Nearly perfect

A true dining experience: Tipp City’s Coldwater Cafe

Photo: Lobster crabcakes

By Paula Johnson

Sometimes it’s right. Sometimes, though not often, the dining gods smile down at you and toss you an amuse-bouche, hospitality envelops you, decor and interior design wrap you in their warm, upholstered embrace, anticipatory wait staff provide what you need before you know it, and what issues forth from the kitchen leaves you convinced you might be a resident of Mount Olympus yourself. Do I sound hyperbolic? Admittedly so, but it’s rare to go out for a dining experience and enjoy an evening that hits on all cylinders. When that synergistic magic happens, I do tend to gush a little. Just where did I find such dining joy? At Coldwater Cafe.

PIP (Palate In Progress) and I joined DCP Pal Paul for a drive to the lovely little ’burb of Tipp City, a town that has more charm than should be allowed by law. And Coldwater Cafe is one of the most charming establishments in Tipp, so that’s saying something. The interior space, formerly a bank, is gracious and beautifully appointed. The feel is special occasion date night, but there’s a relaxed refinement that invites you to dine there a lot more frequently than just your birthday. In short, it’s welcoming in a distinctly non-stuffy way.

Service with a smile 

Before I get to the food, I want to mention the professionalism of all of Coldwater Cafe’s service staff, from the hostess and bartender to our server, Meghan. We put her through her paces with extensive questions about the menu. She was well informed and offered clear descriptions of dishes to help with our selections. Throughout the evening nothing was rushed, plates were promptly cleared before new dishes arrived, and we wanted for nothing. Meghan furnished fresh silverware for every course, and there were a lot of them. (One of my pet peeves in a fine dining establishment is “do you want to keep your fork?” No, I do not.) Efficient, knowledgeable, friendly, and professional are words I noted as the meal progressed. I asked about training, and she confirmed that she had to pass a server test. Bravo to Coldwater Cafe’s management.

We settled into a comfy private booth and ordered from the extensive wine menu. It was Wine Wednesday, and most everything is offered at $5 per glass, with the exception of some special reserve selections. We chatted with Meghan about appetizers, settling on her suggestions of the Lobster Crab Cakes ($8.95 for one, $13.95 for two) and the Mussels with Sambuca Cream Sauce ($11.95). We also added on the Tuna Tartare ($13.95). If there was anything detracting from these dishes, I would have to say it would be the excessive and messy heap of masago on the tuna. The composed stack of tuna cubes and avocado was done with a glaze of eel sauce, and served with crisp fried wontons. A small detail to be sure, but it struck me as inconsistent with how carefully composed the dish was. No such criticism for the other dishes, with the delicious anise-scented broth of mussels (you’ll want a spoon for every drop) and the spicy corn remoulade as a foil for the richness of the Lobster Crab Cakes. Great salads followed, particularly the Wedge ($5.95) and the Strawberry ($6.95), and a satisfying cup of their signature She Crab Soup ($4.95).

Porkapalooza

Meghan mentioned that Coldwater’s fish is well received (three out of eight entrees are fish), and described the Braised Pork Shoulder ($27.95) as hearty, which turned out to be an understatement. This dish is served with a loaded twice baked potato, Gorgonzola, bacon, housemade crème fraiche, scallions, and a savory pan sauce. I am normally a clean plate ranger, but the pork, a mountainous hunk of crispy roasted goodness, was more than I could finish in combination with the rich potato. I left it to PIP to mop up the rest, and he happily agreed. His dish, the Alaskan Halibut ($31.95) served blackened with wild rice, wilted greens, and a light chardonnay cream sauce, was lovely, as was DCP Pal Paul’s. He went with a wild caught Scottish Salmon with a tamarind cilantro sauce over coconut jasmine rice ($25.95). Quality fish prepared well with good pairings of flavors and ingredients demonstrate why fish is popular here.

I had to be persuaded to try one of Coldwater Cafe’s signature desserts, English Tea Cake ($7.95), a small molded spice cake with nuts and cherries, bathed in a butter sauce. This was a tough sell—richer, showier desserts called to me. But I realized there had to be a reason to forego those in favor of such a modest-sounding pastry, like something your grandmother might give you after school—and there was. Dense and moist and oh so sweet and buttery, every crumb was eaten. PIP sighed over his fluffy Peanut Butter Pie ($5.95) crowned with a deep, rich hot fudge sauce. Paul’s monumental slice of Chocolate Cake ($7.95) was the sort that usually inspires the word decadent, a word which should be excised as a descriptor for chocolate desserts. It’s chocolate, it’s tasty, and you deserve it. End of rant. We also tried the housemade ice cream and sorbet, which might have been decadent since there were only three of us. In any case, all desserts were consistent with everything we tried leading up to them: delicious.

Our eyes were winking with fullness as we left, still under the thrall of Coldwater Cafe’s winning trifecta of a lovely setting, warm hospitality, and terrific cuisine.

Coldwater Cafe is located at 19 E Main St in Tipp City. For more information call 937.667.0007 or visit Coldwater-Cafe.com.

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Paula Johnson
Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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