Cincinnati has been so unbelievably lucky to have had Chef Todd Kelly. Orchids at Palm Court is Ohio's only AAA 5-diamond restaurant, and that is all thanks to him. It's a one-of-a-kind dining experience – the best I've had in Cincinnati (and that's saying something). My family has enjoyed many memorable moments in Orchids' grand dining rooms, from lavish Thanksgiving Day buffets, to heaping bowls of pasta during a weekday lunch gathering, and celebratory multi-course dinners to celebrate life's milestone moments.
Chef Kelly has always been cutting edge. He has beehives on the roof where he cultivates his own honey for the restaurant and his own butchery in the kitchen. Every dish is a surprise, an experience – it's always been a true delight to dine at Orchids.
So, with my dad's birthday to celebrate, and with Chef Kelly's announcement that he was leaving Cincinnati for a new post in Atlanta, we had no choice: we had to celebrate at Orchids at Palm Court.
Ryan and I arrived early, so we grabbed a seat at the ornate art deco bar. Feeling festive, I ordered a glass of prosecco, and Ryan ordered a classic cocktail from their bar menu. You may be surprised that Orchids has one of the best happy hours in town – it's one of our favorite places to stop for a drink!
When everyone arrived, we were seated in the dining room and began to peruse the menu. Orchids offers three-, four- and five-course menus, along with a 10-course chef's grand tasting menu. It's reasonably priced for a fine dining experience – an exquisite 3-course meal is $60, so it's more affordable than other options like Boca and Restaurant L. Ryan and I opted for the four-course option ($67), since there were so many items we were dying to try!
After we'd ordered our wine and meals, Chef Kelly treated us to a fabulous amuse bouche: a delicate egg full of delicious custard. How does he do it?!
After we had enjoyed our amuse, our first courses arrived. I ordered the whimsical mozzarella balloon, with tomato confit, charred onions, sherry vinegar and fresh basil. This dish is a stunner. Simply pop the balloon and the cheese spreads across the tomatoes – what a delightful, flavorful dish!
Ryan ordered the burrata, which came with strawberries, white balsamic, chia seeds and pistachio. It's hard to go wrong with burrata, but Chef Kelly does it differently than anyone else.
After we had enjoyed every last bite of our first course, our plates were whisked away and replaced by yet another amuse – this time, English peas. So delicious!
Next, the dish I was most looking forward to: squash blossoms. I've been obsessed with squash blossoms since my trip to Italy in 2015. These did not disappoint. Chef Kelly serves his with green tomato, soubise, white anchovy and garlic scape. Divine!
Ryan's porcini mushrooms were also a hit (although I didn't try them). His mushrooms were butter poached with celery, chicken hearts and skin. Highly recommended for you carnivores out there!
Next up, our entree course! I couldn't resist Chef's vegetarian option: the strudel! This colorful and unique dish was comprised of maitake mushrooms, sunchokes, paneer (yuuuum) and crisp lentils. The perfect vegetarian entree: so flavorful, colorful, and unique. I will dream about this dish until I can have it again!
Ryan opted for the duck, and was practically licking his plate clean. The duck is dry aged, served with banyuls, chard, wheat berries, pollen from Chef's rooftop hives, and lovage.
As if that wasn't enough, we had to save room for dessert(s). I opted for the chocolate, which came with strawberries, caramelized white chocolate, currant, pink peppercorn and pistachio. It was like a work of art, and the best part is, it tasted as good as it looked! There were so many different flavors and colors on this dish. What a treat!
Ryan's dessert was another stunner. His custard came with cream cheese, golden raspberry, lychee, almonds and hibiscus. It was sweet, fruity and flowery – simply delicious.
As we were taking our last sips of wine, and talking about how wonderfully stuffed we were, the Chef treated us to a platter of tiny assorted candies and confectionaries. What a way to wow your guests and to wrap up the meal!
This was where the evening took a small turn – and where my only complaint comes in. It was late, and we were left at the table without a check for 40 minutes, unable to get the attention of any of Orchids staff in order to wrap up our bill and head home with our tired, full bellies. We had to eventually flag someone down – it seemed that at the end of the long evening, they had forgotten about their remaining customers.
That is a small price to pay for such a spectacular experience. Orchids is and has been an absolute gem in our city, and we have Chef Kelly to thank. I hope the restaurant continues on his legacy, keeping his high standards, stunning, delicious and inventive menu, and an over-the-top dining experience in this lavish, historic dining room.
Until next time,