We’ve been trying to get out to Cowell and Hubbard since it opened a couple years ago (where does the time go?), but have been holding out to pair it with a show at Playhouse Square. Well, that show hasn’t happened since before C was born… four years ago. Until recently, when we finally had a chance to make good on that promise and enjoy an honest-to-goodness date night. That’s right – we were gone for almost six hours, enjoying a dinner at Cowell and Hubbard and following that up with the opening night performance of Newsies (which I highly recommend).
First impression upon walking in – it’s pretty dark (certainly not helped by the fact that the clocks just changed and it was dark [and rainy] outside by 5:30). It’s also pretty cozy – we noted that several of Zach Bruell’s restaurants seem to be a little more tightly packed than others that we’ve been to, and here too, I could have held hands with a number of other diners nearby. Not a big deal, just don’t expect to have any private conversations unless you’re fluent in telepathy. But it is a nice space, with a big open kitchen for your viewing pleasure. The lighting and seating definitely give it a romantic vibe. Not good for pictures though 🙂
The menu is French-inspired and extensive, and I could probably be happy with all of it. I’m almost tempted to say that it’s too much (but I won’t), simply because it would be easier to choose something if there were fewer options, and everything there sounds delicious. Regardless of your culinary leanings, you’ll be able to find something to fit your palate.
We started with a potato and rosemary soup, in addition to a salad of julienne apples, carrots, and radishes. The soup was simple, but in this case simple works just fine; creamy and rich and laced throughout with cheese. The salad balanced the soup perfectly, with its fresh, crisp flavors, light dressing, and little nuggets of blue cheese and walnuts.
For our entrees, S tried a cherry-glazed pork tenderloin, with polenta and braised greens. I selected the gnocchi, which also came with braised rabbit and vegetable brunoise (basically a tiny dice).
The pork was indeed tender, and the flavors were nicely complementary, including that “fresh” flavor that you just can’t get in a store-bought polenta. The gnocchi were light and the rabbit fantastic, and the vegetables were just lightly cooked and on the crunchy side, which added a pleasant texture difference (and for anyone afraid of rabbit, there is absolutely no way that you could tell the difference between this and a braised and shredded chicken). Our only complaint would be that both dishes were a little heavy-handed on the salt – maybe our tongues are overly sensitive because we don’t use much at home, but it’s not something that we usually notice, and it stood out here.
And finally, dessert was a pair of luscious flourless chocolate cakes. Dense, chocolatey, and topped with a vanilla ice cream that had hints of orange blossom. The slight citrus flavor was perfect with the rich chocolate. We usually stay away from the standard cakes, but this one was well worth it.
A note on the service: because so many of the patrons are here for dinner before a show, the staff works to ensure that you enjoy your dinner but also get out on time. Nice added touch.
The verdict: Cowell and Hubbard earns five stars out of seven. The food (at least the small portion of the menu that we got to sample) is all very good, service is good (our server had a couple little goofs, but he was pleasant), and prices aren’t too bad (main dishes almost all in the $17-$23 range). Next time you’re catching a show, make an evening of it and give yourself a couple hours here first.