Rue Dumaine hits the top of our restaurant list in 2015

There is no doubt that 2015 was a great year for local dining.

It was a year that saw several established restaurants reinventing themselves and improving on the strong foundation they had already built. At the end of last year, the Dublin Pub completed an impressive $350,000 addition and renovation and Roost opened a handsome, sophisticated new bar and dough room as part of a $375,000-plus renovation and expansion project.

It was a year that saw some welcome additions — most notably with the summer opening of Corner Kitchen, a “finer diner,” in the Oregon District featuring a tasty menu and interesting dishes that continue to impress.

Spent Grain Grill opened in Warped Wing Brewery a few weeks ago, Whole Foods opened its first area store over the summer, Trader Joe’s is nearly done with an expansion at Town & Country Shopping Center, and the list goes on and on.

There were low points as well — most notably the closure of Olive, An Urban Dive — but I prefer to focus on all of the positives.

And as far as great dining goes, it doesn’t get much better for my money than Rue Dumaine.

The James Beard Foundation Awards — the equivalent of winning an Oscar, if you are a professional cook — have recognized chef and co-owner of Rue Dumaine, Anne Kearney, time and time again for her brilliance in the kitchen, creating spectacular dishes that sing.

Rue Dumaine was named a semifinalist in 2008 for the foundation’s “Best New Restaurant” in the nation, and Kearney was named a best-chef award winner in the southeastern U.S. in 2002 when she and her husband — Rue Dumaine co-owner Tom Sand — owned and operated Peristyle restaurant in New Orleans.

The accolades are deserved. I don’t make it to Rue Dumaine nearly as often as I would like, but when I get there it never fails to impress. During my 2015 visits, it wowed me more than any other restaurant in town.

Chef Anne Kearney creates innovative, delectable dishes and menus that raise the bar high in the Dayton region.

Her provençal French fare is fresh and locally sourced and her New Year’s Eve menu is one of the most spectacular I’ve seen in some time.

Fennel-seared monkfish with saffron aioli; scallops in the shell steamed with bacon and onion; duck sausage, green peppercorns, dijon, Ohio cherry compote; lightly smoked venison loin, huckleberry compote and a wild rice fritter; duck rillette crepes, red onion marmalade, Pinot Noir gastrique; port duck breast, Ohio apricots, sultanas and hazelnuts with thyme scented celeriac puree and rabbit, sweet potato puree, roasted grapes and fried Brussels sprout petals are just a few of the New Year’s Eve menu highlights. The creativity and vision of it speaks to the magic that Kearney is able to conjure up in the kitchen throughout the year.

On a recent visit, it was tough for our table to pick a favorite. The Cassoulet ($29), a classic slow-cooked casserole of confit duck leg, house made garlic sausage, smoked bacon lardons and stewed white beans was hearty, rich and rustic with warm layered flavors. The savory Cabernet Sauvignon braised beef short ribs with a zippy parsnip puree, Jamestown pea shoots and a pearl onion compote ($28) were delightful and executed with a light touch despite the heavy fat content of the meat.

The grilled pork medallions ($28) with a Lyonnaise gratin, wilted spiniach, a Melrose apple relish, wilted shallots Ventrèche (a French pancetta) and an Armagnac reduction, was perfectly cooked, and the Armagnac — a single-distilled French brandy, the oldest distilled in France — imbued it with a luscious, complex finish. The pan-seared sea scallops ($13) served with roasted fingerling potatoes, wilted leeks blood orange beurre noisette was a buttery dream with three generous silky scallops.

Each dish could not be more different than the next, but all offered up flavors that sang, with a focus on locally sourced ingredients.

The service is a good match for the great food being served. Servers at Rue Dumaine tend to be quite knowledgable with requests for recommendations on repeated visits resulting in terrific help, direction and detail.

The menu changes, so pay attention. The daily charcutière plate, tasty terrines, rillettes, and pâtés are all worth seeking out. Be sure to ask about the specials and listen closely, as there will be plenty to tempt you.

Each dish we enjoyed this year featured terrific preparation and execution from the kitchen from the “La Petite Cuisine” starters to deserts like the wonderful lemon cake and everything in between.

The restaurant space is transformative and feels as far from a strip mall location as you can get once you settle in. Within 30 minutes you could be in nearly any major city in America.

Under Kearney’s watchful eye since Rue Dumaine opened in 2007, the restaurant executes in just about every way possible — knowledgable servers, enchanting ambiance, mouthwatering dishes, alluring plating … it’s truly impressive, right down to the French Haviland china on which your bill is delivered.

Whether you are stopping in for a charcutière board and a glass of wine or a full meal that will leave you delightedly stuffed, this is the kind of place that will leave you thinking about it long after you’ve left.

One New Year’s resolution on my list: more Rue Dumaine in 2016.

What were your favorite meals of 2015? E-mail Alexis Larsen at alexis.e.larsen@hotmail.com with the information and we will work to include it in future coverage. Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes and culinary adventures. Do you know of new exciting format changes, specials, happy hours, restaurant updates or any other tasty news you think is worth a closer look at?

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