684 S. High St. Columbus, OH 43215 (614) 443-1125
In that part of German Village where you don’t have to leave the paved road, there is a restaurant that has been in business since 1947. Just pulling in to the lot, one begins to feel a sense of old-school—from the giant, illuminated ‘Clarmont’ sign to the covered passenger drop-off. For over half a century now, refined ladies have kept rainwater off of their delicates even while disembarking in the most inclement of deluges. Back then, after the brief and arid sojourn from automobile to foyer, gentlemen would proffer names of reservations. They would be shown to a waiting table. Chairs would be pulled out, cocktails ordered and niceties exchanged. There would be lots of meat on the menu and some fresh fish – and, of course, liver and onions. The wedge salad would be huge and smothered in Thousand Island. You would want to come every week, after the picture show. You’d always know what to expect. The Clarmont would mean a classy night out – a great place to take your best girl.
The Clarmont seems to have maintained. In fact, odds are pretty good that some patrons have taken their best girl there after the picture show every week since 1947. The reason why is simple: they always give patrons exactly what they expect. They have all the stuff Sinatra and Sammy used to eat when they hung out. There’s traditional escargot, served in one of those traditional escargot dishes. Oysters are perched upon halves of shells then served “by the each” or smothered with creamy spinach, bacon and Swiss cheese then crisped to the pinnacle of the Rockefeller namesake style. The truly colossal shrimp cocktail can also be purchased by the each and ought to be dunked in full into homemade cocktail sauce that has an undeniable horseradish kick.
There was a time, a while back, that only the refined and classiest of Central Ohio diners were eating raw stuff. Uncle Milty used to crack wise about steak tartar, on account of it being raw steak and all. We now know raw stuff can be delicious. Carpaccio is on every stand-out menu these days, and everyone who’s ever been to culinary school has deconstructed the tartar, most often by making it out of tuna. The fact remains, though, that people actually used to get all squirmy about the idea of eating raw beef and the Clarmont still had the stones to serve steak tartar. They still do. It’s still the original kind, too – with all the capers, chopped onion and egg that you scoop up onto toast points. And, the Claremont still has smelts. Sammy used to love the smelts.
The best way to serve lake fish is to lightly bread it, flash fry it and serve it with a remoulad of emulsified egg and vegetable oil with finely diced pickles and onions. Everybody knows that. Both Art Treacher and L.J. Silver made a mint by banking on it. Clarmont’s been doing it with the freshest-of-fresh lake fish available for decades. Right now they are doing it with walleye. That is tried-and-true good eatin’. When that flaky white fish meat is dunked into an awaiting dollup of tartar, it's like old-school, deep-fried heaven.
It didn’t used to be that a person could just walk into any open-collar restaurant and find lamb on the menu. An erudite individual would have to put on a necktie and some after shave lotion and head out to a fancy place. There, the rack of lamb would be rubbed in garlic and balanced on a raft of grilled asparagus. Coincidentally or not, that is also the way The Clarmont does their lamb rack. So, don’t worry about how to dress; just know that the old-school, fancy-dinner rack of lamb is at Clarmont, and now, you don’t need that tie to get it. Of course, the Delmonico steak is just as fancy as it always was, too. It is completely obscured by a mountain of peppers, onions and mozzarella cheese, but it is under there, cooked exactly how you want it. Get it with a side of peas and mushrooms or a baked sweet potato. It may not be a Chianti bottle wrapped in wicker, but the Clarmont has the wine necessary for the associations implied by their reliable menu. There are ample white and red selections to cover everything from oyster appetizers to a giant grilled porterhouse steak.
It isn’t really eating out, if you don’t have dessert. So, order a cup of coffee and a Frangelico. Relax a little. Maybe, if you want and you are going to stay seated for a while, unbutton the top one for a few minutes. Then order a slice of cheesecake with sugared strawberries. It has the graham crackers in the crust, just like old-school cheesecake should. It also has cinnamon somewhere and creamy sweetness colliding with the bits of strawberry. Good old fashioned, tried-and-true, classic cheesecake, that’s what you want. It goes perfectly with coffee and Frangelico.