Archive for October, 2009
Gun to head, we would be hard pressed to say whether Fire or Parallax was our favorite restaurant in Cleveland. After eating at Fire this weekend, we are sure it is Fire…that opinion will hold until our next visit to Parallax. In reality, this is a good rivalry. We always expect the most from each place and are never disappointed.
Fire is always consistent. Most evenings, Chef Doug Katz is in the exposed kitchen. You know he is there making certain all of the food is leaving in perfect condition. There is something reassuring about seeing the chef/owner working to insure our food is good, rather than floating about the dining room, or planning their next restaurant as some chef are want to do. His ever-present hand eliminates any risk or second-guessing. You know the meal will be wonderful.
With a new fall menu, it could have been risky, but we knew better. All was calm. Michele adores the ever-present Karen’s Caesar Salad. From the first time she ordered it (years ago) she has not missed a Fire meal without it as a starter. The romaine is presented with dressing on the salad plate. On the side are four spoons of Caesar “accessories” capers, diced salmon, chopped hard boiled egg, and bacon. Anchovies are not part of the assortment, but they willingly bring a dish of VERY fresh segments upon request. As a matter of fact, these look like some of the best anchovies you are likely to find in freshwater Cleveland! Jeff is more fickled with his appetizer choices. Over the years he has tried most everything they offered. The sautéed olives and chicken livers are of particular note, but on this most recent visit, he tried a new offering, “Country Fried” Sweetbreads with mashed potatoes and greens. The sweetbreads were topped with a delicate coating and sitting in delightfully pungent tomato “gravy”. The mashed potatoes were smooth and creamy and the greens were salty, soft and a perfect foil for the milder tastes. This was also available as a main course and any lover of the thymus gland would adore this dish.
For dinner, Michele simply had the soup of the day. She had eaten a late lunch and the cream of cauliflower soup was exactly what she needed. Smooth, creamy with a bit of seasoning, the soup was a meal. Jeff, after the rather hearty appetizer decided on a half-order of the tandoor roasted hanger steak. Tandoor cooking is a constant feature at Fire. The enclosed clay pot and hot temperatures do amazing things to food and Chef Katz really knows how to employ this technique. The hanger steak was no exception. The exterior was crisp and seasoned; the interior of the meat was moist and soft. It was accompanied by a slice of cauliflower that was braised in mustard. A pile of arugula in tangy walnut vinaigrette was a nice balancing side.
We really like Fire. If you love duck, theirs may be among the best in the city. The rest of the menu is always flawless and exciting without veering into pretension. This is simply good, well prepared food served by a staff of professional waiters that have made a career of catering to your needs without getting in your way, but always being there when needed. If you have every wanted to learn how to be a perfect member of a wait staff, study the team at Fire. Like the kitchen, they are pros.
Time and again, we will return to Fire and once you go for the first time, you will too. It’s that good.
http://www.firefoodanddrink.com/ 13220 Shaker Square Cleveland, OH 44120 216-921-3473
The refrigerator died and left us with a pile of rotted food; it forced Jeff to make a double batch of blueberry preserves and allowed us to try a few new restaurants mid-week.
On our way home from work, we decided to stop into Via Van Aken. Located in the Van Aken shopping strip, it had previously been know as the Italian Café and before that a few other names, none of which we could remember as we chatted over dinner.
We both started with a salad. Michele had the Caesar Salad and Jeff had the Baby Arugula Salad. Both were a nice size and a perfect starter. For dinner, Michele had the Maple Glazed Salmon and Jeff had the Veal Parmesan. The salmon was fresh, moist and nicely balanced with the maple glaze. It sat atop a pile of sweet potato hash and spinach for a beautiful presentation. The veal was served with two medium size pieces of scaloppini topped with a fresh parmesan cheese. While good, it could have improved with a bit more pounding of the veal. The side of spaghetti with marinara was sweet, spunky and infused with basil. No dessert this time, we really needed to eat and run.
We had not tried this restaurant before, even though the waiter informed us they had been in business for five years. As we left, the place was filling up with large groups and reservations. We felt like the last people to find out about this hidden little gem. The menu featured a number of tempting options. We’re definitely going to try it again. So should you!
List Status: Added
http://www.viavanaken.com 20153 Van Aken Boulevard Shaker Heights, OH 44122 216-752-9994
So what has happened to the chic eastside suburbs? Restaurant Europa, a budget priced European eatery opened in Pepper Pike and now Seven Roses has opened a place in the basement of an office building on Chagrin Boulevard. While we ate alone at Restaurant Europa a few months ago, at 5:30PM on Saturday, Seven Roses was buzzing. We were told later that night the dance floor was open, a band would be playing and the Obedik would be danced until 2:00AM!
We never made it until the band arrived, but we did have dinner. Unlike a normal meal, we both had the same dinner. Neither of us could pass on the prospect of Weiner schnitzel. Seven Roses’ version was thin, with a crunchy coating and a perfect taste. It was accompanied by wonderful, brown-sugar colored sauerkraut that was no where close to being sour, but instead flavorful and a good match for schnitzel. A scoop of bland and lifeless mashed potatoes were also on the plate. We were mirrors again in that neither finished the potatoes, but the sauerkraut dish was scraped clean.
Michele had a blintz side that also disappeared quickly and Jeff enjoyed the daily soup special (bean vegetable) before dinner. Afterwards, a flourless chocolate, cherry & walnut cake was gone before the waitress could ask if it was satisfactory.
Eastern Europe has come to the East Side. Full bellies are the result.
List Status: Add
23230 Chagrin Boulevard Beachwood, OH 44122 216-591-1085
We found ourselves on the Westside today and took advantage of the location to stop into the Tartine Bistro for a quick bite. This slender little restaurant is one of the few places located west of the Cuyahoga that we regularly recommend to friends. This quick visit insured we were on point in our suggestions.
Jeff had the roast pork tartine and Michele enjoyed the crab and avocado salad. The salad featured a tangy mango vinaigrette with soft avocado and nice lump of fresh crabmeat. The pork tartine, like the menu’s other slender open-face sandwiches was great. The pork was soft, flavorful and tender. Both bread and pork were topped with a tasty béchamel sauce. Vinaigrette covered greens were a nice side. Perhaps best of all is the low, low price connected with each dish. Good food can be inexpensive.
We needed a simple, quick, fabulous (and Westside) dinner. Tartine was the perfect solution.
List Status: Existing
http://www.tartinebistro.com/ 19110 Old Detroit Road Rocky River, OH 44116 440-331-0800
Cleveland has had a few short lived Moroccan restaurants in the past, but for some reason, they did not succeed. Along with the obligatory Chinese, Japanese and Indian restaurants, Cleveland has embraced long-tern Ethiopian, Polish and Turkish ethnic restaurants. Maybe we were waiting for a Moroccan restaurant that served food as exciting as that which is served at Darna Moroccan Restaurant before adding Morocco to the list.
To get patrons in the mood, the interior of this Shaker Square storefront has been transformed with the use of bold colors, dark wood and candlelit metallic lanterns. The menu is deceptively simple, broken into a few easily understandable sections and the wait staff is pleasant and helpful. None of this would matter if the food failed to hold up its part of the bargain.
After a quick review of the menu and considering the interesting specials, Michele was ready with questions and requests for clarification before ordering the salmon with celery root hash and ginger sauce. Jeff took less time. The menu had a quail dish and he is a sucker for this infrequently offered fowl. Both dishes were perfect. The quail was crispy on the outside with moist meat below enclosing the vegetable based stuffing. As presented with the birds tipped against a stack of summer squash, onions and Brussels sprouts and topped with a crown of greens it looked as good as it tasted. The salmon was nicely grilled and seasoned and placed atop the tasty celery root. While waiting for the entrées to arrive we finished off a full basked of freshly baked and seasoned pita bread served with a seasoned olive oil for dipping. With the size of the entrees, we were glad we didn’t order an appetizer. Based on our pleasure with the entrées we won’t however make that mistake during the next visit and we knew we could not pass on dessert. The French Cigar was like a blintz that met a crepe and bred something somewhere between. Light and creamy with a fabulous honey glaze, our waiter’s recommendation was right on the mark.
It took us a long time to get to this reasonably new restaurant, but it certainly won’t take long to return. There are at least three additional dishes that each of want to try, none of course overlap! We can’t wait.
List Status: Existing
http://darna-restaurant.com/wp/ 13114 Shaker Square Cleveland, OH 44120 216-862-2910