Editor’s Note: There’s nothing like a great meal to start the year right, and Tom Lawrence has found a fantastic restaurant for celebrating the New Year. Epic is located at 1201 Front Avenue | Suite E, Columbus, Georgia. Because they prefer to actually speak with their clientele, there are no online reservations. Jamie Keating and his team invite you to make your reservation by calling the restaurant at 706.507.9909.
We are familiar with the term hidden gem, and the Epic Restaurant in Columbus,GA qualifies in every sense. Not only is it a world class eatery, it is almost impossible to find. We spent forty-five minutes searching for it using map quest, GPS and directions provided by a young woman at the restaurant. Finally I asked a couple walking in the area, and as luck would have it, they had just had dinner there.
Needless to say, my companion and I were a little irritated at this point and prepared to endure an evening of disappointment. Nothing could have been further from reality. We entered a sedately lit and tastefully decorated space that was as quiet as a library. We were greeted by an impeccably dressed young man who led us to our private booth in the main dining room. He took our coats and introduced our server for the evening.
Before I get to the wonderful meal that we enjoyed, let me spend a minute or two on the wait staff. In an era of poorly trained and generally indifferent restaurant employees, the Epic virtually stands alone in its delivery of quality, informed service. Our waiter was dressed in a very tasteful suit, and his manner was thoroughly professional. He was well versed in the items on the menu, and seemed genuinely interested in the Epic.
Everyone assisting him, from the bus boy to the servers, was uniformly polite and well trained. No one called us “guys,” nor did anyone have visible piercings, tattoos or pink hair. Even if the food had been less than fantastic, I would be tempted to return to the Epic just to experience the wait staff, a rare pleasure in this day of teenage waiters who don’t know a Kir from a beer.
Epic is owned and operated by Chef Jamie Keating and his wife Melissa. They also own Jamie Keating Culinary Company, the premier caterer in Columbus. Chef Keating is a gold medal winning International chef and has extensive experience in Europe and the U.S. The menu at Epic reflects Chef Keating’s wide range of culinary interests.
Once we were seated and had received our beverage orders, we took a leisurely stroll through the dinner menu. We both chose the foie gras for our appetizer. It was perfectly pan seared and served with a white chocolate hollandaise. I have always thought that at least once a week God had foie gras for lunch, at least on the days he didn’t choose caviar or Vicksburg tomato sandwiches.
For her entrée, Clista chose the Grand Marnier braised breast of duck, which came with braised greens and a delicious Semolina cake infused with Asiago. Clista is a duck maven and orders it regularly, so when she says that the duck at Epic was a good as she has ever had, it includes the restaurant in Beijing that invented Peking duck. Praise indeed. Clista ordered a roasted eggplant prepared with Heirloom tomatoes and herb crumbs, and she seemed to enjoy it. Her meal was accompanied by a very pleasing California Pinot Noir.
I ordered the Lamb loin, which came topped with a pancetta and port wine reduction and a mint pesto. Lamb is one of my favorite meats, and the Epic’s offering was perfectly prepared and scrumptious. It is notoriously difficult to cook, and many times the lamb flavor is overpowered by the accompanying goop meant to compliment it, but the wine reduction at the Epic hit the perfect note with the lamb loin. For my side dish, I had the Truffled Mac and Cheese, and I could have made a meal of that alone. The truffle flavor melded with the Mac and Cheese and played a symphony on my taste buds.
For dessert Clista ordered the fried strawberries with vanilla anglaise and heavy whipped cream. Clista has yet to meet the strawberry she didn’t love and this was no exception. I chose the apple doughnuts and pecan ice cream and was equally as pleased. We finished the evening with a couple of presses of dark roast coffee.
Epic was a first class dining experience, and the restaurant would be top of the heap in New York, Paris or London. We are very fortunate to have it in close proximity to us and we’ll go back, assuming I can find it again.
All images courtesy of Epic.