Wine and dine
O'Bryonville's Chateau Pomije combines sparkling food, drink offerings

BY POLLY CAMPBELL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

''A man hath no better thing under the sun than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry,'' advises the Bible.

Well, of course, but where?

I can't think of a better place to combine the eating and the drinking than Chateau Pomije in O'Bryonville. This restaurant, operated in conjunction with a wine store, has an excellent selection of wine, food with a distinctive personality and an approach to serving them together that's a fine thing for wine novices as well as connoisseurs.

Chateau Pomije
***1/2

Food: Excellent.

Service: Good.

Atmosphere: Good.

Value: Excellent.

What: Bistro with honest food, great wine policy.

Where: 2019 Madison Road, O'Bryonville.

When: Lunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner 5:30-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 5:30-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

Recommended dishes: Chateau chicken, cioppino, penne pasta fagioli, poached pears with sabayon, bread pudding, tiramisu.

Vegetarian choices: Good. Eggplant Florentine, penne pasta sate, Mediterranean platter, baked brie.

Prices: Appetizers $6.95-$7.25; burger $8.95; entrees $9.95-$17.95; desserts $3.50 .

Paying for it: MasterCard, VISA, Discover

Sound level: Moderate 68 on deck -- the occasional chain saw in the distance. (Most restaurants range from 60 decibels, a dignified calm, to 90 decibels, a din).

Reservations: Only for parties of six or more

Miscellaneous: Wine and beer, smoking in the bar and on the deck, takeout, catering, high chairs, booster chairs, wheelchair accessible.

Phone: 871-8788

By the way, Pomije is pronounced pom-i-ay. It's not French, but the Bohemian-Czech maiden name of the owner's mother.

Chateau Pomije offers a monthly wine menu featuring 10 or so wines by the glass ($4.50-$6.50 in May) or bottle ($4 above retail, $13.99-$32.99). Try a glass, and if you like it, buy a bottle from the wine store.

Detailed wine list

The wine menu describes each wine clearly enough to make it easy to match it with menu food, especially since each dish is listed with a recommended beverage type. This is wonderful for making a wine novice feel like an expert, but if it's too elementary, you can make selections from among the bottles in the wine store. A $4 corking fee is added to the wine's retail price.

The food at Chateau Pomije does not play second fiddle to the wine: It is honest but imaginative cooking flavored by simple ingredients used well.

For instance, one night's special appetizer was mussels poached in chardonnay ($7.95). The simple broth was far more flavorful than its ingredients of tomatoes, garlic and a little hot pepper would seem to provide. We asked for more crusty bread to get every bit. More bread also was required to finish the sauce on the frog legs scampi-style ($6.95). They're lightly breaded, in a fragrant wine and garlic butter that packs maximum flavor. The breading on the legs was a little soggy, though, and the legs seemed watery.

Rich baked brie in puff pastry ($6.95) would be a perfect choice if you were at the bar only to sample red wine.

Chateau Pomije's menu changed this spring, after former sous chef Chusak Marjarone took over the kitchen from chef Ron Wise, who left last year. Several dishes have been carried over, including Chateau chicken ($13.50). This is one of the few dishes that gains its depth of flavor from cream and butter. But it's just enough cream, and some sherry, to bind caramelized onions with mushrooms for a sublime sauce on sauteed chicken breast.

Vegetables, which fill the plates, frequently are roasted. The potato and carrots served with my New York strip steak ($17.95) were transformed by being oven-roasted, the carrots turning sweet and smoky. The steak itself was all a beef lover could wish for, with a winey demi-glace and roasted mushrooms to dress it up. Leg of lamb ($15.95) is roasted and then grilled to order. The couscous with it, curried and tossed with carrots, raisins and pine nuts, is one of the few dishes I tried whose flavor fell flat.

A new dish is cioppino ($16.50), an Italian-American fish stew crowded with shrimp, monk fish, a piece of fresh tuna and a crab claw on top. The fumet in which they swim is enlivened with tomato. It's light, flavorful, varied in taste and texture, good for eating on the restaurant's deck, which is a pleasant place, though just slightly shabby. The indoor dining rooms are cozy.

My non-vegetarian friend was pleased with her vegetarian eggplant Florentine ($13.95). Two rounds of eggplant are breaded and fried, then stacked with a ricotta-spinach mixture, sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella run under the broiler and a sprightly tomato-basil sauce.

It was delightful to be offered something unusual for dessert. (A steady diet of restaurant cheesecake soon palls.) I ordered the poached pears and chocolate with sabayon (all desserts are $3.50), a perfect dish for a wine-oriented restaurant. The pears are poached in red wine (sometimes it's port), and sabayon is made with the fortified wine Marsala. The chocolate sauce sandwiched in the pear was a little dense and grainy, but the sabayon had a pillowy, eggy fluffiness. It takes a bit of courage to serve a dessert that's not sickly sweet and double chocolate, which impresses me.

There must be a big vat of sabayon in the kitchen: It's also served with strawberries and a raspberry sauce, and with the wonderful tiramisu. It's not easy to choose between the tiramisu and the bread pudding, which is like a big fat square of the best French toast you ever ate, covered with caramel sauce.

Long wait for dessert

We did have to wait a little longer than we should have for dessert, and dirty plates sat on the table longer than would be nice. Nevertheless, servers are knowledgeable about both food and wine, available and not too casual.

If you're wondering: The O'Bryonville wine store and restaurant is run by Tim Shumrick. His brother, Terry, has the Chateau Pomije in Indiana, which has a different menu. They do grow grapes and make wine in Indiana, but sell and serve it only there. Another Shumrick brother, Tobin, owns Tobin James winery in Paso Robles, Calif.

Reviews are done anonymously at Enquirer expense. Ratings take into consideration quality of food, service, presentation and atmosphere, balanced against price.

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