February 3, 2023

Fire-Kissed Cuisine and Stunning Views: Dining at Hilton 402

There are many things distinctive about the restaurants in 402, the new Hilton Columbus Downtown tower — fire-forward South and Central American cuisine in the main restaurant; the location in the heart of Columbus’ bustling convention district; the intrigue of a world-renowned culinary artist in Executive Chef Sebastian La Rocca. Every visitor likely will have a favorite feature. For many, though, the undisputed star will be the view from Stories on High, the rooftop lounge sitting 28 stories over High Street.

The 270-degree vista is nothing short of stunning. To the west, looking over what some are calling “sports alley” — Nationwide Arena, Huntington Park and Field — you can glimpse the grass in the ballpark. When the Blue Jackets are playing, you can see flashes of activity through the arena’s upper windows.

There are even cool views up to Stories. From just the right spot on Nationwide Boulevard at night, you can look up into the floor-to-ceiling Stories windows and see the programmable digital ceiling glowing over the bar.

When kinder weather returns to Columbus, you’ll be able to enjoy the western and northern views from two open air patios. On a clear day, you can see north to Polaris.

For Chef La Rocca, it’s all part of ensuring guests have an unforgettable visit. “They’re going to take away an experience — that’s the most important part,” La Rocca said. When La Rocca was hired to helm the Hilton food and beverage concepts, the spaces were already designed architecturally, but he and the Hilton team worked together to develop the culinary and atmospheric concepts.

“The body was done, but it didn’t have a soul yet,” Chef says. “We created the soul of the restaurants.”

For FYR, the signature restaurant, the soul is one La Rocca shares, focused on the use of live fire that is so important to the cuisine of his native Argentina. The menu is South- and Central-American influenced and nearly every dish is touched by fire via one or more of six different techniques. Along with open-fire direct heat, the restaurant uses indirect heat; rescoldo, which involves cooking in the ashes for long periods of time; robata, a Japanese-originated technique over hot embers; a wood-burning oven; and some smoking. “Fire is in the Argentinian DNA,” La Rocca declares. “We take fire cooking to the next level.”

Spark, the lobby bar, offers a lighter menu with modern takes on Midwestern classics. Also in the lobby, connected directly to the Greater Columbus Convention Center, is The Market, a grab & go option offering sandwiches, salads, snacks and sundries. For 24-hour needs, Provisions on High, in the lobby of 401, offers more grab ‘n go light meal options and fresh-baked pastries, with baristas on duty between 6:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The Stories menu, backed by the robata, features small plates and American/Asian fusion cooking. “We play with some classic American dishes and add Asian ingredients and add a new twist,” La Rocca says. And on the 28th floor, the cocktail is king, with original signature cocktails at the center and dishes designed to pair with them. It’s the flip side of FYR, where the emphasis is on the dishes, with the cocktails as a complement.

Above all, LaRocca wants his food to feature the best local ingredients and be easy to love. The printed menus for FYR highlight some of the 20-plus Ohio farms and producers he uses. “My philosophy is to support local suppliers and activate the local economy as well,” he said. “When you really are proud of what you’re doing, and they’re proud of what they’re doing, they give you an amazing product.”

While he designs his dishes to be novel and exciting for guests, that doesn’t mean obscure or overly complex. He declares, “You’re not going to need a translator to read the menu. Food should not be complicated. We really respect the product. If we put a tomato on the plate, we really focus on elevating the tomato and not covering it up with a lot of stuff. We respect what we’re serving.”



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