Archive for February, 2010
If you read no further, a quick word of warning…don’t order the tiramisu.
Shortly after its opening, we enjoyed a fine dinner at Ponte Vecchio, but for reasons unbeknownst to either of us, we never returned. Finally, after years of absence, we decided it was again time to try this place heralded for its wonderful skyline view. Perhaps we should have left memories alone. It was a passable meal.
Michele actually fared better. The grouper special was nicely prepared over lobster stuffed ravioli with a buttery sauce. The mini-lobster tail that sat atop the fillet was however, a little overdone and difficult to extract from its shell. Jeff had the osso bucco. The key to good veal shank is to spread the rich marrow over the meat. The combination is a delight. The ample bone offered plenty of marrow, but it was not quite enough to moisten the slightly dry section of meat. The bed of parmesan risotto was a good complement for the rich meal. For an appetizer, fearing two heavy entrees, we decided to share the special lobster bisque. Michele is the better judge, ordering this much more than Jeff. Jeff liked its richness, but Michele deemed it, “boring.”
Now to the desert. With only four offered, we chose the tiramisu. What arrived had no semblance of recognition to the classic Italian desert. Chunks of frozen stuff were heaped into a martini glass. Some of it could have been soaked lady-fingers, some might have been mascarpone cheese, albeit covered with shards of ice, but most tasted like someone pulled a frozen tiramisu out of the freezer and chipped out a section. We suggested to the waitress that if she wanted decent tips for the rest of the evening, she would warn clients against the tiramisu.
As we walked out of the restaurant, the hostess asked if we enjoyed our evening at Ponte Vecchio. We suggested they make the sign of the cross anytime someone orders the tiramisu. At that moment, we both turned around to see one of the kitchen personnel digging sections of frozen tiramisu from a foil pan with an ice cream scoop. Three more “frozen surprises” were on their way to unsuspecting customers. To her credit, when the waitress arrived to retrieve her order, the host snapped, “Hold up on those tiramisu! Don’t take them out!” Not wanting to start a row, we exited quickly, never likely to return again. Save your money and the possibility of a chipped tooth and don’t go to Ponte Vecchio, (unless of course you are in Florence.)
List Status: Removed
http://www.pontevecchioristorante.com/ 2100 Superior Viaduct, Suite 520 Cleveland, OH 44113 216-556-8200
We had afternoon tickets for “In the Heights” at the Palace and we knew the performance would end at an unusual time. We searched around looking for places that opened earlier than 5:00PM on Saturday. There are a couple of places, but Michele suggested trying Bricco, because we have never been there.
In general, the food was OK. Michele had the Spinach, mushroom & egg salad and Jeff had the Beet, goat cheese and pistachio salad for starters. The greens were reasonably fresh and the beets were clearly not, but the balsamic dressing was very good.
For entrees, Michele had the parmesan crusted tilapia and Jeff had the pork tenderloin. Michele enjoyed the fish, but felt the accompanying orzo/corn was bland and uneventful. Jeff’s tenderloin had a nice grilled flavor and the Dijon-butter sauce was very tasty, but the smoked mozzarella potato croquette was HEAVY and despite the smoky cheese, also bland. For desert, we shared a decent crème brulee.
“OK,” “decent” and “reasonably fresh” are not phrases you want to find in a restaurant review. They all point to a place that serves food, not creates a dining experience. This is appropriate for its location, across from the theatre, where “in and out” at a timely fashion is perhaps more important than what is on the plate. Bricco is convenient for theatre-goers who are hungry for food before the real reason for the evening – the upcoming performance. It all depends upon what you want.
List Status: Not Added
http://www.briccodowntown.com/home/ 1438 Euclid Avenue Cleveland, OH 44115 216-862-2889
At Sara’s Place, only one word can describe the food we consumed…with the help of copious amount of liquid. Dry. This was not what we had expected.
Sara’s Place has been getting a fair amount of good press and we had an afternoon off of work, so we decided to take a long drive on a pleasant afternoon and headed to Gates Mills. The restaurant is picturesque, the location is perfect, the setting pops out of a movie-of-the-week. Unfortunately, the food just doesn’t live up to surroundings. Perhaps we stumbled into the place on an off day, or everyone else who has reviewed this place was punch-drunk from the ambience, but this was not a good meal.
Michele’s salmon special arrived with a decidedly off color appearance to the top of the filet. Jeff assumed it was the citrus glaze, but with one bite, Michele confirmed the odd color was the result of too much time in the oven or under a heat lamp. She carefully sliced away the top and attempted to revive the remaining fish with a trip through the collected plate juices, but of course, that didn’t help. Jeff fared no better. The Shepard’s Pie was supposed to have been a mix of lamb and lamb sausage, but was instead beef (unless his stuffed nose, really played tricks with him during the visit.) The meat was over-cooked prior to assembling it into the pie, so despite the gravy, most of the meat sections were dry and stringy. The side of sliced zucchini and summer squash, served with both entrees was the only enjoyable portion of the meal. Desperate to find something good to say about the food here, we ordered desert. The red velvet cake, normally moist beyond description followed the lead established by the main course. Dry and lifeless.
Sometimes, when we experience a bad meal, we’ll give the place a second try. That is unlikely to occur. There were few redeeming elements in our meal, beyond the look of the place. Unfortunately, you can’t eat the setting. If that was possible, this comment would have had a much different timbre.
List Status: Not Added
http://www.saras-place.com/ 1501 Chagrin River Road Gates Mills, OH 44040 440-423-1000
When it first opened, the diners on Lee Road were extremely popular and the food was very good. Unfortunately, the financing method apparently used to find, transport and remodel the two diner cars would never have sustained the business, even if there were lines at the door from noon to midnight. Inevitably and regretfully, the diners closed. It has been a long cold road since. Follow-up owners, Chris & Jimmy couldn’t cook and this second generation inevitably closed. A kosher version opened for a few months after C&J shuttered was destine to fail, especially when closed for the obligatory Sabbath observation at the crest of the weekend. After an extended period of closure, Clyde’s Bistro & Barroom has been born.
While the original diner cars were a treat, the new owners (apparently veterans of the food services industry) realized they needed to try something else. The charm of the slender rooms has been maintained, but the restriction of the parade of booths has been replaced with tables and chairs. The space is now warm and charming, despite the walls of windows and stainless steel. None of this would really mater if the food wasn’t good and the food is good.
Michele started with the Caesar salad. Anchovies were included and the dressing has the right amount of parmesan, lemon, garlic and yes, anchovies. The lettuce was crisp and bite size and the portion was much larger than expected for a starter. Jeff had the soup of the day, a potato, corn chowder with rich creamy base and freshly cut corn kernels. Very good and a perfect anecdote for the blustery weather outside. Dinner was equally good. Jeff’s Puff Poulette (Chicken Pot Pie) featured slightly dry chicken breast pieces, but the sauce was creamy and the puff pastry was flaky and tasty. Michele enjoyed the Coq Au Vin, with two nice pieces of slow roasted chicken, red wine sauce and a rich mashed potato side, this country French classic prepared her for the cold outdoor temperatures. For desert, we decided to split Al’s Pecan Pie, al a mode. The warm piece allowed the fresh ice cream to melt over the slice and into our mouths.
We have already scoped out a couple of things on the menu for follow-up visits. Michele hasn’t had good Fish Tacos since Amigo’s (on Mayfield Road) closed and Jeff hasn’t had good Chicken and Waffles since Phil the Fire (Shaker Square) closed, both years ago. Michele was also eyeing the Eggplant Parmigiana and Jeff thought the Chicken and Wild Mushroom Lasagna sounded good. Rest assured, we’ll be back to this place. It sounds like now, with seasoned restaurateurs in charge, the place might actually be open for a follow-up visit! Let’s hope so. The new place is a keeper!
List Status: Added
1975 Lee Road Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 216-321-7100
The first time we visited Americano, we were blown away. The food was remarkable, the room was a throwback to a more elegant 1970’s clubroom and the price was amazingly low. What could be better? Visit number two was the polar opposite. Michele could not wait to again enjoy the salmon, at that time prepared three different ways. She was horribly disappointed when the second time was not as satisfying as the original. The encore was dry and the plate presentation did not have the same finesse. To top it off, the concern of the staff was minimal. After this experience, we told ourselves we’d give the place “one more try” but secretly, we knew that there are tons of great places in Cleveland. We really don’t need to risk another bad meal.
Fast forward six months. With one success and one failure and a ton of positive press, we felt we needed a tie-breaker. Happily, we are now 2 to 1 in favor of well made food.
Jeff had the veal chop special and it was tender, flavorful and perfectly seared and prepared. Michele ordered the second special, trout almandine that consisted of two huge filets, both moist and flavorful. As a starter, we shared the menu’s Crispy Calamari. The rings and tentacles were wonderfully tender with no trace of fishiness. Spread corner to corner on a square plate, two dipping sauces were included on either side. It was hard to say if the tomato coulis or the lemon-orange habanero was better. Desert settled the argument, we’d be back.
Sometimes, it is difficult to decide whether or not to give a restaurant a second chance. Occasionally, a place is bad to the core and you know nothing will help. That happens to us often. We knew immediately when “Chris & Jimmy” took over the diners on Lee Road (the 1st time) they were in trouble. Sometimes, it’s more complicated. Our first visit to Batutto’s in Little Italy was great and the second stop, about a week later was a train wreck. The core quality of Batutto’s, like Americano shines through and convinces you that a second chance is the only right decision.
List Status: Existing
http://www.americanocleveland.com/ One Bratenhal Place Bratenhal, OH 44106 216-541-3900