By Sondra Katkin
Incahoots has a new manager, Dean Kolligian. A chef for 30 years, he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, a place so revered it’s spoken of in hushed tones and people wait weeks for reservations. Kolligian’s talents are matched well with the DiStasi family. Owner Dino DiStasi has lengthy experience in food retailing and Italian family cooking. His wife, business manager Mary Ann enjoys baking. She created their popular carrot cake and the tiramisu (check for availability). The cake is a large munch of moist “carroty,” mouth caressing caprice. The tiramisu is deeply, darkly chocolate and so light, it could never transfer to a weight gain. Another appealing offering (you’re worth it) is the flourless chocolate cake. Gluten free folks (and everyone else) will relish the rich fudge-like consistency with chocolate sauce and creme anglaise. Diners can also choose peanut butter pie, sundaes or New York cheesecake. “Heavenly,” a guest commented about the gooey brownie sundae with fudge sauce and real whipped cream.
Kolligian, who interned at the Waldorf Astoria and managed many upscale restaurants, has begun “tweaking” Incahoots with expanded, imaginative selections. His skill is showcased in the weekly dinner specials menu which features an appetizer, such as pan seared seafood over fried polenta with tomato coulis or a homemade hummus plate with pita chips and fresh veggies — quite a mouthful. There are always three entrees with chicken, fish and pasta making frequent appearances. My attention was caught by the pan seared mahi mahi with cioppino broth on jasmine rice with fresh veggies in a seasoned tomato wine broth. Also tempting, the pistachio encrusted Norwegian salmon, polenta cake, roasted broccoli and dill cream sauce would make my choice difficult.
A pizza of the week, such as roasted zucchini, peppers, portabella, roasted garlic, goat cheese and their three cheese blend on a grilled wheat crust is something the kitchen staff has great fun with. “They like to come up with toppings that are unusual and delicious,” according to Kolligian. The menu concludes with “From the Bar,” which suggests the wine, beer or cocktails that will complement the specials — “chefy” experience is the chief requirement for meal enhancing drink choices. There is also the regular menu for diners to choose from. In addition, four course dinners that match the wine and food (call for dates), are offered occasionally, by reservation only.
Mary Ann noted, “Cooking is a treat for Dean,” a friend of the family. He said, “I like to work side by side with my kitchen staff — they can pick my brain. It’s fun to come up with ways to make our food taste different and fresher, especially with fresh herbs — we go through one and a half pounds of basil per week. (Dining with the emphasis on freshness is) the best thing you can do for your health,” he told me. He’s proud of the quality of their certified angus beef which “gives our hamburger its deep meaty flavor so it can stand on its own and not absorb any flavors you cook with,” he added. The charcoal grilled smokiness and kaiser type bun were just what a hamburger demands. As an alternative, the tasty black bean burger is a favorite with vegetarians.
My sampling of their certified angus steaks was the rib eye with mushroom ragout. Its thick, juicy center was the perfect pink I prefer. The roasted mushroom sauce, a dense, savory coating, was naturally reduced (no flour) — a marvelous meat melange. It wasn’t just the sauce that was glued to the plate. Meat experts agree the rib eye is the most flavorful cut. You can compare it to an excellent wine in its lingering taste on your tongue. Since everyone has their favorite cut, Kolligian is starting a featured steak night with the rib eye, New York strip (always available) and top sirloin in varied sizes, preparations and price ranges. “We want our steaks to be affordable.” For people who want lighter fare there will be a different steak salad weekly, such as Southwest, Thai and Mediterranean.
In addition to the regular lunch menu, he has introduced seven baked sub sandwiches. We talked hoagy history since I’m a Philadelphia lady, where they have the best in the world. He was a corporate executive for the Great Steak and Fry Company and respected the Philadelphia product. Incahoots uses the same bread they serve in my hometown. Mary Ann noted that “the bread makes the sandwich.” And how! After tasting their cod parmesan sub, I know he knows what he’s talking about — firm, chewy roll, flaky fish, Dino’s chunky, homemade marinara and the perfect cheese combination — like a pizza in a sandwich. A tasty dill pickle was a fun side.
My next two selections were the roasted zucchini, red pepper pizza and the salmon caesar salad. I tasted the pizza quickly while it was hot. The vegetables were roasted to caramelized excellence with their sweetness at its maximum. The goat cheese accents worked well with the garlic, softening its bite but leaving the tantalizing tanginess. The salmon, from Norwegian Fjords, was tender and silky with a good charbroiled taste. Kolligian explained that “because it’s fatty it absorbs the smoky flavor.” The fattier the salmon, the better. The salad dressing was a good balance of tart and creamy garlic over crisp greens. A friend told me she finds the salads at Incahoots irresistible.
According to a frequent diner, “the restaurant is one part spacious sports bar, one part bistro so it satisfies whatever mood I’m in.” Guests can eat out on a planter lined, wrought iron gated patio. There is a full service bar with craft beers on six taps, a large selection of bottled beer and a full wine list. They have live music on Saturday evenings and some Fridays. There is also a large private banquet room with package deals for hors d’oeuvres, sit down or buffet style meals. Happy hour is 2 – 6 p.m., Monday – Saturday. Inchahoots is open Monday – Thursday, 11 – 12 a.m.; Friday – Saturday, 11 – 1 a.m.; Sunday, 4 – 10 p.m.
4110 Hunt Road
Blue Ash, OH 45236