strongly suggested since the restaurant only has eleven tables. It’s a small space, but warm and intimate with low music, paintings of street scenes, and comfy high-back leather chairs. For even more intimacy, ask to be seated at the one lone table in the bar. Your privacy is certain here.
We were seated near the front window on an early evening, with the last of the day’s sun spilling in onto us. We were first treated with a bottle of vineuse white burgundy which served to boost our anticipation of what was to come next. The first plate was a mere nibble – a quarter-sized slice of toasted brioche with shitake mushroom ragout with white truffle oil. We loved the blend of parsley and garlic mix with the creamy, earthy taste of the fresh, meaty mushrooms.
Our next plate, an avocado salad, was a visual delight – put together so delicately it looked almost too perfect to eat. Simple slices of fresh avocado came accentuated with micro greens threaded with curly fennel. It was the combination of this licorice-tasting vegetable and sprinkling of thyme sea salt that we found so intriguing. Chef Litzinger strives to offer local and organic produce whenever he can. And with North Market just around the corner, he’s often able to do
We were taken aback to receive next a towering Blue Lump crab cake resting in a pot of mustard buerre blanc. We found not a grain of filler in these cakes; they consisted of huge chunks of zesty and fresh-tasting crab, rich and super sweet. Contrasted with the mustard sauce and bread crumb and radish salad topping, this plate is the one to taste.
Not always on the menu, we were pleasantly surprised to be served goat cheese fritters, made remarkable because of the accompanying fig jam. We were undecided on which sauce best highlighted the sharp pungency of the cheese – the chunky sweet jam or the balsamic vinaigrette reduction.
Consider yourself lucky if you happen to visit this eatery on squash blossom night. We marveled that we were going to be able to enjoy such a rare treat. Chef Litzinger fills these tender flowers with scallop mousse and lightly finishes them off in a tempura batter. These little luxuries are plated atop a yellow tomato coulis, perfectly creamy and rich, similar tasting to bisque. And again with the focus on local produce, these blossoms were purchased from an area farm.
There’s an extensive dessert list here: crème brulee, tarts, dark-chocolate mousse, but Chef Litzinger wanted us to try his blueberry crepes. They arrived hot and filled with wonderfully fluffy cream cheese, blueberries specked in. These are served with homemade vanilla ice cream, which could have stood on its own, and sugary warm caramel sauce.
Seven courses later, and we were pleasantly moved by them all.