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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 8:14 pm

Cocktails, chops not for hiding

Ryan DuVall Restaurant critic

They got the hideout part right, that is for sure.

The owners of Hideout 125 in back of Pine Valley Shopping Center have created a Prohibition-themed gem by turning a rather boring space into a thing of beauty.

It is dark inside with dark wood and exposed brick, and it has little nuances that make it seem like a speakeasy – a narrow hallway leading to the restrooms, a faux antique front page blown up on one wall proclaiming "PROHIBITION DEAD" and a retro bar with touches of copper.

The cocktails add to the illusion. I had the best whiskey-sour I have ever had: an old-school gem with frothy egg whites, a touch of lemon, sweet syrup and Breaking & Entering bourbon. I also loved the Sazerac, which featured St. George absinthe – a liquor banned for nearly a century because many feared it had harmful psychoactive properties. Aside from the alcohol, it has been proved to have no adverse effects, but it does add wonderful star anise flavor that shined in this cocktail, which also included Bulleit rye, bitters, syrup and lemon peel.

There were some great finds on Hideout 125’s small plates menu; none better than a recent menu addition – veal and pork meatballs.

It was as simple as the cocktails were complex, with three giant spheres of fatty, perfectly seasoned – a touch of allspice being the key – ground meat stuffed with a blob of fresh mozzarella that oozed out when you cut into them. They were coated in a basic marinara and served with toasted house bread drizzled with pesto.

The chicken and waffles small plate was top notch but could have been even better than the meatballs. Crispy fried chicken pieces were drizzled with a spicy garlic chili glaze, and the Korean-style waffle was quite savory. There was also a soy-based unagi sauce that was more salty than sweet, so the dish just needed a sweet element to round it out.

The best entrée was a pork chop that I think is the best in the city. Hideout 125’s thick, bone-in, 12-ounce, center-cut chop was perfectly cooked, so it was juicy from end to end. It was topped with apple butter and paired with butternut squash. The squash was dubbed as hash but was just cubes of squash; they were sweet, soft and perfect when mashed up with a hunk of the delicious pork.

The best side dish, one I would ask for with that chop next time, was the bleu cheese, apple and onion spaetzle with the roasted chicken. The chicken was spot on, but the nicely browned and chewy little dumplings with their creamy sauce was the highlight of this plate.

The side was the star of the sea bass entrée as well. The fish, like the chicken, was perfect – moist, flaky, fatty and delicious – as was the creamy herb risotto, which was just toothsome enough.

The only flaw was that the crispy prosciutto on top of the fish was in one solid slice, which made it hard to temper so it overpowered several bites. Diced or julienned bits of the dry-cured ham would have been easier to manage.

The soups and salads at Hideout 125 had varied results. The kale salad was the best. The bitter greens were tossed well, so the creamy buttermilk dressing evenly coated each piece, it had a beautifully soft-poached egg and diced tomatoes on top and was flanked by house-made cheddar croutons, which were fried and more like hush puppies. The French onion soup was respectable but seemed tremendous next to the mundane, cheap chain restaurant-quality broccoli soup.

There is really only one dessert you must try – Shreff’s cinnamon roll.

Two rolls made by chef/owner Brian Shreffler were dotted with bits of bacon and caramel. They were divided by a scoop of salted caramel gelato, which would have been better replaced by good ol’ vanilla ice cream because these rolls didn’t need any more salt and really needed a cream element. I asked for an extra side of cream with my coffee and drizzled it over the rolls, and that made them perfect.

The only dish that was a total flop at Hideout 125 was the small plate carpaccio. Thin slices of beef filet were buried under a house-made giardiniera. The delicate meat stood no chance under this poor version of the Italian pickled vegetable mix. The basically raw garlic in it was so off-putting that it nearly ruined my palate for my entire meal.

The service also left a bad taste in my mouth. On two occasions, my servers could not tell me anything about the charcuterie plate. They didn’t know who supplied the meat and cheese and didn’t know what types of charcuterie it included.

This theme continued as blank stares followed even the most basic questions about other dishes.

Confines are also pretty tight at Hideout 125, and during one visit, this became a big problem when a frantic manager crammed five people into a four-top table next to me, then proceeded to bump into my chair five times over the next 15 minutes as he frantically tried to get a table behind me ready for a waiting party.

The manager did not acknowledge or apologize for bumping into me and was so frazzled that several other parties couldn’t help but stare awkwardly as he sprinted around the dining room.

Restaurant: Hideout 125

Address: 10350 Coldwater Road

Phone: 206-6192

Hours: 4:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 4:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Cuisine: American

Handicap accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Not really

Menu: Brown bag potato ($6), carpaccio ($14), chicken and waffles ($12), meatballs ($12), New York strip ($31), chicken ($19), sea bass ($26), pork chop ($21), cinnamon roll ($8), torte ($8), crème brûlée ($7)

Rating breakdown: Food: **1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum) 

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.