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Friday, August 24, 2012

The Vault - Madison, Ohio

A friend of mine gave me a foodie tip last weekend, and I took the bait. If you make a late summer/early fall trip up to Ohio wine country around Geneva…and you get the hungries…you may want to drive west down I-90 to Route 528 to make a stop in Madison, Ohio. Make a right on W. Main Street and just past the square you will find the Vault. This is an new-old restaurant that has only been open for about eight weeks. This place is a hoot, and to find such a degree of sophistication in Madison is an even bigger hoot.

The location is primo. It is right on the town square overlooking the town Gazebo which hosts band concerts and antique car shows all summer. You can sit on the patio and watch all the action. Madison itself looks like Mayberry. Flags everywhere in between beautiful lamp posts. It is not Poland or Canfield or Worthington pretty, but it fills the bill!!!

The building itself is an old bank building that was converted into a “tea room” serving finger sandwiches and, of course, tea. Not a really great business plan in Madison. So the tea people sold the place to new owners the first of the year who did some renovations, including a boardwalk around the outside of the entire building now used for outdoor seating in addition to a lovely patio. The interior is Sistine Chapel modern. The ceiling is painted an ethereal blue surrounded by angels. The booths and tables are uber modern circular things. The interior is relatively small so the impact is huge. The first thing you want to say is “whoa”.

Here’s the thing. The menu is about as sophisticated and innovative without totally going over the top as you are going to find in within driving distance. It features steaks…big and aged. The chef has the magic 1400 degree broiler which sears the meat and cooks it to perfection. There are five steaks from which to choose which are shown to you on a tray before so you can choose. Not cheap, folks…but the sirloin is reachable and I suspect they would allow sharing of the other cuts of meat like the Porterhouse…OMG it is huge. The steaks are very good.

But there is a terrific menu in addition to the steaks. Appetizers include artisanal cheese and carpaccio. Main courses include baked eggplant, wild mushroom ravioli, and a number of innovative pasta dishes along with scaloppini and well prepared fish offerings. The menu is not large, but well selected.

I started with lobster bisque. The crab and lobster meat is brought out in a large bowl which also contains sherry and pesto and olive oil. The soup is then poured on top of the array at the table. I didn’t think I would like the pesto in the soup. I was wrong. My wife’s salad showed you can conquer my basic salad pet peeve. Instead of serving her the standard greens on a plate, they served her a slice of a head of lettuce sprinkled on top with tomatoes and peppers with a balsamic dressing drizzle and then sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Just as easy, but the presentation was terrific. Salad doesn’t have to be fancy, but you can accomplish a lot with a little effort. Same ingredients…but what an impact.

My steak was perfect, served with garlic mashed potatoes and fried veggies. They could lose the potatoes, but the veggies were really good. They offer a variety of sauces to top your steaks. I like mine naked, but some of the offerings looked tempting. My wife’s salmon was perfect.

Service was friendly and professional. The manager was congenial. His group is opening a bistro across the street from the Vault with his newly purchased liquor license. He lives on the west side of Cleveland and puts 110 miles on his car each day. The Vault has a wide variety of wines and beers at reasonable prices. I don’t believe they have a full liquor license at this location, but I may be wrong.

I like this place. Great setting. Great food. Great service. I question how he will make it work in the winter because the interior is relatively small with the bulk of summer seating being outside. But the owner seemed comfortable with it and he has run restaurants for many, many years. Good for him.

Give it a try if you are up in that neck of the woods!!! Reservations are available for parties of 5 or more.

63 W. Main Street
Madison, OH 44057

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