Review: Seny

I was going to come up with some ridiculous pun on Seny’s name (pronounced “sehn”) but at 4 PM on a Tuesday, it’s pretty lost on me. I’ll let my readers (or The Boyfriend) fill in on that one. It would be a “Seny” to skip this restaurant? That might work.

For some reason, Terry and I wanted tapas on Saturday night. I wanted something that could potentially be light, and we definitely wanted to try something new. We looked at Relish in Mason, but their menu looked less like tapas and more like entrees, so we decided on Seny.

Seny, in case you didn’t know, is owned by the Maier family of Frisch’s Big Boy fame. Don’t worry– no tartar sauce and fish sandwiches here. Their son, Travis, went to culinary school and apprenticed in Spain, then came back here and opened a restaurant. There has been a bit of controversy, mostly because Travis Maier isn’t as experienced on paper as some of his chef-owner counterparts in the city, and I had heard some mixed reviews. Instead of heeding the gossip, we decided to dive in.

We were pleasantly surprised.

First, the service: it was laid back and knowledgable. The waiter was incredibly well-versed and enthusiastic– and became moreso as I demonstrated that I was excited about the food as well. He explained that the dishes didn’t come out in any particular order, so we ordered what we liked and noshed until we were full. He understood the nuances of the food. For example, the kitchen had forgotten rosemary oil for one of the dishes, he noticed, and brought some out so we’d have the full experience of the dish. The meal itself was a great deal– five generous dishes, two drinks apiece, $65 + tip. One of Terry’s beers, however, was taken off the tab– it was half foam, being from a newly tapped keg. We were never rushed– a good thing because it was far too fun to linger, people-watch, take in the scenery, and listen to the live Spanish guitar.

There were two menus: tapas modernas and tapas tradicionales, as well as a daily special list. We ordered mainly from the tapas tradicionales list, as well as the scallops from the tapas modernas.

Patatas bravas: smoldering hot potatoes, fried and covered with mayonnaise. What’s not to like? The mayonnaise is heavy on the paprika, which made it smoky and lovely, and the potatoes were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Very filling.

White gazpacho: this was the most surprising yet delightful dish of the evening. A soup, made traditionally– almonds, garlic, breadcrumbs, olive oil and grape puree. At the bottom? Sliced grapes. This was sweet, cool. refreshing, garlicky– all at the same time. I’ve found a recipe for it and I’m going to have to make it this summer. I think I prefer it to the more well known tomato based gazpacho.

Charcuterie: Chorizo, Serrano ham, house-cured pork loin and salami with a couple of gherkins and two caper fruits. My favorite was the house-cured pork loin, which was salty and a little less rich than the chorizo and salami. Of course, if rich is what you’re after, the salami is a great bet– well marbled and certainly not the stuff of salami sandwiches in your Cincinnati childhood (maybe if you were a child in Europe!).

Scallops: This is about the time the lights went down, thus the change in photo quality. Boo! Perfectly cooked, paired with bacon, crimini mushrooms and watercress in a light saffron cream. The waiter came by to put on the rosemary oil, which complimented it nicely– I love the combination of woody, smoky and sweet– and encouraged us to soak up the cream with the bread on the table. Yum, yum, yum.

Una copade vino rojo: A deconstructed glass of Priorat’s Miserere 1999. That’s all it said on the menu. When the waiter came by, I asked, “Is that what I think it is?” and he explained that the flavors of the wine were deconstructed onto a plate into individual components. I was right: molecular gastronomy in Cincinnati, here we come! I was so, so excited about this, and the waiter was excited that I was excited. Terry was excited that I was excited. It was a table of excitement, let me tell you. It did not disappoint, and I managed to actually write down the individual components:

Concord grape gelee– not your mama’s grape jelly, this was slightly sweet and a little richer than the Welch’s variety you’re used to. You got a bite of it in just about every bite of the rest of the dish.

Blackberry spheres– not heavy on the blackberry, indeed, a bit lighter and less jammy than I was expecting.

Grape caviar– green grapes processed into a caviar-like “puree”.

Vanilla pearls– tiny beads of vanilla flavor

Vanilla char– the dish was brought out with a bit of still-smoking vanilla bean, which is an amazing scent.

Chanterelle mushrooms– for the woodsy quality in the wine. Very different.

paprika– for a touch of spice

a tiny bit of edible rose

The entire plate was surrounded by a bit of rosewater foam and watercress. The entire dish was an experience, and after taking a bite, then taking a sip of the wine, each element the chef was highlighting was apparent. It was beautifully done, and one of the more impressive dishes I’ve seen in Cincinnati. Price? $11. Not bad, really.

In all? I am so impressed and excited by this place– it’s just what Cincinnati needs. A bit of comfortable food, a bit of cutting edge stuff, a lot of attitude, a lot of ego, but some family roots. I will definitely go back again– and I look forward to doing so.Seny on Urbanspoon