Central Ohio has never been famous for its seafood. Perhaps its landlockedness is the primary reason. Perhaps it is an age-old, permeating meat-and-potatoes aesthetic. Whatever the reason, seafood lovers in the Columbus area have been left with few options: Fried Pollock or Cod, peel and eat shrimp or, at the pinnacle, sushi-grade tuna. In the age of jet propulsion and overnight delivery services, we needn’t be relegated to such paltry choices just because we aren’t on a coast. And, to a certain extent, we should have the advantage over coastal dwellers. Every fishmonger worth his/her salt these days is flying salmon, snapper, seabass and swordfish to every remote, arid location in the interior of this great land, but markedly few are exploring the freshwater finds that we’ve enjoyed for years.
Thom’s on Grandview has taken advantage of the jet/information age and has brought Columbus fresh seafood, from freshwater delights like ruby trout and walleye to their more briny cousins that are as easy to get in Nebraska as they are in San Diego. Rob Detillio, the executive chef at Thom’s, has a CV that reads like a Zagat guide for Columbus. It’s peppered with all the names one drops when one is trying to list the best restaurants in Central Ohio and it shows in his creations.
The Thom in Thom’s on Grandview is veteran restaurateur Thom Coffman, of The Clarmont and Round Bar. He has given Chef Detillio a warm, neutral toned dining room in which to present his concoctions. It is far less sterile, cold and white than the Braddock’s dining room that used to occupy the same coordinates in time/space. The warm tones and subdued lighting have concurrently made the bar area at Thom’s feel like a comfortable locus for dinner itself, rather than a temporary perch while waiting for a proper table.
The bar is still a great place for a glass of Champagne or cocktail, if you do find yourself either waiting for guests or a table, and Thom’s has Fleur Du Champagne at the best price point in the city and wacky martinis that use blueberry and pomegranate juices. So, start at the bar.
Once seated at the table, try some of the outstanding small plates that often double as appetizers. The Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels are among the best in the Midwest. Those little bivalves couldn’t go any better with Hugel’s Gentil (blend of three of Alsace’s finest white varietals) if they had been raised in the juice. The Lump Crab Cocktail and Seared Sea Scallop and Lobster Roll likewise love the Hugel, but could show better under Nora’s tart Albarino or a South African Chenin Blanc from Forrester. Save the Pepper Tuna and the Louisiana Style Shrimp for when you are having Jadot’s Pouilly Foisse or the brilliance of Nickel and Nickel’s chardonnay.
If you somehow manage not to drink all the Nickel before the entrees get there, try some of it with the Ruby Trout En Papiote or the Herb Crusted Walleye. Don’t finish either of those, though, until you have had a chance to try them with Au Bon Clilmat’s Santa Barbara Pinot. Don’t do it the other way around – Chard first, then Pinot. That’s the best way to get into the Ciopino, anyhow, and at Thom’s, you’ll need some of that. It’s a tomatoey broth stocked with all of your favorite non-fish sea creatures, shells and all. At least a sip of the ABC Pinot should be saved for the Grilled Salmon or the Swordfish, but if there’s none left, the Domane Serene Pinot from Oregon or Usseglio’s Cotes Du Rhone will gladly step right in.
Be sure to get to Thom’s often, or at least with a huge group of people who are willing to share, because you really will want to try everything on the menu. So, once you’ve put the Herb Crusted Walleye, Sauteed Red Snapper and the Seared Sea Scallops behind you and finished off what was left of the medium bodied reds, you can stampede towards the meat dishes and their logical full-bodied counterparts. The Rack of Lamb’s horseradish punch can hold up to a glass of Chimney Rock or Jordan Cab, and there is never anything wrong with having a bottle of each of those on the table. The Moon Mountain Cabernet isn’t something that you see everywhere, especially at the price-point that Thom is offering it for. It loves the Lamb, the Filet, the NY Strip, and even most of those fish that we’ve all been told not to like Cabernet with. In fact, if you couldn’t get all your friends to come to dinner, and you’re at Thom’s as a couple, only planning to have one bottle and not really wanting to break the bank, the perfect bottle might just be that Moon Mountain. If you are more partial to whites, or if you are planning to stick with the extraordinary and delicate Ruby Trout or the sweet, cold-water Lobster Tail, your single bottle might be the Landmark Overlook Chardonnay or a white Rhone blend from Noel St. Laurent. You can always come back for the huge, bone-in Pork Chop and a bottle of fruit-juicy L’Ecole Cab from Washington State.
One thing you gotta do, regardless of what you’ve already eaten and drunk, is get some of the Vanilla Bean Cheesecake. If you have any of the Perrier Jouet Fleur left, you’re either crazy or have extraordinary willpower, but you are in luck, because that will be perfect with this particular confection. If you are, like us, merely mortal, and you finished the Fleur before the appetizer course, do not panic. Get a bottle of the Moscato D’Asti from Osvaldo. It is lightly sweet and sparkling and will go with everything that Chef Detillio has on the dessert menu, from the Espresso Orange Crème Brûlée to the Bourbon Peach Cobbler to the Apple Tart Tatin.
You may want to stop at the hostess stand on the way out, so you can make your reservations for next weekend, because it is highly unlikely that you tried everything you wanted to with only one visit.
Note: Thom's is currently closed.