Saturday, March 2, 2013

Restaurant Review: Cumin

To celebrate my birthday, my parents and I decided to go to a restaurant in Cincinnati called Cumin.

We arrived just as the restaurant opened.  The first thing that struck us was the decor, which was very tasteful.  After we ordered our dishes, and in between courses, we often supplemented our conversation with comments about the color scheme, the lighting, and the very cool backlit wooden wall.

The menu wasn't massive, but each item sounded so interesting that it was very hard to make up our minds on what we wanted.   We ended up ordering two courses each.  Our waitress often checked up on us, and offered good advice on what to order.  After she collected our menus, she brought out a basket with bread.

The bread, which was with white flour, was accompanied by a farmer cheese spread.  The bread itself was very very good, with a soft, bubbly center surrounded by shock of crispy crust.  It was so warm and steamy that it must have been baked and sliced right before serving.
The farmer cheese spread we suspected to contain farmer cheese, called tvorog by russians, as well as heavy cream, and just the right amount of salt to go well with the bread.

I am not anywhere near baking with yeast well, but I seriously hope to learn to make a bread similar to this someday.

As we munched the bread, we could hear and smell our first courses being made.  I ordered the "Scallop Terrarium" ( I found it on the online menu, and its description says Butter baby potatoes, bacon jam, wheat grass, “dirt”), my father ordered a heart of palm salad, and my mother ordered the daily soup, which was a tomato-basil bisque with ricotta.  I could not find their dishes' formal titles or their descriptions on the online dinner menu.  
All three dishes were brought at the same time, and all were presented beautifully.  I didn't manage to photograph neither the palm heart salad nor the soup, but both were very well-crafted in terms of ingredients.  The soup was comforting, while the salad was tangy and was tastefully garnished with black caviar.
I was completely delighted with the scallop terrarium.  The major flavors were bacon, smoke, and the scallops' natural sweet taste.  The bowl you see was brought out covered in saran wrap, which was removed to let out a smokey-smelling fog from the bowl.  The edible "dirt" was nutty and sweet, but we could not discern the exact ingredients.  I strongly recommend this dish to anyone who likes bacon and adorable, creative dish presentation.

After our first course, we were feeling very full, and worried that we would not have space inside of us for any more food.  Thankfully, while the chefs prepared all of our foods fresh, we got to wait, digest, and enjoy each others' company.
For the main course, I ordered steamed buns with pork belly, cabbage, and fermented curry paste.  My mother ordered seared monkfish with lobster tortellini, and my father ordered a venison (poblano pepper, celery root, currant glaze, coffee grounds, arugula, venison reduction).  I did not manage to get photos of everyones' dishes, only the pork buns.
The dishes arrived just as we finished feeling completely stuffed, excellent timing.  The venison was very flavorful and not overcooked at all.  The monkfish, too, was cooked just right, and the lobster tortellini were large and had a good amount of stuffing.  The monkfish was garnished with bits of caviar, and both plates had very pretty sculptures of ingredients and sauces scattered around the meat.
As for the pork buns, I was completely blown away.  I have a large sweet tooth and my favorite dishes are normally sweet, but in this case, the best meal of the night for me were these pork buns.  The buns were made of baozi dough, and there were fresh greens placed atop a wonderful slice of pork belly.  I've never had pork belly before, but its smooth texture was so great that I must have it again.
I was unladylike and devoured the two buns using my hands.  I hotly recommend this dish to everyone who likes baozi and chinese spices.

After we finished our second course, we were incredibly happy with our meal and life in general.  The service in Cumin was very attentive.  Our table was cleared by a cheery gentleman, and the regional manager of Cumin and its sister pizzeria later came up and spoke to us.  He told us of his plans for remodeling the interior of the restaurant soon, including painting over this wall.
We will miss these paintings, but look forward to seeing how Cumin will look after being modernized some more.
The manager also explained to us that although Cumin used to be an Indian restaurant, it had switched its type of cuisine five years ago.  Cumin had kept its name to avoid losing regular customers, but also caused a lot of people to expect Indian food when they visited.  

After being enlightened about the restaurant's history (before speaking to the manager, my parents and I wondered whether Cumin was an avant garde Indian restaurant, or perhaps Native American?) we were presented with dessert menus.  Despite being very full, we decided to party it up and order desserts, too.
My mother ordered a raspberry clafoutis, my father ordered a root beer float made with vanilla gelato and a chocolate chip cookie, and I ordered a hot-cocoa Madagascar vanilla gelato dish.  The online dessert menu displays different foods than these, which means that the desserts must be rotated often.  Excellent.
The raspberry clafoutis had fantastic dough, it was a custard/cake hybrid.  The gelato served with it, although I don't recall the flavor, was light and fruity.  The clafoutis were garnished with toasted and sweet brazil nuts, whose earthy flavor was an unexpected and much needed accompaniment to the dessert.

My choice was also very good.  The hot cocoa sauce indeed tasted like hot cocoa: the chefs totally nailed the
mysterious element which makes hot cocoa different from chocolate.   The coffee whipped cream which garnished the sauce was subtly sweet.  The vanilla gelato was not too fatty, like ice cream would have been.
In a very sweet gesture, upon learning that my parents and I were celebrating my birthday, the cook staff put a candle in my ice cream!

My dad greatly enjoyed his root beer float.  Cumin managed to make this dessert fancy, with high quality root beer and excellent gelato.  I'm not sure whether this photo captured the cookie's size well, but it was genuinely massive, approximately 2cm tall and 10cm long.  It was great for sharing, with a texture similar to a dense scone.

Putting a pleasant end on our evening, as we left the restaurant, we noticed that a bird had made its nest in the center of Cumin's "m".  It looks charming, almost intentional, as it is very symmetrical placement.
In conclusion, we had a great time at Cumin, and will be returning again.  We must also check out the sister pizzeria, M Wood Fired Oven.  

Cumin Restaurant
3520 Erie Ave.
Hyde Park, Cincinnati
(513) 871-8714

note: the opinions for this review are my own.
Cumin Eclectic Cuisine on Urbanspoon


  1. Hi Anna,

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