Till then is suddenly now, or, What I Ate: First bites at Till Dynamic Fare
Till refers to a passage of time and what you do to soil and, now, an edgy and potentially game-changing Columbus restaurant. My first taste of Till the restaurant—Magdiale Wolmark’s (i.e. the mad scientist/vanguard artist and restlessly creative chef at the former Dragonfly) new project— was a cocktail called “The Village Cobbler.” It was fairly emblematic of what Till is getting at: The new new is the old old. See, cobbler quaffs (and alcoholic punches, which are also on Till’s drinks menu) actually pre-date classic cocktails, and hence are of current interest to Wolmark because, let’s face it, “classic” is being done to death everyplace else. This particular libation was made with whiskey, port wine, gritty date sugar and blood orange; it tasted great—barely sweet, fruity, full-bodied and refreshing.
Beer cocktails and smoky scotches ain’t really my thing, but I’m not the kind of tippler crippled by a one-note thirst. In other words, I like to and want to experience everything. Till’s Winter Over (which I assume alludes to protective measures taken for plants in an attempt to help them endure harmful weather) is like a tonic to fortify imbibers through the dark months. It was made with Lagavulin, pilsner and a caramelized lemon and was an interesting ride indeed. The Islay liquor gave it a “tire on fire” aspect, the pilsner smoothed it out (plus I like the family tree links— scotch is basically distilled beer), but the caramelized lemon in the bottom was probably my favorite thing here. Would I make it at home? Probably not. Would I drink it at Till again? Absolutely! I consider it part of the unique Till experience.
Who doesn’t love a cheese puff? No one I wanna know. Basically a gougere filled with a puddle of molten gorgonzola dolce, this shows Till’s pronounced French influences. (Analogy alert!) See, whereas Asian and Mediterranean influences seeped deeply into Dragonfly, Till is more informed by a classic French countryside style.
Another thing about Till: It thrills in doing things the hard way. Witness this BD Cheesesteak (Till aspires to wholly use and thoroughly embraces ingredients raised using complicatedly super-organic “biodiversity” farming techniques), which was made with beef tongue from a cow lugged home from New York by the chef himself. See, Wolmark has been going around and personally inspecting/severely assessing farms to find sourcing partners who suit his ridiculously high standards (this, and a completely made-from-scratch aesthetic help explain this sandwich’s $16 price tag). There simply is nothing like this sandwich in town—or, actually, in any other town I know of. Its juicy and rather thickly sliced tongue meat tasted like great roast beef with an intriguing and undeniable undercurrent of funk. Slammed onto a terrific and crusty housemade bun, it was slathered in a Taleggio cheese sauce and leavened and sweetened some by horseradish and sauteed onions. It was an earthy, lusty and glorious mess to chomp.
My favorite dish of the night was this “Organic Ham Plate.” Once again, Wolmark took pains to locate a pig supplier and, of course, he smoked the meat himself. Notice its coloration—the smoky ham flavor was mostly limited to the darkly tinted rim; the interior meat tasted of lovely and lean roasted pork, and the porcine au jus was subtle yet sublime. Like the cheesesteak, it was served with an herby (rosemary-forward) succotash and lightly blistered and quite al dente Brussels sprouts.
Open only a couple days, I’m sure Till and its menu will continue to evolve. But based on my first impressions, I find this place to be downright exciting and the closest thing we have to an up-to-the-minute-hip-Brooklyn-patterned restaurant.
Apart from the obvious—cooking meat!— other new developments are: wines on tap (like I’ve had in New York at Colicchio & Sons, and a “first in Ohio” participant in the inspired “Gotham Project”) which will soon hopefully include some of Ohio’s best (Kinkead Ridge and Firelands); and a happy hour (at last!!!!).
Expect an Alive review when Till gets settled in better. ’Till then, I’ll see you at Till…