Eatin’ In Las Vegas 5

In general, as stated before, we believe the food in Las Vegas is fine, but radically overpriced. Because of that, enjoying a meal in “Sin City” is extremely hard. Deep down inside, you know it is too costly and you can’t help but feel as though you’ve been “taken for ride,” much like gambling, so perhaps, it makes sense. Trying to put that aside, Jeff attended an industry event in the city and figured he’d ignore the price tag and try some new spots.

On trips to New York, Jeff grabbed a quick snack at the Bar at NoMad and a full meal at the NoMad Restaurant, so trying the new NoMad Library in Las Vegas seemed obvious. To find a mix with the quiet respite of the NY NoMad and the vibrancy of Las Vegas, the dining room has been placed in a multi-story library, adorned with multi-tier chandeliers. Heavy velvet curtains, like those separating spaces in the New York location, keep the Las Vegas buzz out and insulate the warmly lit dining room.

The food is equally comforting and definitely worth the visit. The Hamachi appetizer was served with beets, raw and pickled and was a colorful and appealing presentation. The Scallop entrée featured perfectly seared discs, served over a carrot puree base with whipped spring peas. The combination of the seafood, peas and spicy carrots was excellent. Dessert was a touch confusing. Coffee or Chocolate are the choices, so Jeff wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The “Chocolate” he selected was an excellent deconstructed cake-malt combo. Combined with a nice Port Wine and this was his favorite meal…on the strip.

Off the strip, about a $10 Uber ride away is Partage. This is not the kind of place you’d expect in the desert. A multi-course, French restaurant with an amazing wine list was a treat to find. Patrons have just a few choices before they can sit back and enjoy the parade of food. 5-courses? 7? 9? Want wine with that? They have a few additions, too. The meu changes regularly, so the things Jeff enjoyed are likely to disappear quickly. Rather than concentrate on what Partage has, approach them with open arms and an adventurous palette. There are smart, talented people in the kitchen, trust them and enjoy some of the most amazing food you’re likely to have in Las Vegas and probably in may other spots in America. It’s that good.

If NoMad is subtle, then Vanderpump à Paris is the polar opposite. This is decadence squared. The décor is over the top, the menu itself is memorable and the food is pretty good, too. Lots of dishes are oversized, so consider sharing. Jeff was by himself, so he selected the Crab Croquettes appetizer and the Coq au Vin Pot Pie entrée. The pot pie was very good, full of nice chicken pieces and lots of extras. The pile of Crème Brûlée Beignet served as dessert AND a nice breakfast treat the next morning. A visit to Vanderpump is a must, even if just for a drink. It is a microcosm of Las Vegas, wrapped in a compact restaurant.

Yardbird is the kind of place that demands a posse. The plates are large and beg to be shared. The atmosphere demands a communal outburst. Not the right spot for a single diner, but an excellent server helped Jeff select some good, smaller options. The fried chicken, the house specialty, was excellent, as were the Deviled Eggs. The fried Brussels Sprouts we ok. Next time Jeff is in Las Vegas with a group, this is the place he’s going!

Because of a late flight, Jeff did not eat. After checking in, he had just enough time to grab a bar seat at his fallback Vegas spot, Mon Ami Gabi. A quick Steak Frite with Béarnaise and a glass of Beaujolais and he was ready for the week.

Las Vegas is many things to many people. It can serve conference attendees, bachelorettes, gamblers and even a few foodies. Some would say they do a great job with all, other might argue that the city does nothing other than grab your money. We fall somewhere in the middle. We don’t gamble, we’re already married, we’re not really crazy about the Las Vegas Convention Center and the food is “pretty good.” Should you plan a trip to Las Vegas specifically for the food? Not unless you have unlimited funds. Can you get a decent meal while there? Yes. Start with this list and the other spots mentioned in pervious posts.

https://www.thenomadhotel.com/las-vegas/dining/ https://nomadlasvegas.mgmresorts.com/en/restaurants/nomad-library.html Park MGM 3772 South Las Vegas Boulevard Las Vegas, NV 89109 833-706-6623

https://partage.vegas/ 3839 Spring Mountain Road Las Vegas, NV 89102 702-582-5852

https://www.caesars.com/paris-las-vegas/restaurants/vanderpump-a-paris Paris Las Vegas 3655 South Las Vegas Boulevard Las Vegas, NV 89109 402-946-4217

https://www.runchickenrun.com/las-vegas/ The Venetian 3355 South Las Vegas Boulevard Las Vegas, NV 89109 702-297-6541

https://www.monamigabi.com/las-vegas/ Paris Las Vegas 3655 South Las Vegas Boulevard Las Vegas, NV 89109 702-944-4224

August 1, 2022 at 9:36 PM Leave a comment

Eatin’ In New York 11

Jeff was back in New York with a packed list of new places to try. Of course, there was work to do, museums to visit and theater to see, but he had to eat!

During his last visit, he could not secure a seat at Ernesto’s. It was almost as difficult this time, but there was ONE seat left in his four-day visit and he grabbed it. It was definitely worth the effort. This was a remarkable meal. Ernesto’s is a Basque restaurant. He’s been to other places that serve food from the Basque region of Spain, Txikito in town and Cooks and Solders in Atlanta. The food is universally great and their version may be the best he’s had.

Ernesto’s Bikini Hemmingway

The Bikini Hemmingway were amazing pockets of shrimp, paprika-laden pork sausage and cheese on crunchy triangles. The entrée was Blood Sausage with Sepia (a type of cuttlefish) in a pool broth with peas, fava beans and mint. Forget the fork and grab the spoon to fully enjoy all this dish has to offer. A creamy pudding with pistachios completed a perfect meal.

Ernesto’s – Blood Sausage and Sepia

There have been some interesting articles about Ernesto’s in the press lately. (You may have heard about the very tough varietal of steak they occasionally offer.) None were defamatory, but some people might get the wrong perception. Don’t let that sway you. This place is worth the visit.

Running a close second (and the two spots have flopped favor multiple times!) is Kimika. Their Tuna Tartare was really special. The plate arrived with ingredients segregated, tuna, roe, pickled cucumbers, onions, etc. Jeff was instructed to mix them all together and use the accompanying Nori Sheets to eat it. The fishy, crunchy, salty and creamy combo was simply an amazing culinary experience. He couldn’t wait for the entrée. A Crispy Rice Cake Lasagna used gnocchi-sized rice cakes combined with sausage in a spicy tomato-based sauce. A small amount of cheese accented rather than blanketed the flavor. He can still taste it! The excitement did not stop at the dessert. A seemingly innocent “soft-serve” was mixed with rhubarb, a strawberry gel and topped with crispy chicken skins! Very memorable and a meal he has recounted multiple times since.

Kimika – Tuna Tartare
Kimika – Crispy Rice Cake Lasagna
Kimika – Soft Serve dessert with Crispy Chicken Skins

The Commerce Inn has completely reconsidered food. Rather than the over-the-top extravagance, this place has decided to pare down the dishes to their simplest form. Welsh Rarebit is just toast, cheddar and Worchester. Deep-fried Soft-Shell Crab, spoke loudly with only a minimal prep and a very basic rhubarb tartlet could never be described as “over the top”. These simply prepared dishes allowed you to fully appreciate the flavor of each individual ingredients. With the stark Quaker surroundings, you might not think you are in the middle of New York City. This place allows you to settle back, relax and appreciate subtlety.

The Commerce Inn – Soft Shell Crab
The Commerce Inn – Rubarb Tartlet

After a Sunday evening show, Jeff needed a spot opened late. He found Sweetbriar matched up with his need for good food and later hours. Lettuce Velouté? Really? Could lettuce deliver that much flavor? Indeed. The scent when the bowl arrived was amazing! You simply wouldn’t expect it. The added Crème Fraiche delivered just the tart profile needed. An entrée of Chicken and Clams sounded as unusual as lettuce soup. The airline breast was glazed and served with spinach and a citrus mix. The clams added yet another flavor. The combo was perfect. A decadent chocolate tart was wrapped in a chocolate glaze. Combined with a wonderful glass of port, it could not have been a better way to end the meal and the trip. Jeff was headed back home in twelve hours.

Sweetbriar – Lettuce Veloute
Sweetbriar – Chicken & Clams
Sweetbriar – Chocolate Tart

New York always has something exciting to offer. Basque food? A mash-up of Japanese and Italian? Quaker dining? Where else can you get this? As always, he’s look forward to the next visit!

https://www.ernestosnyc.com/ 259 East Broadway Avenue New York, NY 10002 646-692-8300

https://www.kimikanyc.com/ 40 Kenmare Street New York, NY 10012 212-256-9280

https://www.thecommerceinn.com/ 50 Commerce Street New York, NY 10014

https://www.sweetbriarnyc.com/ 127 E27th Street New York, NY 10016 212-204-0225

July 3, 2022 at 12:15 PM 1 comment

Eatin’ in New York 10

It has been a long time coming. Jeff had planned a trip to New York in the spring of 2020, but we all know why that didn’t occur! Eighteen months later, he was back in town…TWICE! Of course, the intent was work, but evenings, as usual are spent in the theater and in restaurants. Visiting both was surely different. Spots in the city ALL checked vaccine cards and identification. Masks were expected as well. New York is substantially different from Ohio, but once inside, there was a lot of comfort knowing everyone else was doing all they could to prevent the transmission of disease. That made exploring new spots very easy and he sure found a great new collection to recommend.

Top of the list, this trip and even when compared with some favorites from the past trips to New York, was Vestry. The room had a kinky, casual vibe. The food was unmistakably the best of the trip and Jeff can’t remember having a better time eating. Everything was perfect. It started with the flavored butter (perhaps uni?) and house baked sourdough and moved into a magnificent Maitaki Mushroom that was presented in flat, fanned out from the center of the plate. Dandelions decorated the top along with a drizzle of sauce that contained some citrus, perhaps horseradish aioli. It was a perfect starter.

The main-dish was even better. Cod was sitting in a bath of luscious cream sauce with a dollop of spaghetti squash on top. The cod was perfect, compelling him to use a spoon to scoop up a nice amount of sauce with the fish. This was one of those heavenly meals that you try to prolong for as long as possible. It was accompanied by a whipped squash that was so light, it felt like eating air.

The dessert was equally stunning. Tapioca was layered on the bottom and topped with a huckleberry gelatin. Fresh huckleberry was the crown. As a “thank you” finale, a candied, frozen cherry was presented in a stone container. There was not an element out of step here. This was a flawless meal and a flawless evening.

Rezdôra is a slender little basement spot with a buzz that has transcended the pandemic. Reservations are difficult, so bar seating is at a premium. Jeff arrived at opening to find a line already forming. The benefit of being alone placed him at the bar pretty quickly, all set to enjoy some amazing Italian cuisine. Rezdôra specializes in pasta, but the Gnocco Fritto was what he’ll remember most. These fluffy puffs of pastry/bread arrived inflated by the warm air inside. Each was stuffed with a different meat, one with prosciutto, anther capicola and the third with mortadella. While they looked huge, they melted in your mouth. What a treat. Jeff tried the “grandma walking through the forest near Emilia” pasta. (Yes, that is the name of the dish!) It is a green cappelletti stuffed with a creamy black mushroom filling and topped with roasted and fresh leeks. Each bite was heavenly. The Apple, Date and Caramel Torte was a perfect finish. Portions are not crazy-big, perfectly sized for a typical eater. The amuse bouche, tidbit-sized éclair with whipped spinach and dried spinach and the “exit sweet” a dot of dense dark chocolate exemplify their dining philosophy. Leave well, fed, but never overstuffed. If only all restaurants would do the same!

Jeff thought he was in for another mind-blowing dining experience when the appetizer at Benno arrived. It was flawless. The Rabbit Confit was beautiful to look at and equally delicious. The terrine was topped with red and white endive with a smattering of roasted almonds. This exciting combination of textures, flavor and color was unforgettable. The Monk Fish entrée was good, but he was sure expecting a bit more after the appetizer. The secret of this dish was to scoop up the red wine sauce, fish and braised greens all in once bite. The combination made it substantially more interesting. Having sunchoke as a side was also a nice surprise. The Gateau de Noisette dessert was OK, but in the first bite, Jeff hit a stale nut. All other nuts were fine, but the sour taste stayed in his mouth. While good, Benno needs to pay a touch more attention to details. The restaurant is priced to expect a higher level than delivered. One detail they have down pat is the host staff. Each of the people were real pros and exactly what is needed to welcome guests.

Jeff had only an hour between the end of work and ticket time at the theater. He decided to hit the basement of Hudson Yard and try Mercado Little Spain. This is a wonderful, if somewhat confusing adventure in Spanish cuisine. There are a variety of eateries within the space and a central area where most food can be sampled. One spot focuses on tapas (La Barra) another fire-roasted foods (Leña) and Spanish Diner is an open air spot. Honestly, he has no clue where he ate! Nonetheless, the food was very good. He sampled a bunch of different small plates, an Iberco version of salume, roasted potatoes with tomato and aioli, and my favorite, Pork and Cuttlefish. This is place that deserves another visit. Because of its proximity to the Javits Center, it is likely Jeff will be here again.

Jeff had two additional spots he tried to visit, Cadence and Ernestos. Cadence is a vegetarian soul food spot in the East Village and because they provide incorrect open hours on all of their media, He arrived before dinner hour. He missed Ernesto’s for the opposite reason. They open at 5:00PM and ALL of the bar seats and reservations were taken by 5:09! This place will surely be on the list for the next visit.

To take their place, Jeff ended up returning to some old favorites for a quick meal before and after the theater. A quick bowl of coconut milk soup at (The Mercer) Kitchen, Tempura Shrimp at Lure Fishbar and Orecchiette Alla Bari Vecchia (Broccoli Rabe & Sausage) at La Masseria. They are favorites for a reason! While Jeff likes to try new spots, it is always good to check in to old spots.

It was so nice to return to New York. With the exception of constantly showing COVID information and identification to enter anywhere, it was almost like old times. Let’s hope that stays the case.

https://www.vestrynyc.com/ 246 Spring Street New York, NY 10013 212-784-1350

https://www.rezdora.nyc/ 27 E 20th Street New York, NY 10003 646-692-9090

https://www.bennorestaurant.com/ 7 E 27th Street New York, NY 10016 212-451-9557

https://www.littlespain.com/ 10 Hudson Yard New York, NY 10001 646-495-1242

https://www.overthrowhospitality.com/venues/cadence 122 E 7th Street New York, NY 10009 833-328-4588

http://www.ernestosnyc.com/ 259 East Broadway Avenue New York, NY 10002 646-692-8300

https://www.themercerkitchen.com/ 99 Prince Street New York, NY 10012 212-966-5454

https://www.lurefishbar.com/ 142 Mercer Street New York, NY 10012 212-431-7676

https://lamasserianyc.com/ 235 W 48th Street New York, NY 10036 212-582-2111

December 30, 2021 at 9:50 PM 1 comment

Lulo

This is a delightful find. We advise you try this spot now, before everyone knows about it and it will be impossible to get a seat.

We were on a tour of an amazing historic restoration/reuse of an old building on the near west side and wanted lunch. A quick check on Yelp indicated Lulo was close. Michele remembered reading about it, so we figured we’d try it. From the moment we walked in, everyone in the place sought to make us welcome. One look at the menu and we knew we’d be back for many visits.

Lulo – Mango Salmon
Lulo – Tropical Chorizo

Michele loved the Mango Salmon, so much so that when we came back for dinner a month later, she ordered it again. It was a fresh, bright dish that she really enjoyed. Jeff had the Tropical Chorizo and like the salmon, it was a wonderful clean plate of fresh foods, perfectly prepared. The Churrasco, carefully grilled steak served with yucca was equally interesting and flavorful during the evening visit.

Lulo – Tres Leches dessert

The Tres Leches dessert deserves a paragraph on its own! It was so beautifully presented, we wanted to preserve it. We don’t often take pictures of food, but this one deserved a photo shoot! It was moist, sweet and “milky” just as this tropical delight mandates. We will order this again and again.

At lunch, Jeff accompanied his meal with Violeta, a handmade Limonadas. We’re not sure if we’ve ever had fresh pressed lime juice, but this was such a tasty refreshing drink, he is waiting for the next visit to order another limonadas again!

Lulo Cleveland
Juice bar downtown Cleveland
W9th Street restaurant
Lulo – Violeta, a hand-pressed limonadas with florals

One of the reasons we returned for dinner and not another lunch was their invitation to see the dining room. Located downstairs, the spot is warmer and quietly comfortable. The food is just as good, but the bar is open and the place shifts from a lunch-juice bar to a legitimate restaurant. Having both settings is nice. A big window with hanging plants upstairs and dimly lit dining down. Regardless of when you go, go! Do it soon. When the cat is out of the bag on this place, you’ll be hoping to snag a reservation within the month. http://www.lulocleveland.com/ 1273 W 9th Street Cleveland, OH 44113 216-929-1053

December 17, 2021 at 9:45 PM 1 comment

Gunselman’s Tavern

In the dining room of Gunselman’s Tavern the walls are graced with old photographs of a different time, smoking bowlers, a cramped “beer-joint” kitchens and bartenders wearing ties. In the old images what has not changed are frozen memories of friends and family sitting around the bar and tables, simply enjoying themselves and having fun. While the new owners of this Fairview Park landmark cannot bring back ashtrays or convince their bar help to wear more formal attire, they have certainly maintained the friendly atmosphere required to invite smiles, camaraderie and return visits.

As we enjoyed our food, the side patio was readying for a Brown’s game. Beer tents were being erected, tables were being set and fans began to stream-in. Michele had the Fish and Chips, a nicely battered cod with no excess fishiness and even less excess oils. Jeff enjoyed the Black & Bleu Burger with loaded fried. The medium temperature was a bit closer to well, so next time, he will be more careful with the order. The truffle-rosemary topping and garlic aioli sauce were great. Both of us ate way more fries then he should have!

Maintaining the wonderful atmosphere that was so effectively captured in the antique photos was a fabulous, friendly and accommodating staff. They all appeared to enjoy each other and that made a difference in the environment. When our server was busy at another table, one of the other servers checked on our drinks, food, etc. We think we talked to everyone who worked there that day! It is nice to know that new owners not only acquired the building, but also drew on the hospitality vibe found in the black and white memories hanging on the wall. It made a difference.

https://www.gunselmans.com/ 21490 Lorain Avenue Fairview Park, OH 44126 440-331-5719

November 25, 2021 at 9:10 PM Leave a comment

Cleveland Mofongo

The first time we visited Ajili-Mojili, far off the Condada on a side street in San Juan we fell in love with Mofongos. On our next visit, they moved into the “high-rent district” on Ashford and a subsequent trip, we discovered they had closed. What has not ended is our quest for great mofongos closer to home. Some have been good, but after visiting Cleveland Mofongo, we think we have finally found a worthy successor to Ajili-Mojili. When you walk in the door, the garlic laced air invites you sit, grab a tropical beer and relax. You know mouthwatering food is around the corner.

Michele loved the Shrimp version. The standard serving arrives with the plantain-garlic mash in the center, surrounded by the protein and veggies. Jeff turned his into a bowl ($1) whereby the mash is formed as a vessel topped with the most amazing slow-cooked Pork. The bowl also includes rice and black beans. Regardless of which way you go, you are assured of a winning entrée. I’m sure someone can finish these, but we couldn’t. Not to worry! When warmed-up, these were just as good the next day!

Cleveland Mofongo – Shrimp Mofongo
Cleveland Mofongo – Slow-roasted Pork Mofongo Bowl

Of course, another reason to take a little section of mofongo home is to leave some room for dessert. The Nutella-Marshmallow Empanadilla was the right amount of sweet to balance your palate away from the garlic. We highly recommend a dessert for that very reason. Your inner yin-yang will thank you!

Cleveland Mofongo – Nutella-Marshmallow Empanadilla

If you remember that remarkable Puerto Rican food from an island vacation, or if you think Puerto Rican food is the same as Mexican, plan a trip to Cleveland Mofongo. From the moment you walk in the door, you will know you are not in Kansas any longer!

https://clevelandmofongo.com/ 11621 Lorain Avenue Cleveland, OH 44111 216-415-4523

September 19, 2021 at 12:38 PM 1 comment

ETalian

We were big fans of Distil, the previous restaurant created by Eddie Tancredi, so when he announced its closing, we were disappointed. Delight returned when we heard about ETalian. After our first visit, ETalian is not so much a replacement for Distil, as it is a waystation on his journey as a restaurateur in the middle of confusing times. Were food creation a vocation, rather than an avocation, we’d probably do something similar. Find a place that needs a great product that can be easily packaged to go and whisked away for consumption. If there is room for in-house dining, so much the better.

This is a simple menu. Pizza. There are about six on a chalk board over the register. White, Margherita, Peperoni, Mushroom and a wonderful combo that immediately caught Michele’s eye, Bacon & Artichoke. The crust is superb. Chewy with the perfect charred flavor to support the toppings. Wiped with a touch of olive oil, a dot of salt and fired in the wood burning oven, it arrives hot and stays so on the aluminum pan. We’re not so sure how well these will travel, but you don’t have to worry about that. There are plenty of chairs and stools in the fabulous renovated old building and a cozy patio at its side. Jeff enjoyed the Peperoni which has a nice peppery heat and a tomato base, tasting completely different, despite the swap of only three ingredients.

Conventional soft drinks are not available. Some cane-sugar sodas, sparkling waters and Moretti birra are in a self-serve case. Next door, a wonderful wine store had the diet soda by the can that Michele craved. We shared an Antipasto Salad and it was less successful. Small and heavily laden with oils and trapped in a plastic to-go tub, we’ve made a mental note to forgo the salad and stick with the reason for a trip to ETalian, Pizza. Between the wonderful building and the tasty crust, you won’t soon forget this place.

https://www.etalianpizza.com/ 13 Bell Street Chagrin Falls, OH 44022 400-600-2001

August 29, 2021 at 9:14 AM Leave a comment

Local Tavern

Our first trip to Local Tavern was a week or two before the whole world shut down for COVID. This was an interesting find. We had no idea what we wanted and neither of us had a taste for anything in particular. We sat in the theater parking lot considering a number of dining options. We almost half-heartedly agreed on a place when we decided to see what was “nearby” on Yelp. Searching based on distance provides a result filled with every fast-food joint in the area, but if you can overlook these, it can be helpful. We came upon Local Tavern. It triggered some recollections and we decided the search was over. We were going to try Local Tavern. Now that we are “getting back to normal” we again started to think about the great first meal we had there. A second visit was in order.

We’ve probably driven down this portion of Chardon Road a dozen times in recent memory, but never noticed the place. It looks like a typical neighborhood bar. Without paying attention, you might expect them to serve an adequate burger and a cold beer. What we got was much more.

Expecting a much different answer, Michele asked our server if the fish was fresh. She was told that, “we bread the fillets in-house, every day.” What arrived at the table was a half-dozen smaller perch fillets with nary a drop of residual cooking oil or grease that were soft and flaky inside and crunchy outside. Michele felt they were perfect. Jeff ordered the Shephard’s Pie and was equally surprised by a version made with shredded beef, not the obligatory ground meat. A balsamic drizzle added a nice tang to a dish that can sometimes be boring. When we asked about dessert, we were again told that everything is made in-house. There was no conversation, a wonderful Banana Crème Pie appeared and then disappeared.

Local Tavern – Perch Sandwich and Fries

On our second visit, Michele tried the Perch Sandwich and was again very pleased with the quality of the fish and fries. This time, Jeff tried the Shrimp and Grits. Like the Shepard’s Pie before, the name was a yeoman descriptor for a dish far more exciting than you might expect. The grits were fried into a block with the grilled shrimp placed on top covered by the delightful Cajun sauce. A spunky slaw with Chinese noodles sat on top. It was crazy-good.

Local Tavern – Shrimp and Grits

Looks can be deceiving. When we entered Local Tavern the first time, a bunch of folks were at the bar watching the football playoff games. In the dining area, we saw some young couples on a date and a table full of older people enjoying a congenial get-together. On our post-COVID visit, most of the people were “out-back” on the patio, the dining room taken over by a big family reunion. Each of these groups was getting something different from the place and this hard-working spot delivered on all accounts. That is really a remarkable achievement and one we will be happy to celebrate with additional visits.

http://www.golocaltavern.com/ 29007 Chardon Road Willoughby Hills, OH 44092 440-943-5926

August 11, 2021 at 12:28 PM 1 comment

Alea

Happy Birthday to Jeff! Had it not been his birthday, we would never have gone to Alea. As anticipated, Jeff was ecstatic with his meal and Michele confirmed it was not a place for her.

Jeff was getting excited about the prospects of trying this new place when it opened in late 2019, but the end of the year and the beginning of the next are VERY busy time for him, so we put it off. We all know what happened then. When it was announced that Alea would reopen, we both got excited. A quick look at the online menu and Michele reverted to her blasé attitude. The menu is VERY small and unfortunately, even less appealed to her. She only agreed because it was Jeff’s birthday.

Michele had the Grilled Oysters and while it was an appetizer portion, she was perplexed as to what else she could add. She considered the Crudo, or one of the salads, but there was an ingredient or two in each that was off-putting. Jeff was just the opposite. He didn’t know where to start. Everything sounded appealing. Eventually, he honed in on the Raw Beet Salad. Can you recall the last time you had raw beets? They have a unique texture and flavor that gets lost in pickling and other prep methods. These were topped with red basil, pistachios and coconut shavings in a milky base. It was a delightful start.

Alea – Grilled Oysters
Alea – Raw Beet Salad with Red Basil and Coconut Shavings

For entrées, there are only three options, all meat. The root of Michele’s concern. Jeff had the Duck Breast with vibrantly flavorful roasted carrots. He would have preferred a second or two more of a cook on the breast, making it a touch difficult to cut, but it was delightful. It sat in puddle of Chermoula sauce. Neither of us had ever hear of it. Apparently it is Moroccan, consisting of parsley, cilantro, garlic, olive oil and a pile of spices. It was a dynamite combination alongside the duck. We split a very tasty Yogurt Panna Cotta for dessert.

Alea – Duck Breast with Roasted Carrots in Chermoula

As is pretty obvious from the information above, Alea is a split decision. The limited menu left Michele with a very narrow selection. Although slim, the things offered were exactly what Jeff likes to find. The likelihood of a return is small, but if you are not us, do try Alea. The bold flavors and high quality preparation sets it apart from so many of the new post-pandemic places now openings. The interior design is also spot-on with the exposed materials and high ceilings of a former industrial space. Also keep in mind, this is a place that does NOT take reservations. While we arrived early, by the time we exited, most tables and bar seats were filled. Cleveland has reopened and the word is out that Alea is serving up some great food. Get in line.

https://www.aleacle.com/ 2912 Church Avenue Cleveland, OH 44115 216-912-8890

July 18, 2021 at 4:39 PM 1 comment

Home Bistro

Over our many, many years of eating out, we have enjoyed a handful of “favorite” restaurants where we tended to dine more often. Perhaps they weren’t the best restaurant in the city, though some certainly were, but they offered a collection of food we both loved, a staff that welcomed us with a grace that could not be perceived as false and an atmosphere that allowed us to relax and simply enjoy each other’s company.

It started with The Café, a little place on the corner of Lee Road and Redwood in Cleveland Heights. We were young, the prices were fair and the chef was constantly experimenting with unique and interesting specials. I suspect no place elevated our palettes higher than The Café. That was followed by Harry Corvair, which, at the time WAS the best in the city. For some reason, few people realized the value and it closed. Our next “long-term” relationship was at Sage in Tremont. Like The Café, the variety was remarkable. Everything on the menu was better than the next thing and there was constantly something new. In addition, I do not believe any dining room in the city ever made us feel so welcome. Today, we suspect that mantel is held by L’Albatros. We believe it to be the best Cleveland has to offer.

While we are not abandoning L’Albatros, Home Bistro is surely making a play for the top of our score card. After a few visits, Michele is addicted to the intoxicating Rainbow Trout. From across the table, Jeff is equally enamored. The slender filets of trout are seared to create a crunch skin without disturbing the tender, subtle flesh. Fingerling potatoes, a punchy horseradish sauce and topped with a fried egg. Not only does it taste perfect, it is beautifully presented, picture perfect upon arrival to the table.

Home Bistro – Rainbow Trout with a fried egg and a horseradish sauce.

The last time Jeff had mussels as an entrée was in a Belgian restaurant in Omaha. (They actually featured six different versions!) The Amsterdam Mussels at Home Bistro are presented in a spiced beer broth that encourages an extra slow dip after having dislodged the mollusk from its shell. On another visit Jeff was blown away by the Korean Fried Chicken. Like the fish, the exterior of the chicken thighs are crispy, the inside moist and tender, but of primary note is the unusual smoky flavor surrounding the perfectly spiced meat that is ever-present. Sitting on a bed of peanut puree and accompanied by snap peas cooked to a flawless crunch and some refreshing kimchi, Jeff thought this was the perfect meal. That is until the server recalled her favorite as we gushed over our dinners. Next time, Jeff is aiming toward the Ricotta Gnocchi. Michele is likely to stick with the trout.

Home Bistro – Amsterdam Mussels
Home Bistro – Korean Fried Chicken

During our visits we tried the Ricotta Donut Holes and the Cardamom Panna Cotta. Both were good. The rhubarb on the panna cotta was especially interesting.

Home Bistro opened during the pandemic. Perhaps the slower period of activity allowed the place to ease into maturing flavors, or maybe they are just darn good at what they do. Regardless, we are exciting this excellent new spot is so close to home. (We are however, less excited about the parking!) We will be back! As often as Sage or The Café? Time will tell, but as the Magic 8 Ball says, “It is promising.”

http://homebistrocle.com/ 12022 Mayfield Road Cleveland, OH 44106 216-795-5582

July 4, 2021 at 12:43 PM Leave a comment

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