Although the restaurant chain had previously opened locations in northern Cincinnati and in Columbus, the Dayton area is now getting its first taste of Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant with Monday’s opening of the newest Cooper’s Hawk at Cornerstone of Centerville.
There is plenty to like on the menu.
The restaurant is large, seating nearly 300, and its food menu is broad and varied. But let’s talk wine first, since the restaurant chain puts “Winery” before “Restaurant” in its name.
Cooper Hawk’s wine program differs from other restaurants in that it sources its own grapes and juice, mostly from California and Washington state, and produces its own private-label wines — nearly 50 of them, in fact, are available at the new restaurant. Diners who walk in the front door are greeted by a long, Napa Valley-style tasting bar, and can order samples of the wines, either individually or in flights. The tasting room also offers bottled wine for retail purchase, as well as wine accessories, and yes, chocolate truffles. The retail wine prices are not outrageous — more than two dozen offerings cost less than $20 per bottle.
Highlights include the Bin 70 Unoaked Chardonnay ($19 a bottle, $7.75 for a glass in the restaurant), which is to my palate a better choice than the “regular” chardonnay; the Bin 75 “Cooper’s Hawk White” ($14.99 per bottle, $7 a glass), an off-dry bargain blend of riesling and pinot gris; and the “Cooper’s Hawk Lux Sparkling” ($29.99 a bottle, $10 a glass), a well-made, barely-off-dry sparkler. The Cooper’s Hawk Lux Meritage ($47.99 a bottle, $13.50 a glass) is a smooth, medium-bodied and barrel-influenced red, while the Cab-Zin ($30.99 a bottle, $9 a glass) is a food-friendly red-wine choice.
Appetizers are one of the strengths of the menu. The Crispy Brussels Sprouts dish ($9.99) is a rock-star of an appetizer. If any preparation can change the minds of those who don’t think they like this vegetable, this is it. Sliced and shredded Brussels sprouts are sautéed until caramelized and blended with cashew pieces, mint leaves, sweet Thai chili sauce and a sesame-Sriracha sauce. The portion is generous and shareable, although you might not want to.
The same can be said for the Chicken Potstickers ($9.99), a serving of six deftly prepared and placed atop a dressed slaw drizzled with a ribbon of sweet/spicy mustard and a soy-ginger dipping or drizzling sauce.
The Asian Pork Belly Tostadas are another winning appetizer, with slowly poached pork belly topped with scallions, cilantro, julienned radish and a Sweet Chili barbecue sauce, served on a small round cracker-like tostada.
Winning entrees include a Pan-Roasted Barramundi ($25.99), a member of the sea-bass family, which is served with sautéed green beans and grape tomatoes with ginger rice and Thai Lemongrass sauce that contains a touch of curry. The fish is sautéed flesh-side down in a pan until a slight caramelized crust forms, then flipped into a bit of melted butter and finished in a hot oven.
A Shrimp & Scallop Risotto ($27.99) is rich and satisfying, served with sweet corn, asparagus, peas and Parmesan, then anointed with a bit of white truffle oil. The Gnocchi Carbonara is another winner, served with slices of chicken, sage, peas and pancetta, held together by a creamy Parmesan garlic-cream sauce.
Beef lovers can look to the Churrasco Grilled Steak ($28.99), cooked to order and well-seasoned, or the Ginger-Soy-Glazed, Center-Cut New York Strip ($33.99).
And chocolate lovers should not miss the Cooper’s Hawk Chocolate Cake ($7.99), made with Valrhona chocolate and hazelnut ganache. It manages to be deliciously decadent without being too dense or heavy.
Visitors should expect to hear a brief pitch about the winery-restaurant chain’s wine club, which, at more than 400,000 members, is the largest wine club of its type in the U.S. Subscription options start at one bottle a month for $19.99 a month. Subscribers have plenty of options, including Red, White, Variety (red and white in alternating months) and Sweet.
The restaurant hosts monthly Wine Club Dinners, and wine club members get other perks, including royalty rewards and invitations to special events.