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Latitude 41 - Full Circle

50 N. 3rd St. Columbus, OH 43215 (614) 233-7541

How cool are those new floors these days, with all the different-colored hardwood panels? The random interplay of Ruddy Pine™ and Deep Maple™ put a certain tension in the air that always suggests movement, even in a quiet, empty room. Latitude 41 has one of those floors, but it’s underneath one of the hippest new restaurants in town, so don’t spend too much time staring at the floor. That’s a good way to miss out on some superlative people watching.

Chef Dean James Max has created a tastefully-kinetic room. The floor-to-ceiling curtains that sub-divide the lofty and enormous dining area actually make the place feel intimate, while they instill a certain curiosity. One can’t help but wonder what’s going on behind any of myriad walls of fabric, especially when the laughter erupts from behind one or many of them. The bar and the high tables that surround it are the locus from which to best survey everything that transpires, since the aforementioned curtains radiate out like spokes and the bar is the hub. Get a drink there. Watch some people. Then, move to a table.

The dining room works with a seldom-seen blend of aesthetic and efficiency. Everything, down to the silverware is exactly right. Even more nitpicky… The proper silver is always delivered in time for the proper course and it is delivered from the proper side. In fact, everything seems to be getting done properly at Latitude 41. It’s not every hip place in the world that has good service, but Latitude has it enough for the rest of them.

With a pedigree like the one Chef Max has, it is almost impossible not to be hip, and not for lack of a thesaurus, either. He was voted Best Chef in South Florida in 2005 and 2006, and the National Restaurant Association considered his restaurant, 3030 Ocean, the Best Seafood Restaurant in South Florida. That’s pretty hip. What’s even hipper is that he has managed to deftly translate his sea creature manipulations to the critters of the land. We in Ohio love our critters of the land.

It almost feels like Chef Max is creating a restaurant around us, especially when things like the Octoberfest Flatbread hit the table. It has everything we like, from bacon to bread to cheese, and a vague and ambiguous German heritage. Then, when Chef explains how he’s trying to use as many locally-produced ingredients as he can, we know he is creating a restaurant around us. He’s even got a couple of nice Ohio wines on the list. The Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Franc, for example, expresses like it would in Bordeaux, but with a decidedly Ohioan fruit presence. It also slays with the Octoberfest Flatbread.

Since Chef Max has chosen Chef Tony Miller to head up the Kitchen at Latitude 41, and his curriculum vitae is as skewed seaward as Chef Max’s, it would behoove the savvy diner to get at least a little fish. Chef Miller, who spent years in Hawaii with the master of Pacific Rim cuisine, Roy Yamaguchi, has deconstructed a Poke into Tuna Tartar. (It must be noted that Miller has arranged to have his tuna flown in from Hawaii four times a week. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can beet that anywhere in the city.) Oddly, this Midwestern re-writing of a Hawaiian dish goes remarkably well with Columbia Wineries’ Gewerztraminer: an Alsacian varietal produced in Washington state.

The glossy, sharp, slight metal of the tuna is joined on the tongue by the creamy sweetness of avocado, and, before either one of them have a chance to establish themselves as your favorite flavor, all of it is washed off the palate by the sweet and sour straw of the Gewertz. Actually, Latitude 41 has a number of interesting white wines that would do the same sort of thing, from the genuine Alsacian Pierre Sparr Gewertztraminer to Sokol Blosser’s “Evolution” blend from Oregon.

The wine list at Latitude 41 is organized in a very interesting fashion. The wines are listed on one of three pages. Every wine on the same page is the same price, so the bottle selections range from 21 to 41 dollars. There is a little something in every category on each page. Sparklings, demi secs, Pinots Gris, Grigio, Blanc, Noir, big juicy reds, smaller, more earthy reds, etc., they are all there and there’s some of each in every price range. There’s also the Dean’s List that has the we-don’t-mind-spending-a-little bottles on it. There you will find several go-to names and a few you know, but haven’t seen for a while.

Get one of the big juicy reds before the Short Ribs get to the table. Or, if you have decided on the tenderloin, before it gets there. Either cut will be steroid and hormone free and grown locally, since that’s what Chefs Max and Miller demand of their flagship Midwestern venture. It may simply be a correlative relationship, and since proving a causal one could be very problematic, we won’t suggest one, but that is some extraordinarily good tasting meat. It holds up to a braising off the bone or nothing more than a brief searing. Kinkead’s got your Syrah covered for this dish, if you want both juice and meat to be local. If not, try a juice bomb from California or an earthy Italian. Just make sure it is big enough to hold its weight with the beef.

Actually, make sure it’s big enough for chocolate, because the Chefs have put together a dessert sampler that has at least three different kinds of chocolate. There’s no way you’ll finish a whole bottle of whatever you choose by the end of the entrees, so it’s best to ensure that it will hold up through the dessert. You can always mosey on back to the bar for the Sambucca or Cognac.