For my birthday this year, we decided to splurge on a high-end eatery downtown, so we chose Repeal, which is the new Hotel Distil’s “oak-fired steakhouse.”
Steakhouses are always an interesting conundrum for a vegetarian: Even though their claim to fame is some poor animal that was massaged right up until the moment it was slaughtered for protein consumption, they do an incredible job with veggies, salads and an interesting mix of flavor profiles. Repeal’s veggie/gluten-free game is strong.
Pre-drinking: Before being seated, we tried out the bar, with its wide array of bourbons and ryes, in addition to super-rare vintages under lock and key. I started with a short pour of a rare Orphan Barrel 15 Year Forged Oak bourbon ($14 for half an ounce). To make sure I could enjoy it properly, the bartender gave me a small pour of well bourbon to drink first. That serves to shock the palate and open up the taste receptors so that my half an ounce of Orphan was better appreciated and tasted. Bourbon-licious. Hope started with a glass of prosecco ($12) to open up her palate for more prosecco.
Starters: We began with the oak-fired, heirloom carrots ($12) — sautéed, tricolor carrots with tahini yogurt, spicy, roasted pine nuts and goat cheese. The carrots were cooked just right, with a little char but still a crunch. They were finished with cilantro on top and puréed goat cheese beneath.
For round two of alcohol, Hope worked her way down the list of sparkling wines with the intensity of a research scientist (think Madam Curie without the radioactive glow). She ordered a Calvet Cremant de Bordeaux Brut Rose ($13), and I selected a traditional old fashioned made with Woodford Reserve.
Salad: For my next round of food, or, as I like to call it, alcohol absorber, I selected the golden beet salad ($12) — large chunks of beets on arugula with whipped goat cheese, sunflower seeds and tossed in a citrus-sherry vinaigrette. For a little pop to the sweetness, definitely accept the fresh ground pepper that’s offered.
Entrées: The starters had been very generously portioned, so I was not sure if I could handle a full dinner salad main course, especially with my designs on a dessert round to follow. I went with two of the vegetable sides, the oak-fired broccoli with lemon aioli ($9) and the roasted asparagus with a five-year-old balsamic vinegar, hazelnut and olive oil ($11).
The large portion of charred broccoli had the smoky flavor from the barrel staves used in the grill. A squeeze from a large lemon wedge completed the dish. The spears of asparagus were enormous. I don’t know this for a fact, but I assume they were harvested somewhere in Chernobyl. One nice thing about ordering both sides is that the aioli from the broccoli enhanced the rich, smoky flavor of the asparagus tree trunks.
Hope, feeling the need to kill something, went with the diver scallops ($36) — scallops on miso-ginger cream, roasted trumpet mushrooms on wilted spinach.
Carnivores: For meat eaters, Repeal’s raw bar is developing a reputation for excellence, with its classic shrimp cocktail, spicy tuna tartare, oysters and chilled king crab. Or, order the Repeal seafood plate for sampling a bit of each. Their cow muscle, locally sourced steaks from Indiana and Wagyu sourced from an exclusive provider in Wyoming, is cooked over staves from oak bourbon barrels.
Dessert: Because this meal was in December and still a few weeks away from my New Year’s diet that may or may not happen (update: It has not), we perused the dessert menu. I selected the dark chocolate mousse with vanilla whipped cream ($10). We were enjoying the evening so much, and Hope still had a little wine left to guzzle, so I also had a half-caff cup of coffee.
If you get the mousse/cup o’ joe combo, do yourself a favor and put a large dollop of the dark chocolate mousse with a little of the whip cream on top into your coffee. You get a rich, mocha delight, making you feel fancy enough to keep your pinky up while you drink the rest of your coffee, no matter how many times your wife tells you to stop doing that or she will leave. •
101 W Main St.
Noise level: Repeal was about three-quarters full, with an average decibel level of 74 and a high of 89. Hope said that unfortunately it was way too easy to hear my sparkling (my word) and incessant (her word) commentary about the food.
Accessibility: The floor plan is accessible and the spacious restrooms had handrails.