Archive for March, 2010
Since beginning this blog, we have not written a repeat visit entry. The postings have been entered after our first visit and we have heretofore forgone writing a second when we return. That made perfect sense when we started to write about our Cleveland restaurant experiences… until this weekend where we enjoyed two fabulous meals at two places we’ve reviewed before, Darna Moroccan Cuisine and AMP 150. We have been in both of these places a number of times. On this weekend’s visit, we each tried a collection of completely different foods and the result was fantastic. (Darna review appeared yesterday)
Almost as an afterthought, Michele suggested AMP 150 for dinner Saturday. We had been trapped home all day as the installer laid our new kitchen floor. We both needed to get out and because of our positive visits in the past, the longer than normal trip for food was a welcome difference. Michele started with a Baby Arugula salad topped with candied walnuts and shavings of parmesan infused by blood orange. The sweet and tang of the vinaigrette dressing was a perfect beginning. Jeff ordered the Shrimp and Grits; a beautiful blend of perfectly prepared grits topped with small shrimp and diced ham. This was a rich treat that prompted Michele, after one bite to exclaim, “I’m ordering that next time!” We then shared a bowl of steamed cockles (miniature clams) in a visually exciting and aromatically stimulating basil broth. The little treats were wonderful. Michele had the Artic Char, which was perfectly roasted to insure a moist and tender interior. Despite having lamb the day before, Jeff couldn’t resist it again today. AMP prepared a braised lamb neck over farro risotto. Like a lamb shank, the neck meat is remarkably tender because it is surrounded by flavor enhancing fat. By simply picking away this protective layer, the succulent meat is waiting to please. Combined with the farro, it would be difficult to imagine a better meal. Desert was warm chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and chocolate ice cream and lemongrass crème brulee with lemon ice cream.
After numerous visits, AMP 150 has not failed to please. AMP 150 is one of the most fairly priced restaurants in Cleveland (and beyond!) Food this good should cost more and people will happily pay. Regardless of what happens in the price column, we are going back to this place again…and again…and again….
http://amp150.com/ 4277 West 150th Street Cleveland, OH 216-706-8787
Since beginning this blog, we have not written a repeat visit entry. The postings have been entered after our first visit and we have heretofore forgone writing a second when we return. That made perfect sense when we started to write about our Cleveland restaurant experiences… until this weekend where we enjoyed two fabulous meals at two places we’ve reviewed before, Darna Moroccan Cuisine and AMP 150. We have been in both of these places a number of times. On this weekend’s visit, we each tried a collection of completely different foods and the result was fantastic. (Check out the AMP 150 review tomorrow.)
At Darna, Michele tried the Mediterranean Salad and the classic Chicken couscous. The salad was refreshing, the chicken moist and the couscous tasty. Jeff ordered the Moroccan Cigars, tender rolls of phillo stuffed with spiced beef and shallots. Dinner was a lamb shank, one of the best he’s had in a VERY long time. The meat was tender, flavorful and rich. Served over whipped potatoes, the jus was packed with flavor. For desert, we shared a white chocolate bread pudding that did not remind us of bread pudding, but was indeed good.
This is a very good addition to the Cleveland food scene. After numerous visits, they have not failed to please. Darna is however, a tad on the expensive side. They should consider a tiny reduction to make them comparable with commensurate places in town. Regardless of what happens in the price column, we are going back to both of these places again…and again…and again….
http://www.darna-cleveland.com/ 13114 Shaker Square Cleveland, OH 44120 216-862-2910
Usually, mid-week and rainy we look at ourselves and say, “Soup!” #1 Pho is on the short list of places to go and we’ve been going there, almost since they opened. It’s close by, it’s cheap and it’s good. There are very few places in Cleveland that can make that trifecta statement.
When Min Ah opened on Detroit over twenty years ago, we experimented with Vietnamese food. We tried all sorts of things and some of them we still enjoy, but we have come to a bit of a rut with #1 Pho. It should also be noted that we have yet to try Superior Pho. We know it gets good reviews, but again, the Vietnamese rut.
Usually we share an order of Shrimp & Pork Rolls – a fresh, room-temperature roll of pork, shrimp and vegetables all wrapped in thin rice paper. Jeff then has the P6 Pho. This is the cinnamon-beef broth with paper-thin beef slices and beef balls. The small size if perfect. You could take a bath in the large bowl. Accompanying the bowl is a plate of bean sprouts, a spray of basil, some hot pepper slices and a divider dish of hoisin sauce and sriracha hot sauce. For those who never enjoyed Pho, Jeff recommends the following: push the chopsticks into the red sriracha hot sauce and bring a small amount into the bowl. Stir it around. NOT TOO MUCH! You can always add more later, remember, this hot sauce is hot and unless you want to burn out your taste buds, you need only a bit. Do the same with the hoisin. Next, tear some of the basil leafs off the stem. When you toss them into the bowl, an explosion of flavor wallops your nose! Eat the noodles with the chopsticks (yes, it will get a bit messy, so this is not a first-date place, unless your partner has a great sense of adventure.) Sip the soup with the spoon. Some people help scoop noodles with the spoon underneath, but Jeff does not have that coordination. Dip the bean sprouts in the hoisin and munch on them between sips. Yummy!
Michele has drifted away from the other noodle soups (Chicken and Tomato Crab were her go-to choices) and has recently settled on the Shrimp Vermicelli. The marinated shrimp is served over a bed of vermicelli and a light spice sauce.
Michele likes tea and she enjoys the lighter tea served at #1 Pho. Jeff feels nothing matches Asian cooking better than Asian beer. “33” Export is a light, almost sweet Vietnamese beer. It is the perfect beverage to enjoy with Pho and #1 Pho is a wonderful place from which to watch the rain.
List Status: Existing
3120 Superior Avenue Cleveland, OH 44114 216-781-1176
This is one of those places you see in television shows, where beautiful people with too much money and great jobs go to unwind after a “day at the office.” The club is small; the owners are so genuine that you’d swear they know you. A hot duo/trio is in the corner playing fabulous jazz while you sit at a table uttering impossibly urbane dialogue. What more could you need?
Fast forward to the reality of Jeff and Michele. We eat early. While we enjoyed our meal, the trio was setting up. A sound check was being conducted and cases were being hauled. A half-hour after we left, the music would start. We are not Ali McBeal nor Dr. McDreamy. That may be the problem with our perception of Jazz 28. They have laid out a whole package and we sampled just a corner.
The corner we did try was good. We each had a side salad of greens, shredded carrots, tomatoes and artichokes with a balsamic dressing. The greens could have been fresher, but not bad. Most of the appetizers are priced a bit high and are called small plates, probably perfect for an evening of jazz and grazing. Michele was totally happy with her salmon. Glazed with wine and caramelized onion she felt it was moist and tasty. Pureed sweet potatoes accompanied the dish. Jeff had the “Airline” Chicken (breast with the first wing bone intact and skin on.) it was served with bacon wrapped apples and sautéed spinach. The chicken meat was very tasty and moist, but the skin was not crispy enough to eat and the bacon suffered the same fate. Before eating, Jeff needed to “unwrap” most of the components leaving a fatty pile on the plate. The spinach was flavorful, but the whole presentation might have been better if the exterior was crisp and the inside moist. A lemon tort desert was the perfect (early evening) nightcap.
Our advice is to sample the entire Jazz 28 experience. Wear your impossibly chic clothing, sip colorful cocktails, and glance into your partner’s eyes while snippets of Gershwin’s melodies pop through the improvisations. Linger over some shared dinner and leave four hours later, happy, fulfilled and exhausted. Next time, we’re going to take our No-Doze and do just that. This place will be perfect!
List Status: Existing
http://www.jazz28.com/ 2800 Clinton Road Cleveland, OH 44113 216-621-2828
Sometimes, when you don’t like a meal at a restaurant, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will no longer return to the place. If you notice in some of our recent blog entries, we’ve dismissed the possibility of subsequent visits to Bricco, Pont Vecchio and Sara’s Place. This means, we feel there is so much wrong that we’ve eliminate the possibility of return. It is unlikely that the food will ever be good. That will not be the case with Taste, even though Michele did not care for her entrée.
Dinner started well. We decided to stay close to home and remembered we hadn’t been to Taste for a while. Michele enjoyed the mixed green salad and Jeff, always a sucker for mushroom soup loved the rich, dark version served du jour. Jeff ordered the duck breast with passion fruit sauce. It was crispy on the outside and tender, moist and flavorful inside. The accompanying mashed potatoes, flavored with heavy grain mustard made this a wonderful meal. Michele was less fortunate. She was torn between the menu’s stuffed chicken breast and the special tuna. Based on the server’s recommendation, she selected the tuna and from the start, simply did not like the flavor. She finished the Israeli Couscous side, but Jeff now has leftover tuna sitting in the refrigerator. Desert was flawless. The chocolate mousse topped with house made hazelnut ice cream could not have been tastier. We both fought to scrape the bowl.
In addition to the good food, this is one of the nicest restaurant designs in Cleveland. The space is long and narrow and the designer really worked to give the guests a feeling of openness. Tables are perfectly spaced to prevent against the feeling of dining with scores of unknown guests. The color selection makes for a warm inviting mood, even though the look is overtly contemporary.
All this leads us back to a return visit. Because of the “Tuna Surprise” we have not kicked this off our list. This is a good restaurant. Occasionally, even good chefs turn out a bad meal or, some of the creations do not appeal to all guests. Michele did not care for the meal. Next time, she will likely enjoy her main course. We’ll be back to confirm that.
List Status: Existing
http://www.tastefoodwine.com/ 2317 Lee Road Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 216-392-9100
Jeff’s “junk food” weakness is hot dogs. Michele hates them. You can imagine the schism this has caused. Jeff usually partakes of them alone, or when Michele has made alternate dining arrangements. He mourned the loss of Hot Dog Express on Lee Road when it closed about four years ago. They had the perfect combination of tasty dog and slightly spicy chili. The Dog House on Euclid Heights Boulevard also serves a good dog, but their chili topping is only passable. The biggest problem however, is with the bun. It is not capable of holding the chili without becoming soggy on the trip home. Tucky’s Hot Dogs recently opened on Mayfield Road in Mayfield. They use a natural casing hot dog and offer a number of topping combinations. After trying a most of menu, this softer dog works best with Coney Island chili, mustard and onions (The Detroit Coney Island) or the Minnesota (shredded cheddar and Polish sauerkraut.)
Now, there’s a new dog in town and it might just be the best dog Cleveland has ever seen. The Happy Dog has opened (re-opened?) at the corner of Detroit Road and W58th Street. They have a very simple menu. Choose either a hot dog or a vegetarian dog, then select as many of the 50 topping options desired. Each table has printed lists and one sheet is filled-out for each dog ordered. The list is littered with interesting items. There is the obligatory ketchup and a number of different mustards and an assortment of sauces like Kansas City BBQ and HOT Vietnamese Sriracha. Onions, cucumbers, salsa verde and Korean kim chee can be matched with nacho cheese, blue cheese coleslaw and garbanzo bean chili. Unusual toppings like Fruit Loops, Chunky Peanut Butter and Potato Chips are also featured. As a side dish, there are also only two choices, tater tots or French fries. Nineteen topping are listed for the potatoes. For an extra dollar, nine additional toping are available.
Having just seen a movie at the fabulously restored Capital Theatre in W 65th Street, Michele, being the greatest of sports, came along this time. She ordered a dog-less, dog and filled it with fried egg, applewood smoked bacon, marinated Portobello mushrooms, tomatoes and dill pickle spears. The bun was FILLED with goodies and she really enjoyed it and suggested a return! Jeff wasn’t sure if that or the dogs he selected made him happier. He decided to do “theme” dogs. His “French Dog” included French Brie cheese, Dijon mustard, caramelized onions and applewood smoked bacon. The “New Orleans Dog” included Creole remolade, smoked gouda and bacon spiked southern style greens. Both were a great compliment to the nicely grilled dog. French fries with chorizo chili topping (requiring the extra dollar) made for a great meal. Dogfish Head IPA on tap made this a perfect “junk food” dinner, but dogs this good should never be called “junk.” This was simply a good, quick dinner featuring hot dogs. Can life get any better? Not for Jeff! Thanks Michele for understanding the husband’s unusual needs!
The Dog House 2767 Euclid Heights Boulevard Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 216-321-0717
http://www.tuckyshotdogs.com/ 6232 Mayfield Road Mayfield, OH 44124 440-460-3871
Happy Dog 5801 Detroit Road Cleveland, OH 44102 216-651-9474
This place just gets better and better.
Over a year since opening and we look forward to each new L’Albatros visit like kids to a candy store. As we’ve written before, Parallax is our favorite Cleveland restaurant (don’t tell Fire!) Michele really enjoys Table 45 and Jeff believes L’Albatros is one of the top ten places in the city. All are the creation of Zach Bruell, the dean of fine cooking in Cleveland. Michael Symon may get the awards and press, but were it not for Mr. Bruell; we Clevelanders might all be eating corporate food, rather than at fine independent dining establishments. L’Albatros is Bruell’s third currently operating restaurant. (He’s had other, now closed places and number four, Chinato just opened.) the idea to cook simple, honest French bistro food was missing from Cleveland, since the long-ago closing of La Pomme. In his capable hands, this honest use of base ingredients appears on the plate as if they were the most expensive ingredients on the planet.
Since opening, Michele has enjoyed the grilled salmon, roasted cod and this time the roasted trout with almond crust. Each piece of fish has been flavorful and masterfully prepared. The accompaniments blend well with the assorted fish flavors. Jeff has sampled the Cassoulet (hearty) pied de cochon (delectable pig’s feet meat mixed with béarnaise that was almost orgasmic) and this time the leg of lamb. The lamp required only a touch to separate and fall into the rosemary au jus and pasta base. Michele started with the arugula and radicchio salad while Jeff tried the roasted leek appetizer. Desert was a crunchy Chocolate Napoléon with fresh fruit layered between the rich chocolate mousse. Like previous visits, everything was perfect.
In addition to the great food, we love that L’Albatros is opened all afternoon. We have a tendency to eat early. After the matinee performance of Xanadu ended, we were at a loss as to where to go. We tried La Boca, but they had a special Argentina Night planned, so were closed. A few other places opened at 4:00 and 4:30. L’Albatros came to the rescue and boy, we couldn’t be happier.
List Status: Existing
http://www.albatrosbrasserie.com/ 11401 Bellflower Road Cleveland, OH 44106 216-791-7880
An empty, quiet restaurant is a sad place. During our visit to Verve, the replacement restaurant to the Juniper Grille on Carnegie, near East 14th Street, the place was sparsely filled for no apparent reason. The food was good, the menu creative and the staff friendly. What’s going on?
Dinner started with nice crusty bread served with a fresh olive tapinade and an onion mix. The tapinade was alive with flavor, but the onion did not appeal to either of us. Michele had the Verve salad, a nice mix of greens, fennel, tomato and slivers of asiago. Jeff had the “Pigs in a Blanket”. This was tender pigs feet meat breaded into a small disc and served over a bed of grainy mustard mixed with dates, apples and citrus. Watercress and pecorino were laid atop. The discs were a bit overdone, but the whole dish was a wonderful combination of flavor and textures.
For entrees, Michele had the Tasmanian Salmon served over a spinach and onion medley. She found it moist and flavorful. Jeff had the Cleveland Broil. Imagine a London Broil, but instead replace the flank steak with veal flank. The thinly sliced meat was topped with wonderfully roasted brussel sprouts and smoked blue cheese. Jeff wished the lukewarm veal was served warmer, but the flavors were perfect. Desert was a chocolate cupcake (guess whose opinion prevailed?) with mascarpone frosting.
This place reminds us of a new, New Orleans favorite, MiLa. The husband and wife team from Mississippi (Mi) and Louisiana (La) have found ways to reinvent classic southern cooking. The chefs at Verve are doing much the same thing. Stroganoff was made with lamb, the veal London broil and every 60’s mom’s favorite, City Chicken present a menu with plenty of homey, yummy foods just waiting for an empty stomach. We decided early on to go back to Verve. Next time, we hope there are more people to share in the good food prepared here. You should consider making that happen!
List Status: Existing
http://www.vervecleveland.com/VC/ 1332 Carnegie Avenue Cleveland, OH 44115 216-664-5500
In every neighborhood there is a little place that attracts a continual flow of clients, day after day, year after year. Vittorio’s Buon Appettito is such a place. We have been going to Vittorio’s for at least five years. The food is generally good and the prices are very fair. The interior is simple and the wine is priced to encourage trying something new and something different.
Michele flips between the chicken and eggplant parmagiana. Jeff enjoys trying the specials and has not likely repeated an entrée, with the possible exception of the menu’s Pasta Rosa. The parmagiana is crisp on the outside and tender inside, exactly the way she likes it. The real draw for her however, may be the bread and seasoned dipping oil. Jeff lets her enjoy the whole dish! On the last visit, Jeff had the special Italian sausage & pepperoni fettuccini. The spicy meats were tempered with a light cream sauce and tomatoes. It was one of the better specials he’s enjoyed over the years. All specials indicate a suggested wine. The Germany Piesporter had a sweetness that nicely counterbalanced the spice. For desert, we ordered the tiramisu. After the horrible version at Pont Vecchio, we needed a good version. This was better, but the Cool Whip topping was unusual.
If you need a place with well priced food and a relaxed atmosphere, we suggest you give Vittorio’s a try. We think you’ll be pleased.
http://www.vittoriosbuonappetito.com/ 29664 Euclid Road Wickliffe, OH 44092 440-585-7700
Sometimes, you just get a hankering for good Americanized Chinese food. There are a ton of these Chinese restaurants scattered around Cleveland (and America,) but only a few make good versions of the old standards. Ho Wah, located in the lower level of La Place in Beachwood is one of the good ones. Over the years, this has been our go-to place when we need Egg Foo Yung, Wor Hip Har, Egg Rolls and Wonton Soup. We really don’t go much farther into the menu. To make selection even narrower, we both especially like the shrimp egg foo yung. We couldn’t even tell you if the pork egg foo yung is better than most.
Here’s what we know. The shrimp egg foo yung uses LOTS of nicely sized shrimp. The patty is light with crunchy bean sprouts and very little residual cooking oils. The gravy is tasty and when combined with the rice (Jeff-fried, Michele-white) it’s a perfect rendition. The soup offers a tasty broth and plump wonton. The egg rolls are filled with lots of good things. For a change, Michele will order the Wor Hip Har primarily because she really likes the well prepared shrimp.
Whether you like old standbys, Governor’s Chicken or Moo Goo Gai Pan or War Sue Gai, you need a place that prepares those standards well. While we have never tasted them, based on our experiences, there’s a good bet you’ll enjoy your meal as much as we enjoy ours.
http://howahrestaurant.com/ 2101 Richmond Road Beachwood, OH 44122 216-831-2327