Some major talent is fueling a handful of truly stellar dishes being served to hungry patrons at restaurants across the Miami Valley.
There exists a group of chefs and sous chefs scattered across the region that have the kind of impressive culinary chops and experience that can help elevate dishes and meals to lofty new heights with flavors that sing.
In my opinion Chef Joe Fish — a 1988 graduate of Carroll High School — fits squarely into this talent category.
Fish, who is currently the executive chef at the Dayton Racquet Club (DRC), graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America with a focus on French cuisine after completing his four-year degree in food science and nutrition at Kent State University.
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After graduation, he spent some time abroad including a stint as an intern at the world famous Savoy Hotel in London. Fish went on to cook in New York City for 12 years including time spent under Chef Alfred Portale at Manhattan’s famed Gotham Bar and Grill.
In 2007 Glen Brailey — who currently owns Spinoza’s Pizza & Salad in the Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek — recruited Fish back to his hometown to help lead his kitchen at Pacchia in the Oregon District (in the space Salar currently occupies).
SIDE PROJECT: THE CHEF CASE
Not one to rest on his laurels, in 2009 Fish and his wife Tonia Fish opened their own business, The Chef Case at the 2nd Street Market, while he was still working full-time. One of my favorite food vendors there, the booth offers many healthy vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free friendly options either as a meal or as salads and sides that can be purchased by the pint to go.
A Rock’n Tofu Ruben ($6.99) and the Chef Case Sampler ($6.99) featuring a choice of five salads or four salads and a piece of tofu (add a whole herb grilled chicken breast for $2) are go-to favorites of mine, not to mention fantastic French macarons made by Jen Herrera and gelato from Dolcessa.
Dharma Rolls, a tribute to well-loved vendor who left the Market years ago, are a brand new menu item being launched at the Chef Case this week. Dharma Rolls will be, “interesting twists on the spring roll incorporating seasonal vegetables and ancient grains for a healthy modern grab and go lunch,” according to Fish.
RACQUET CLUB BUFFETS
In the 18 months Fish has been at the Racquet Club, Fish has created one of my favorite dining events in town — a lunch buffet concept that is put on every Friday that takes diners on a culinary tour around the globe. It succeeds not only in impressing DRC customers with colorful, flavorful presentations, but also as a training exercise for his kitchen staff in culinary techniques needed to execute new menu items.
Each Friday buffet features a full menu of soup, two salads, three entrees, two sides and three desserts that offer a different complex range of flavors and cooking techniques each week — one Friday it could be foods from Southern California, the next foods of the Czech and Slovak Republic followed by foods of the Netherlands and then foods of Texas. Members of the Dayton Racquet Club pay only $10 to eat. An incredible breakfast buffet offered Monday through Friday at just $5 for members is also impressive and definitely one of the best breakfast deals in town.
“We start with whole and natural foods. Soups and sauces are all made from scratch. Most deserts are made in house. The kitchen staff really has a passion for what they do,” said Kevin Round, General Manager.
RACQUET CLUB MEMBERSHIP
The bar and restaurant at the Racquet Club, which opened in 1971, are only open to members and their guests, but there have been on occasion a rare evening such as a First Friday where they have opened it up to the public, so it’s worth looking out for if you are interested in trying it out.
“We are always looking to grow the membership roster. A membership is much more affordable than you might think. We have a variety of membership categories including fitness memberships, evening-only memberships and special pricing for younger members. There are never any food and beverage minimums,” Round said.
As a sometimes regular at the Racquet Club, I have to say that often the food is a perfect pairing for the dramatic, exciting views of downtown Dayton that can be savored at the top floor of the Kettering Tower — especially with the holiday lights this time of year.
The space has a great comfortable bar and lounge that seats 50-60 or a fine dining room that seats 70-80. It also has a private library room that seats up to 20, an intimate wine room that seats 8, a board room that seats up to 40 and a large private room that seats up to 250. Each room and area has an modern, elegant vibe to it that is relaxing and not stuffy. Service is friendly and prompt and private parties for members and non-members can be booked.
RACQUET CLUB MENU HIGHLIGHTS
A cider braised pork shank served with new potatoes, haricot vert with Creole mustard cream and roasted apples ($25) and a sweet chili glazed salmon served with winter greens, toasted pepitas, sweet potato puree and miso broth ($23) are dinner entrees that do not disappoint.
Best-selling menu items include fried Brie with orange marmalade and French bread crostini ($11), goat cheese stuffed wontons with strawberry- jalapeño jam ($9), edamame hummus with naan flatbread, olive tapenade, meyer lemon olive oil ($10), panko crusted dijon grouper with sweet potato mash and broccoli florets ($23) and succulent grilled lamb chops with cannellini beans, diced potatoes, wilted spinach and mint demi-glace ($32).
The full bar has a rotating wine and beer list of at least 50 different wines and have an inspired collection of imported, domestic and local tap beers as well as inventive cocktails like a Blackberry Mule and the Cucumber Collins.
Sure, the drinks are nice, but it’s the food from Chef Fish and his team that keeps me coming back for more. Did I mention that Friday buffet?
Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Share your enu 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? E-mail Alexis Larsen at firstname.lastname@example.org with the information and we will work to include it in future coverage.