A Fine Balance

. July 24, 2012.

Midway into my meal at Registry Bistro, I realized something: I was having a “moment.”

It was the first real epiphany I’ve had as a food writer. With other restaurants, there is the way I’m supposed to feel about the food I’m eating, and then there is how I actually feel. At Registry Bistro the two coincided in a way that made me pause, unsure of what to do next — tweet the news? Take a food porn photo and upload to Facebook? Jump on my chair a la Katie Holmes’s ex?

I was experiencing the talent of Chef Erika Rapp, whose hands make dinner less about sustenance and more about pleasure. Like Ratatouille’s Remy (minus the health department violations), her magical ability to turn a mere vegetable into a source of wonder forces even the most skilled writer to fall into cliches. The girl is a force of nature in the kitchen (I warned you), trained at the Culinary Institute of America (the Harvard of the food world) with stints in the kitchens of the now defunct Diva and the Toledo Museum of Art. In June she fulfilled a dream and opened Registry Bistro with her mother, Vickie.

Her menu, upon first glance, presents a list of animals most Toledoans probably don’t spend a Friday night planning to eat. But Rapp is so skilled you can be sure she’d make grilled skate wing (a kind of sea ray — one of the delicacies on the menu) the most pleasant kind of seafood you can eat. The idea of rabbit pot pie ($16) was at first sketchy to me and my dining partner. Our server insisted — “it’s milder than chicken!” — and after about three bites I was ready to begin hunting bunnies in my own backyard if it meant more of this gourmet comfort food.

Registry Bistro’s interior is reflective of Chef Erika’s inventive take on food. The restaurant’s balcony windows (if you concentrate hard enough you can pretend you’re in Paris), copper leaf ceiling and rotating art displays all work together to make you feel that you are dining somewhere important. To be honest, the impression isn’t misplaced — it’s fair to say Rapp and her mother Vickie’s restaurant deserves the fanfare given to Findlay’s Revolver, the now-closed small-town restaurant written about in the likes of the Wall Street Journal. Rapp seeks to give an experience in fine dining that will wow us; that she chooses to do so in her hometown, and not in one of the bigger cities so adept at pulling our talent away, is a bit of good fortune that makes foodies like me thankful.

Registry Bistro, 144 N. Superior St. (in the Secor Building).