Sunday, February 16, 2003

Tabletop cooking is hot tip for cold diners

Campbell's scoop

By Polly Campbell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Where to stay close to the heat:

Cold enough for you? It's a good time of year to leave the frigid weather outside and gather around a cooking source for a meal that you cook, leisurely, yourself. Gather some friends and share the warmth more than one way. Here are a few ideas:

Vinoklet Winery in Colerain Township carries on grill-outs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night all winter, despite the weather. Here's how they work: You choose a steak (chicken or fish available as well) and take it out to the big charcoal grills, cook it however you want, and help yourself to side dishes. The grills are on a porch, but canvas tarps keep out the worst of the cold, and a couple of wood-burning heaters bring up the temperature.

Some of your party can huddle around the heat while others cook. On Friday and Saturday nights there is a strolling violinist and a big bonfire you can stand around to warm yourself some more. 11069 Colerain Ave. 385-9309.

At Jo An Japanese restaurant in Erlanger, you can enjoy the hot pot dishes shabu-shabu or sukiyaki, if you give the restaurant two days' notice. Shabu-shabu is a cook-it-yourself meal. You are served thin strips of raw meat and vegetables, which you swish around in a pot of broth kept boiling in the middle of the table. (The name shabu-shabu is meant to approximate the sound of the swishing.) Sukiyaki is similar, but a server cooks it for you. 3940 Olympic Blvd. (859) 746-2634.

Korean restaurants often have grills in the table so you can cook bulgogi (spicy sliced beef), kalbi (beef short ribs) or other grilled meat dishes from Korea (where it really gets cold in the winter). Try Riverside Korean Restaurant, 512 Madison Ave., Covington, (859) 291-1484, and Chung Kiwha, 7800 Commerce Drive, Florence, (859) 525-9978.

Fondue is the European version of hot pot cooking. The Melting Pot in Symmes Township has cheese fondue and several choices for meat fondue - you cook meats in hot oil - and chocolate fondue for dessert. 11023 Montgomery Road, 530-5501.

Though Japanese steak places can seem pretty hokey, it's fun to take a stool around the grill and watch the chef chop, toss and show off.

Benihana, the originator of the concept, is at 50 Tri County Parkway, Springdale, 772-4800, and 126 E. Sixth St., downtown, 421-1688.

There's a similar experience at the Hibachi Grill at Jillian's, 1200 Jillian's Way, Covington; (859) 491-5388.


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Tabletop cooking is hot tip for cold diners