Zoë Fine Dining’s
July 2010 Issue
Zoë Fine Dining
Leave it to an Athens restaurateur to find the perfect combination of sophisticated food and a relaxed atmosphere.
move from its location in the old mining community of Eclipse Company Town to uptown Athens hasn’t been purely self-beneficial. Sure, owner Scott Bradley and his crew have profited from having more space, but more importantly, Athens-area foodies now have another restaurant worth boasting about.
I had the opportunity to dine at Zoë during a visit to Athens over Memorial Day weekend, and was not disappointed with my decision to have a nice meal in between the weekend’s many cookouts.
I was seated immediately upon entering the restaurant, which at 5:30 benefited from spring sunshine pouring in from the restaurant’s large front windows. In fact, the restaurant is lit primarily by natural light and tabletop candles, making for a cheery or intimate meal, depending on what time you plan to dine. The décor is a reflection of the menu — sophisticated yet laid back — with paper lanterns giving a fun twist to the otherwise unfussy, black and white space.
My Zoë experience started with a refreshing vanilla mojito, which has since been replaced on the impressive cocktail menu by the kiwi mojito ($6). It’s understandable that the restaurant is varying its drink menu a bit — Zoë just received its liquor license this past fall. Their experimentation has paid off, as the mojito was one of the most interesting cocktails I’ve ever tried. For those looking to stick to the basics, the restaurant also features a generous selection of international wines and draughts.
My waiter, who was attentive and helpful, appeared with my mixed organic green salad ($6) less than 10 minutes after it was ordered. With avocado chunks, cherry tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, smoked cheddar and a tart herb vinaigrette, the salad offered a flavor combination that was light and fresh yet, with the avocado and egg, had a comfort-food-like quality.
Individual pieces of bread were served with cabernet sauvignon reduction butter, and with butter as delicious as this, I was grateful I didn’t receive the all-to-common (and often overflowing) breadbasket.
As soon as I finished my salad, I was served a palate-cleansing apricot sorbet ($1), a sweet treat that also appeared later on the dessert menu.
For my entrée, I ordered the seared flatiron steak ($16) cooked medium, one of Zoë’s most popular dishes, which I’m sure has everything to do with its homemade Worcester sauce. Served with mashed potatoes and spicebush glazed carrots, the dish was simple yet cooked and seasoned to perfection.
I also ordered the aged, house-cut filet mignon ($29) with black truffle butter, served with mashed potatoes and spicebush carrots as well. Though this dish was primarily for sampling purposes, the juicy cut made it difficult to put my fork down.
Though I chose my entrée fairly easily — despite so many appealing dishes, including the wild mushroom crêpes ($15) and sauerbraten ($18) with braised and marinated tenderloin tips, spaëtzle and steamed sugar snap peas — when it came time to choose a dessert, I found myself with a tough decision.
The dessert menu isn’t large, but it’s definitely complete — those looking to finish dinner on a light note will be pleased, as will rich-chocolate lovers like me. After considering the sorbet flight ($4) (with apricot, green tea and huckleberry sorbets), the raspberry crème brûlée ($6), the mixed berry trifle ($7) and the individual baked Alaska ($8), I went with my waiter’s helpful opinion and opted for the baked Alaska. And to my surprise, it was quite refreshing despite its layers of chocolate meringue, ice cream and cake. But don’t be fooled by the menu’s description of “individual” — it’s certainly a dish for two, and maybe more. All desserts are made from scratch, and as for my baked Alaska, it’s one of the best chocolate dishes I’ve ever tasted.
Ultimately, my dinner at Zoë was wonderful for a number of reasons. The staff was friendly and attentive, the food was fresh and flavorful, the price was perfect for fine diners on a budget, and the Athens location gives me yet another excuse to visit one of my favorite Ohio towns. After all, as Bradley notes, the menu is constantly evolving. Hopefully, those Wild Mushroom Crêpes won’t go anywhere.
Zoë Fine Dining, 24 ½ E. State St., Athens, OH 45701, 740/592-4443. zoefinedining.com.
Tues.–Sat. 5–9 p.m. Dinner entrees $12–$20. CR