It's been awhile since I have been so excited over the potential of a newcomer to the Columbus restaurant scene. It might be the fact that I am still under the influence of lots of pork jus, but I foresee a lot of revisits to Skillet in my future.
Skillet opened very quietly about 3 weeks ago in the small space formerly occupied by Banana Bean, which moved to a new location on Greenlawn. I only heard about them because I follow them on twitter and they have a tendency to to tweet their daily specials. Finally when they tweeted "Cowgirl Creamery Farmhouse Cheddar" this morning, I asked Husband if I could treat him to brunch. Surprisingly he agreed (he doesn't like to travel very far for food).
The space has been simplified a bit from the Banana Bean days; the kitchen has been expanded very slightly (it's still a small kitchen), and there are about 8 tables. You order at the kitchen presentation counter and your food is delivered to you shortly thereafter.
Looking over the menu, I knew instantly that Husband would be ordering the porchetta sandwich. I was torn between the apple cheddar pancakes and the short rib sandwich, but we knew we would have to have the breakfast risotto as well. And then there were sides which included roasted beets and other yummy things. We finally settled on the porchetta, the risotto, a side of Yukon Gold potatoes, and the roasted beets.
Porchetta is basically a pig which has been gutted and had all of its meat put back inside of the skin, and then rolled up and roasted long and slow. It's a little fatty (but it's pork fat, the most delicious of the fats). When I worked at G. Michael's, Chef did this a few times when we would get in suckling pigs from JB King. It was always one of those things that we could never sell as a special but the staff adored. Skillet's version is succulent and tender; heavily seasoned with garlic and a few herbacious aromatics. It is served on a toasted ciabatta roll which has been doused with a good bit of pork braising jus for good measure (here's a closeup of the beauty):
I was eating this sandwich, thinking to myself it might be one of the best pieces of pork I had eaten in a long long time, and how that was a good thing because The Day the Music Died was playing in the restaurant and I knew at that instant I would be hearing it in my brain all day long and maybe for the rest of the weekend. Husband and I ate this sandwich with a knife and fork, nodding to each other the whole time, reveling in its yumminess. It was so rich that we both agreed it would be well served with a little arugula, sauerkraut or some quick pickled peppers and onions. It was amazing.
One of the sides we settled on was roasted Yukon gold potatoes with "burnt ends." These are the ends of the roasted pork, and again. Amazing. Full of flavor but not greasy - the pork almost had a twice-fried pork texture. Yummy.
We also chose the roasted beets, which again, were perfect and delicious. There was a combination of red and orange beets with a generous amount of good goat cheese and toasted almonds. The beets were earthy, meaty, and delicious without the dirt flavor so many people find objectionable (earthy, but not dirty). This was a very nicely balanced dish and we also loved it with the potatoes.
Lastly, we chose the breakfast risotto with mascarpone, peaches and red-eye gravy. Now, some of you might not know that today "dawned" cold and rainy and yucky. This risotto was the perfect cure for the weather, and might be the perfect thing to eat every Saturday morning all winter long. The risotto was rich but not too sweet (which is one of my favorite kinds of sweet). The peaches were caramelized with a good bit of sugar which was crunchy and slightly burnt (in a good way, like a proper creme brulee top). A splash of bourbon and molasses redeye gravy (a coffee-based gravy popular in the south). The molasses and coffee provide a nice bitter counterpoint to the richness of the mascarpone, so that the overall affect was rich and comforting, but grown up:
We were way full, and I was grateful that Husband reminded me that I am always trying to order way too much. I can't wait to go back sometime this week to try something different.
My only request for Skillet would be that they have a very simple bitter green salad on their menu. A little chopped frisee with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt would have been the perfect side to refresh the palate. Okay I have one more request - if there were any restaurant who would serve marrow bones in the city, I could see Skillet doing it. So when you put those on the menu (with some toast points and aforementioned salad), please tweet me first and I'll be there in batman-like time.
I believe Skillet is a family operation, with a father and son chef team; however I do not know the owners or anything about them (yet!). With food like this, I wish them nothing but the best.
And now a request for patrons: this place is small, the kitchen is small. So please, be patient when you go. Don't whine and complain about tight quarters or the smallish menu. If they get super busy and food takes awhile, understand that it takes time to make food this good. We didn't wait long for anything but I'm just preparing for the inevitable crowds that will arrive and then complain when they can't get a table (it happened with Banana Bean).
Skillet R.U.F. (Rustic Urban Food) bills itself thusly: "Seasonal, farm to table comfort classics with an edge. Always ingredient driven, with complex flavors, but never complicated." For once, a restaurant really, really lives up to their mission statement in every way. (Okay, there were peaches with the risotto, but they were still tasty).
Skillet is doing a very smart thing in starting small, with limited hours until they get things down, and then they will be opening for longer hours. At this time there is no liquor license, which can sometimes be a downer for dinner; however it does keep people from lingering in the small space. For my piece of unsolicited advice, I would forgo a full liquor license and spring for beer only, which would match the food perfectly and save on space.
Okay. Now I'm going to slip into a brief food coma before work.
Info:: Skillet Rustic Urban Food 410 E Whittier (German Village, Schumacher - I can never get the boundaries straight down there ) 614.443.2266