WG Kitchen & Bar is the newest restaurant to open its doors on The Banks. Dining room area.
WG Kitchen and Bar
Where: 161 East Freedom Way, Downtown
When: 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Prices: Appetizers, small plates $4.99-$14.99; pastas and entrees $9.99-$29.99
Vegetarian choices: Mostly salads and small plates, a flatbread. Also some gluten-free choices.
Miscellaneous: Accessible to disabled, happy hour 3:30-6:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday; retail wines
Web site: www.thewineguywineshop.com
Wine Guy Bistro, a small casual dinner chain based in Columbus, changed its name a few months ago, and their new location on The Banks opened as WG Kitchen and Bar. The change was to make sure it was known they serve food as well as wine. They should have perhaps taken a harder look at their food first.
While the menu has an amiable quality that makes this a good choice if, say, you have a group of people who can’t quite agree on where to eat, none of it it is particularly outstanding or creative. One dish was so bad that it makes it hard to trust the kitchen. On the other hand, I still like their wine format, which combines a retail store, a wine bar and several wine flight choices.
It does fill a needed spot on the Banks: nicer and more sophisticated than the sports/country bars, not as expensive as Ruth’s Chris, more low-key than Crave. The decor evokes wine country, with lots of wood, subdued lighting, rustic window panes separating the room. There’s generic art of countryside scenes.
The wine bar is an inviting place to have a glass and perhaps one of the small plates from the menu (many dishes have two prices: for the entree or the tapas portion). Or try one of the flights of four whites each. Then, if you like something you’ve tasted, you can simply find it in the retail section and take it home. This makes WG like an always-open wine tasting.
As for the food, I’m going to start with the worst, because it overshadowed everything else for me. It was the rack of lamb marinated in balsamic vinegar and honey ($29.90/$18.99). It was an odd bruised purple color and a flabby texture all the way through, so it was hard to discern whether it was cooked or not. There was no crispy flavor of lamb, or even meat. It was cut raggedly, heaved onto a pile of potatoes and asparagus, and given a dried cherry sauce that was far too sweet.
This wasn’t bad in an off-night-in-the-kitchen way; it was just ill-conceived as a dish. I encouraged my friend who ordered it to send it back and get something else – which I almost never do. The server took it back graciously and we weren’t charged for it or the replacement hanger steak. That was indeed better, but after a few bites, we both realized that it, too, had an over-marinated off flavor.
But there are other choices, from small bites to entrees, pasta to steak – everyone can find something.
I can recommend the tomato-pepper bisque ($4.99), the spicy shrimp pasta ($18.99/$13.49), the shrimp sliders (with a bite of onion) and the chicken marsala ($17.99/$13.99), a dish where it’s easy to go too sweet; but in this case they didn’t.
The WG salad ($9.99/$5.99) is nice if you like a good sharp mustardy salad dressing. The ricotta served with a hunk of honeycomb ($7.99) was an interesting appetizer on the sweet side.
I wasn’t crazy about the teriyaki salmon ($19.99/$13.99), which was too sweet, though it had a good fresh-tasting pesto on the side.
If we hadn’t ordered the lamb, this restaurant would be 3 stars: With relatively modest ambitions, it fits its niche comfortably, has good service and an interesting wine program.