With the closure of longtime Columbus restaurant M at Miranova, announced this week, The Dispatch is bringing back its original preview and review of the Downtown fine dining establishment. It first opened in July 2001.
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Dial ‘M’ for magic at Miranova
This story was written by Doral Chenoweth and published July 3, 2001
Lights and curtains are part and parcel of any theatrical opening. Expect the same when restaurateur Cameron Mitchell opens M to the public Thursday.
Mitchell and his 100-plus investors have created a feast for diners’ eyes in the fine-dining venue at 2 Miranova Place Downtown.
M — just plain M — makes it an even dozen restaurants for Mitchell.
But he calls this venue’s debut something very special, on par within the culinary community to the arrival of the Blue Jackets.
And like the startup of the city’s hockey team, which drew athletes from throughout the National Hockey League, Mitchell has brought in servers and chefs from his other operations.
For five nights last week, M served 1,200 invited guests, people from the culinary community who have supported Mitchell’s previous startups. Checks for the preview diners averaged $65.
The menu is described as “California fresh.”
One week ago, the M kitchen was bustling with 22 chefs and cooks — most of them from the other Mitchell restaurants — working under the supervision of David Dovell, executive chef for the 160-seat restaurant.
The kitchen will have a crew of 25, Mitchell said. What guests and staff saw in the preview was a marquee restaurant whose appearance is the work of Design Collective Inc., the Columbus firm credited with all of the CMR operations.
Designer Robert Valentine, principal of the company, says M sets new standards for dining and decor.
The interior is anchored by an internally illuminated oval chandelier.
It appears to be floating above the bar area, he added, and serves as the focal point, greeting guests as they enter from the long hallway leading from the street entrance.
Valentine describes the main feature of the lounge as a curving 30-foot sofa that separates the bar area from the dining area.
The lounge’s centerpiece is a back-lighted onyx communal table, where guests can have drinks and, if they want, dinner.
Valentine calls the back-bar lighting the “most- elaborate (lighting) system in the city and is called Color Kinetics . . . all controlled by computers to change colors and tones.”
The dining room is divided into three areas, some with sheer drapes separating tables to create a semi-private space for groups.
One attraction is the private dining area called the Wine Barrel, an enclosed table for eight amid stacked barrel staves. Guests sit beneath a hologram of a giant light bulb whose colors change, depending upon which angle is viewed by the seated guest.
One facet of the operation — sound — remains a work in progress.
Aware that his other operations have been criticized as noisy, Mitchell is giving special attention to that issue as he prepares to open M.
His guests last week were served to music so loud it blocked out normal conversation.
“We’re still toying with the music,” Mitchell said.
An element of the operation in place is the wine cellar.
Mitchell said he signed a check for $150,000 to stock the wine bins, a dollar figure that puts M in a league with the Refectory and Bexley’s Monk, both noted for their wine lists.
Mitchell’s goal for the first year of M is a gross of $4 million, on which he has spent $1.8 million.
M opens to the public for dinner Thursday and will add lunch hours — 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. — beginning Monday.
Smoking is permitted in the bar area. Parking is by valet, with a $5 charge.
M attendes to details expected in formal setting
This review by Jon Christensen was published March 14, 2002
“M” is for Mitchell. It’s also for the location in the Miranova office building next to the high-end, high-rise condos of the same name.
M is Cameron Mitchell’s take on a Top Ten restaurant exemplified locally by the Refectory — the kind of restaurant in which all dishes, even to the largest tables, are presented simultaneously by a team of servers. Since its opening last year, menu and kitchen staff have been steadily reshuffled. Now, M appears to be in a steadier state.
The endeavor clearly is above the norm of other Mitchell restaurants, such as Martini’s, Cap City Diner, Ocean Club and Columbus Fish Market. Servers are better trained; the menu — a collection of “signature dishes” from around the nation — is more refined; servings aren’t as overwhelming; two name-brand chefs (Brian Hinshaw and Christian Hattemer) supervise the smarter and leaner cooking; and a pastry chef (Sherrie Banfe) creates excellent desserts.
Silver abounds, from salt and pepper shakers to a pen used to sign charge slips. The decor is either a mishmash or an inspired, eclectic mix, depending on one’s point of view. The various divisions of the large space into different enclaves (including one built to feel like the inside of a wine barrel); the voile privacy curtains; the marble, tile, brass, cloth, wrought iron and other materials; and an evolving light show generated by changing patterns and colors of room lighting add up to a statement of place.
Alas, for a restaurant aspiring to such a high degree of formality, the noise of the music — during a recent visit, it was a cross between disco and new age — is intrusive. So are the ringing cellphones that are answered at tables and the unkempt patrons mixing with those in suits.
Nothing comes cheap at M, starting with the valet parking ($5 plus tip) and continuing with the menu and wine list. Thus, the artichoke salad with its real artichoke hearts, sliced thinly and apparently grilled, will set you back $8. Its lettuce is dressed well with oil and vinegar and garnished with real croutons (made of rich brioche). My first try had some pieces of soft cheese of no apparent provenance in place of the pecorino romano promised by the menu; another time, a soft cheese was underneath, and scant shavings of pecorino were scattered on top.
The beet salad ($8) has, in addition to several slices of beet, three balls of goat cheese breaded and sauteed, and some fancy “micro” greens.
The current menu has dropped a hearty appetizer of carefully sauteed scallops on a bed of richly prepared pureed potato, decorated with freshly shelled fava beans, and sauced with an intense, high-quality meat stock reduction. Go for it if it returns as a special.
Tomato soup ($7) is a nice collection of tomato flavors, both fresh and dried. It’s brought in a decorative — not a working — copper pot, from which it is poured into a large soup plate already decorated with a crust of toast spread with goat cheese and chives.
M’s potsticker appetizers ($9) are filled with a fine mix of various mushrooms, unspoiled by filler or other distracting ingredients.
A duck breast ($27) is coated with a soy and pomegranate sauce before it’s roasted to the right degree. Then it’s sliced and fanned out with a reduction of the marinade and some pomegranate seeds, to nice effect. Accompanying is a “bread pudding” or custard flavored with shiitake mushrooms and topped with Swiss chard.
Tender veal loin ($28) is roasted with few seasonings, and so comes out tasting somewhat neutral. A surrounding beefy stock reduction is OK but not inspired. The chive-seasoned crepe that wraps potato pieces and the carrot and salsify
dices that decorate the plate are more interesting.
There’s more sparkle in the Chilean sea bass ($26), grilled and served in an Oriental-style broth seasoned with sesame oil and containing braised spinach, mushroom dumplings, water chestnuts and large rice-flour noodles.
Even better is a daily special of a fine-grained halibut ($28), nicely sauteed with fresh thyme and stacked on braised sweet onions on top of a mushroom broth. Excellent, soft-dough gnocchi and undercooked brussels sprouts surround.
On one visit, the rolls were insipid round balls; on another, slices — served one at a time — of a quality, semicrusty loaf.
Commendably, M offers a cheese plate ($8) among dessert options. Currently, the assortment is a goat-milk camembert, a fine dry jack from California, and a decent blue cheese, along with a hunk of honeycomb and a microscopic decoration of micro-greens. There’s too little melba toast with it, however.
The “Apple and Pear” dessert ($9) is large. The long plate has a passable apple and raisin strudel, a first-class pear frangipane torte intense with almond, a carefully made pear sorbet, and a decently flavored raspberry “frozen souffle.”.
The chocolate “Triumph” ($9) is highlighted by chocolate cake with melting interior, and includes a chocolate version of tiramisu in a glass, a layered Austrian dobos torte, and a truffle.
“Sherri’s Delectables” ($9) is an equally fine collection of a phyllo- dough version of pecan tart, made with first-class caramel sauce; housemade vanilla ice cream on a butterscotchy sauce; decent baklava; and amaretto cheesecake made in the lighter French manner.
The very expensive wine list is large and unimaginative, with two full pages devoted to California chardonnays. Too often, on the rare occasions the list ventures outside California, it chooses the same wines offered by the typical restaurant. Thus, the Italian pinot grigio by the glass is the overpriced and overrated Santa Margherita brand ($11 glass, $44 bottle). And the 1998 Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino costs $48. Although the wine is nicely structured and a fine accompaniment for much of the menu, it is not worth half the price.
A sampling of wines available at M
This article by Jon Christensen was originally published Sept. 5, 2002
M, Cameron Mitchell’s upscale restaurant in one of the Miranova towers Downtown, has achieved its goal of having the fanciest food, service and surroundings of all of Mitchell’s restaurant concepts.
As I noted in a review last March, the menu seems to have come together under the supervision of two name-brand chefs (Brian Hinshaw and Christian Hattemer), and the desserts (by pastry chef Sherrie Banfe) have been outstanding.
What had been missing was a wine list that measured up to the diversity and quality of the foods on the menu. Although vast, the list devoted too much space to similar wines. It also suffered from the traditional Cameron Mitchell restaurant group wine markups. These formula-driven increases above state-minimum retail are especially punishing on more expensive wines, whose prices become much more distorted than those at lower prices.
The good news is a recognition by M’s management of the disparity between the food lineup and the wine list. The first result has been a reprinted list with selected price reductions, from a few dollars on the lower-priced wines to as much as $30 on the tonier champagnes.
Equally important is the addition of selections. As assistant manager Michael Mejia put it, “Everyone has $40 cabernets, and they all taste the same.” So, he says, they’re “trying to cut down on California cabs and chardonnays and add sections for wines from the world’s greatest regions.”
Mejia says the new list has established listings for Rhone and Alsatian wines. Next week, he says, Loire and Languedoc sections will be added, in large part on the recognition of one fact: Not only are these regions producing great wines, but they’re pricing them far below comparable quality from California.
By this weekend, a newly created insert labeled M Selections will list aggressively priced wines. The page is designed to be kept up to date.