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Dining at Winona Lake's Cerulean will leave you feeling anything but blue

Winona Lake’s Cerulean Restaurant has long been a favorite destination for our family when momentous occasions call for a memorable lunch or dinner, and this Village of Winona mainstay has yet to disappoint.

Even after kitchen renovations and menu tweaks – including the removal of sushi from the dinner menu, the addition of crudo and the return of sushi – Cerulean still provides the same fine dining experience its customers have come to expect.

Our most recent rendezvous with Cerulean started before 6 on a Saturday evening. Getting a table there on a Saturday night without a reservation doesn’t normally end up with other members of your party in a good mood. Chances are you’ll politely be told there aren’t any tables available but you’re more than welcome to get comfortable in the lobby and hope against hope someone cancels.

We played the odds anyway and, thanks to our early arrival time, were able to get a table right away.

LaLa, our server, was on point the whole evening, and our drink order was taken within a couple minutes. I started the evening with a basil and rye gimlet with High West double rye whiskey, basil, local honey syrup and lemon — too enticing to turn down. At $10, it was right in the middle of the price range of $8 to $12 for the house drinks, and it didn’t disappoint.

For an appetizer, we chose the baked Capriole goat cheese, $6. I’ve been on a goat cheese kick lately; and mixed in with the tomato sauce and arugula and spread around grilled bread slices, this small plate was just as good as expected.

I decided to cleanse my palate for the main course with the Rosemary Runner cocktail (Plantation 5-year-old Barbados rum, black pepper syrup, rosemary, lemon and Hawkins egg white). If you’ve never had a cocktail with egg white, you need to try it. It tops drinks with a foamy texture that slowly breaks down with every sip and adds to the enjoyment of the whole drinking experience.

Our main course selections arrived about 35 minutes later. I went with the Gunthorp chicken, with my formerly feathered friend served slightly grilled on a bed of chili pepper fettuccine and topped with cilantro, dried tomato and gorgonzola cream.

My wife chose to order sushi, going with the Bias (tuna, shichimi, scallion, cream cheese, sriracha and tempura asparagus, topped with avocado) and Samurai Futo (tuna, crab, tempura shrimp, scallion, avocado and unagi sauce).

The dish presentations were splendid, as they always are at Cerulean, and the love at first sight we felt when we first laid eyes on our dishes was only surpassed by every scrumptious bite. Cerulean has never disappointed in atmosphere, presentation and taste, and this night was to be no exception.

Dessert was a red plum and ginger gelato. I rarely order dessert, but when I’m told that gelato is available for $4, I’ll gladly cast away any thoughts related to watching my weight and eat as much of it as quickly as I can.

Just when we thought our dining extravaganza at Cerulean was finally over, we were surprised with another delight as each of us was served fresh raspberry and strawberry pavlova — a shortbread dessert with balsamic and chia seeds with a goat cheese whipped topping. (Is my preoccupation with goat cheese that evident?)

Paired perfectly with Pendleton 1910 12-year-old Canadian rye whisky, it was the perfect ending to another sublime evening of dining at Cerulean.

For more food, drink and good times in Kosciusko County from Tom Westerhof, subscribe to the Bites and Bitters email newsletter.

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