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Dec 24, 2007 10:56 AM

Slims (Cincinnati)

Slims is loose.

The joint has the feel of a bunch of friends who are expert cooks in a food clique.It's a genial conspiracy to make food that reaches far beyond what your mouth expects.

It's far out...sophisticated but homey...deliciousness with a comfortable reach is here but it's gonna be fancy and maybe you should dress up a little.

When you walk in your elbow may brush the salad prep counter.That's ok.The pantry cook is all smiles...she's seen a bunch of strangers do the same thing in the 3 years they've been open.

It may take a few minutes for the crew to seat you...maybe you can pass that time in the big chair over in the corner that's the waiting area.You'll have a nice view out of a bank of big windows that overlooks the main dining area.

The scene is all polished hardwoods,low ceilings,ambient lighting and cool art[naked line drawings].The kitchen is open,the smells are good and the staff familiar without being too much so.

The food is beyond compare.I would liken it to delicousness being turned out by New Orleans mainstays Stella or perhaps Herbsaint.

The menu is prix fixe with the courses arriving at the chef's leisure[Slims seemingly has no interest in turning tables].He clearly understands food of this magnitude needs to be savored and pondered.

The Braised Citrus Pork Belly arrives heroically charred and huge.The crispy, nicely salted hide is a luxury with the fat melting just below.The flesh is addictive,perfectly cooked and hot off the stove.

This pig did not die in vain.Straddling a nest of Roasted Root Vegetables with a nice smidge of Smoked Fu Fu... I want to feed it to my vegetarian friends and watch them turn into rampant meat loving carnivores.Watching them burn their PETA cards out front on Hamilton Avenue would be a nice culmination of my efforts to turn the ascetics into gourmands.

Prior to the glorious arrival of the Belly a languorous whirlwind of courses comes at me....Brazilian Shrimp Stew,rich and spicy begins the feast....a salad with Ripe Persimmons dressed in a light vinaigrette makes an appearance and is swiftly torn to pieces...a Shrimp mid shows itself and is worthy of a photo-nevermind it's eaten so fast the only memorial will be in my mind.The palate cleansing Mango sorbet is so good I want to to guzzle a pint of it.

An ice-choked glass of housemade rootbeer comes with the is a perfectly balanced and refreshing nod to Deep South foodways.

I putdown a lot of meals in cities scattered all over North America in 2007 and Slims is the king.

The ultimate in my dining experiences.

I'm trying to come up with a good excuse to come back to Cincinnati[a 1000 plus miles from home]so I can revisit the scene of this mecca...the perfect marriage of food,conviviality and service.

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  1. Just ate there Saturday. The food is just excellent, and at $40 for six courses, the price is incredible. I have one criticism, and that's the service can be exasperating. This is a three-hour meal. We didn't reach the salad course for more than an hour and a half. There are long stretches between courses. Servers disappear for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, and rarely check to see if you need anything. At the end of the meal the server asked if we were interested in dessert, and though they looked great, I knew it would be another half-hour and I didn't feel like waiting.

    I don't like to be hurried through a meal, but I also don't like to feel forgotten. We brought two bottles of wine for four people, and I found myself nursing my wine to make sure I'd have at least a half a glass when my entre arrived. I'm going to think twice about going back, because the service makes this a bit of an ordeal.

    Since this is BYO beer/wine/whatever, bring extra. If you're thinking two bottles of wine for four people, bring three.

    4 Replies
    1. re: johnbycz

      Looking for an update on Slims.

      I've eaten there twice and had one of the best meals of my life the first time.The second time was no where near as good but to be fair it was chef's night off.

      I only have time for one meal in Cincinnati on my upcoming trip and I feel like it should be at Slims.

      Is there a better restaurant?

      1. re: scrumptiouschef

        Can’t speak to whether there is a better restaurant than Slim’s in town, but as for updates, I believe that Joanne Drilling (formerly of Lavomatic) is now cooking there, and a recent blog review (on renewed my interest in trying out the place.

        Among other Cincy restaurants getting attention these days are Nada and Bootsy’s downtown and Terry’s Turf Club in the East End. Of the three, I’ve eaten only at Bootsy’s - for lunch with non-foodie co-workers. Surprisingly for that crowd, we all loved our food and said we’d go back. Our experience with service was that, while pleasant, it was rather slow and not terribly professional. Dinner would no doubt be much more expensive.

        FYI, Terry’s Turf Club doesn’t have a website, but it sounds tantalizing if you’re (a) interested in a well-made burger with gourmet twists, (b) willing to wait, and (c) comfortable venturing into an off-the-beaten path part of town.

        Let us know which restaurant you end up eating at for your one night in town and what you think of it.

        1. re: scrumptiouschef

          Here's a review from my experience tonight.

          I'd eaten at Slim's twice more than 4 years ago when I was still living in Cincinnati and really loved the experience, from the communal seating, to the amuse, throughout the prix-fixe courses. Back for a business trip today, I stopped by (since it's a Thursday, they offered the a la carte menu). Things have changed - not only do they now have a phone (and accept reservations!), but I didn't love the food as much as I did in the past. The service was a little imperfect - not bad, but there were a few things missed (we had to ask for a menu after being seated; a request for sauce was made twice, a missing part of one dish had to be asked for). Looking at the menu online, I was excited going in, craving some of the fantastic Puerto Rican dishes that I enjoyed in a past trip to PR. I started with the mofongo (with shrimp and ajili chili sauce). I was disappointed - it tasted as though the mofongo had been premade and microwave reheated - it didn't have the distinct texture of freshly fried and mashed plantains. There were only 2 shrimp which were tasty and plump, but the ajili chili sauce was basically sriracha + mayonnaise. There was a little mixed green salad on the side which was interesting - full of some rather spicy greens (a few leaves of mustard greens were all I could pick out, but there was something with little white flowers that was really peppery).

          My entree was the lechon asado. The menu (and the classic preparation of the dish) is for slow roasted pork -- but it was clearly braised. The best part of lechon asado should be the crispy pork skin, but there was no skin to be found on my portion. It was clearly braised -- in fact, the waiter offered to bring me a small portion of the 'braising liquid' since I had inquired before ordering whether the meat tended to be "dry" or not. While tender (probably a cut of pork shoulder with adequate fat marbling to keep it tender) it didn't have the smoky/roasted flavor that I was expecting with the classic dish. I enjoyed the latin rice that came with it, with an intriguing flavor combination involving thin slices of kumquat and citrus. The cuban black beans were a little bland.

          So -- the dishes suffered in comparison when being compared to the real thing, but if taken as "fusion" or "Latin inspired" I suppose it could come off a little better. Having read a few recent reviews here, I expected the meal to take a little while, but arriving at 6:30 and getting our food orders in ahead of several large parties seated 10-15 minutes after us seemed to make a big difference as our food came relatively quickly (as it should, frankly, if parts of the mofongo were indeed premade).

          I feel like there should be better restaurants in Cincinnati, though not having been here in a while I don't think I could name them :)

          1. re: bluepig1

            Slim's is a favorite of ours, not because the food is good, but because it's so funky and fresh and a little bit edgy. We take our daughters there when they come into town from CA and they liken it to places in Berkeley (but not Chez Panisse!)..

            I don't think the food is supposed to be authentic anything, but more of a 'fusion' as mentioned above. I know one of the cooks very well and have heard how they come up with some of the recipes~~some from the newspaper, some handed down through family recipes, some borrowed from another chef. They do grow their own salad greens and herbs in a nearby green house. Bring your own bottles and expect a casual wait staff that is a little disorganized. In the end, we always have a good time at Slim's, but we've come to expect the unexpected. Try it, you might like it! We do.