Restaurant of the Month – May 2014

Blue Wisp offers dining and entertainment in one place


Visitors looking for a good night out that includes a tasty dinner, drinks and entertainment will find all of that at the Blue Wisp in Cincinnati’s downtown.

Some say the Blue Wisp is mostly a live music venue, with a focus of all types of jazz. Others say it’s a great dining destination. Still others love the giant bar area, where the taps are numerous, the bottles many, and the bartenders are as top-shelf as the libations.

Key magazine gives the Blue Wisp thumbs up in all three categories. The Blue Wisp is unique in the Greater Cincinnati market. First, the food focus is on entrée dishes that you’ll recognize, appreciate and find upscale without being above understanding. You know what we mean: accent marks over letters, ingredients one cannot pronounce and haven’t heard of, even if one could pronounce them.

Not at Blue Wisp. Menu choices are in an exquisite middle area where diner satisfaction is concerned—neither high-brow nor fare we know as “bar food.” For example, cider salmon is an entrée to which Key gives a first in class. The salmon is fresh and top-quality, and the dish is made with fresh apples and pan-made sauce; nothing bagged or boxed in the whole recipe, according to Ken Moore, GM.

Fact is the Blue Wisp kitchen is a farm-to-table practitioner, relying on our own vaunted Findlay Market (see cover story) and local growers whenever possible. Meats? The kitchen cuts its own steaks, for example. Plus, you’ll find no cryo-vac pre-packs in the Blue Wisp kitchen, Moore stated. “Our Cuban sandwich is a good example. We do it all here: slow-roasted pork, to which we add ham, smoked pork belly and Swiss cheese, top it with Dijonnaise sauce, press it down with some pickles. That’s a sensational sandwich!

“The same with our beef tenderloin medallions, which is one of the most-ordered entrée dishes on our menu. We do that in a blueberry demi-glace and roasted bleu cheese crumbles, served with a side of smashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Also, our entrees come with a side salad, bread and butter. So, we offer a good meal at an attractive price in a setting where you will enjoy fine music and some of the best jazz talent on the circuit today. That makes the Blue Wisp a place like no other in the Greater Cincinnati area, and it’s a true highlight for adults visiting the area.”

And what about that jazz, you ask? Among the “name” acts that appear at the Blue Wisp are performers such as Stanley Jordan, Benny Gholson of sax fame, and the Ramsey Lewis trio.

Palomino is Mediterranean- European Dining with Italian Flavors


If you’re looking for a fine-dine restaurant with an enticing mix of imaginative food, fun-friendly ambiance and a magnificent location with a view, look no further than Palomino Restaurant & Bar.

Let’s get to cases! Lunch, anyone? Try the salmon burger. We did, and it is scrumptious. Sous Chef James White tells us they buy premium Atlantic salmon in big filets several feet long, then cut serving portions from the loin. For the burger, small pieces are taken and shredded, not ground, to allow for big chunks in the _-pound burger—hence more salmon flavor. It works, too. The burger is tasty and loaded with salmon flavor. BTW, the burger is topped with a chef-made spicy onion “jam” that is like a marmalade, and is flat-out delicious.

Palomino is known for its rotisserie cooking, according to GM Nelson Castillo. “We feature rotisserie cooking and items that are very difficult to execute at home,” he said. Pork, beef and chicken are among those items, and the process takes hours— actually, days for the pork loin. The bone-in pork loin is brine cured for 3-4 days in a sweet/herby concoction that penetrates and preps the meat for the rotisserie. Then, the meat is coated with a steak-salt, garlic, onion and pepper mix, and roasted. When you order, the chef whacks off the chop and brings the meat to temp and the result is mouth-watering. The chicken is done a little differently, and finished in a brick “oven” with temps off the charts, so the skin is crispy and tasty, and inside, the flesh is juicy and tasty and terrific.

Is pasta (and why not at this eatery with an Italian bent?) to your liking? Try the rigatoni Bolognese. The dish features hot Italian sausage, pear tomatoes, roasted red-pepper cream and parmesan cheese on top, mixed with bread crumbs and finished under the broiler to form a delightful crust. Yum? You bet!