Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bistro On Lincoln Park

2391 W11th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44113

There has been a lot of talk of this new little bistro in Tremont lately. I have heard good things and bad, so I had to check it out. It is situated in the space that is notorious for short lived restaurants so hopefully they will withstand the current economic situations in addition to their location.
Bistro on Lincoln Park had no problem accommodating our party of five for an early reservation on a Saturday evening, which was good for us, but it did make me a bit nervous...
We arrived promptly for our 6:30 time slot, and were greeted with some confusion as to where our reservation was and when. I did find a bit odd seeing as one our party was already seated.

Anyway, to my surprise the restaurant was very sharp. Blonde wood floors and light walls kept the space very open. The lighting was dim, but I think I am just partial to darker decor.
The gentleman taking care of our table was very personable and attentive.

After drinks I ordered the Spanish Black Bean Cake to start.
My appetizer arrived and I was pleased with it. The cake itself had a very nice flavor and had just a hint of spice. I thoroughly enjoyed the Cilantro cream and the creme fraiche that topped off the cake as well.
Some of my companions ordered the Onion Soup Gratine made with Venison broth. I found the soup palette pleasing, but I think I was expecting a deeper flavor.
Next I ordered the Duck Confit, served with Crispy truffled Potatoes, Bacon Lardons, and Wild Mushroom Fricassee. I have been ordering duck dishes more and more lately and since my companions were ordering most of the other items, I figured this was another good time.
The duck was good. The skin was crisp and the meat was tender and juicy. It was served with the "Wild Mushroom Fricasse", which I found to be quite thick and salty. Maybe that is what the chefs were going for, but I was put off a little and it definitely over powered the potatoes and the Duck for that matter.
All together my experience at Bistro On Lincoln Park was a good one, although I was not necessarily blown away by the food. If I happen to be in the area and in the mood for a few drinks and a bite I may stop back, but I don't think I will be making a special trip any time soon.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Seoul Hot Pot

3709 Payne Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44114

Ok, people it is cold here in Cleveland. It is cold and there is a whole bunch of snow outside. One thing that Clevelander's love to do and know how to do in these conditions is eat, and eat well.
If you are looking for that soul satisfying, toe tingling, and that cure for bone chilling cold, then Seoul Hot Pot is the place to go.
Seoul Hot Pot is situated in an unassuming free standing building in Asiatown. There is an entrance in the front and one in the back that takes you through the small produce-packed kitchen. I have yet to visit when they are busy, but that does not change their delicious offerings. Appetizers, grilled meat lettuce wraps, and hot steaming bowls of veggies and meats.
Every meal starts with little bowls of succulent selections including Kim Chi to nibble on.
This visit we ordered the Shrimp and Scallion Pancakes, grilled beef lettuce wraps and the Rice Cake and and Egg Drop Soup. All three were delicious. The appetizer pancakes were sweet and savory. The Beef was seasoned and cooked perfectly, and the soup was fantastic.
The little rice patties floated through the strands of cooked egg, and the broth was light and satisfying.
Seoul Hot Pot is a must for this chilly season, if not any other part of the year.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ariyoshi (Sukiyaki Dinner)

2206 Lee Rd
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 321-1020

Where the hell have I been? I can't believe it has been over a month since I last posted anything. I have been going out and what not, just been busy I guess.
Anyway, Sukiyaki!

I have spoken of Ariyoshi before. The sushi place on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. And as someone commented before, I AM talking about Ariyoshi, not Aoeshi across the street. The individual had requested I return to Aoeshi to give them a good review, but I have yet to return, keep ya posted...

As always, we were warmly greeted and the hot sake continued our warm reception. The sushi, the other menu items, and the people that run Ariyoshi are always wonderful. The other week I got the chance to try their Sukiyaki dinner for the first time.
We ordered our usual appetizers; Age Dashi Tofu, Edamame, and Shumai. All very tasty indeed. In addition to some Nigiri sushi and sushi rolls we ordered the Sukiyaki Dinner; Beef, Chicken, or Seafood, simmered table side with veggies and and a sweet and savory brown sauce.
We opted for the beef that arrived as raw thinly sliced strips, similar to that of a Beef Carpaccio. The Madame of Ariyoshi proceeded to prepare our meal, adding first the plate full of onions, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage, zucchini, tofu, and pea pods. The veggies were sauteed for a few minutes before the rich broth was added, followed by thin rice noodles.Our mouths watered as we watched her add each strip of the raw beef to the bubbling vat that was soon to be set in front of us. After simmering for just a few moments she then divided the succulent concoction into our individual bowls.
Add a little rice, and it was perfect. The veggies swam through the rich sauce while the tender beef absorbed the sweet flavor.
Not ever having this dish, I was pleasantly surprised.
As always, I leave Ariyoshi feeling warm and fuzzy, but this time I left with a new deliciously satisfying experience, that I will be sure to indulge in again.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


14718 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, OH 44107
(216) 226-3699

Ok, so I get it...People love Melt.
Melt is the Lakewood restaurant that is known for its over stuffed grilled cheese sandwiches. People go crazy talking about this place. Now, don't get me wrong. I love, LOVE grilled cheese sandwiches. I have always loved them since I was a child, and now that I am an adult, it is no different. But each time I have been to Melt, I have left disappointed.
Yes, the menus are awesome in that they are printed on old record covers, and yes, they have a superb beer menu, and yes, I had a Bloody Mary the other day that was pretty good, but...But, I am sorry people, but the bread is too thick on the sandwiches, the bread is too dry, and I went for brunch this past Sunday and even the waffles were dry!
I ordered the Chicken and Waffles. The possibilities of flavors and expressions are endless with a Chicken and Waffle dish, but Melt's version was just uninspired, flavorless, and did I mention dry?
The young lady taking care of our table asked me if I liked hot sauce, I said yes to which she replied, "Good, they are really good with hot sauce", without the Sriracha sauce they would have had no flavor at all, thank goodness for the hot sauce.
I know some might not like what I am writing here, but I don't understand what the deal is. The space is great, and the service is great, but I don't get why they receive such praise for the sandwiches. One would think if you have a restaurant with a menu of cheese sandwiches, it would be so wonderful you couldn't stand it, but I just don't get it. I mean, I guess it IS that wonderful to most, because I think I am in the minority here. Oh well, what can ya do?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Frank Sterle's Slovenian Country House

1401 E 55th Sreet
Cleveland, OH

(216) 881-4181

AKA Sterle's.
Sterle's is a German restaurant that has been around for over 40 years and is complete with live polka music. I finally got the chance to go the other night, and I was not quite sure what to expect. I had heard mixed reviews of this Cleveland institution for some time and had to check it out for myself.
The walls of the hallway entrance are painted with small town scenes and you could hear the sounds of laughter, conversation, and an accordion as you continue to approach the expansive dining room. I felt as if I were walking into someone's cousin's wedding. The room was packed with people of all ages and the dining tables flanked the dance floor as the band played waltzes and polkas throughout the evening. We were seated right on the edge of the dance floor, and our server came over and asked if we wanted something to drink. We asked what draft beers they had, and she replied, "American or German". We asked what kind, to which she said, "Miller Lite, or German". We opted for the German.
The room was full of activity, from servers in German style dresses, to family's celebrating birthdays, to cute little old ladies all dressed for a Saturday night out.
We ordered our meals and started out with the Noodle soup with liver meatballs. The soup arrived in a large metal bowl filled for the four of us and our server put it in front of me and said, "you look like you have steady hands, don't drink too much", and put the soup bowls next to the bucket of soup. The soup was a simple chicken broth and egg noodles with chunks of liver. It was exactly what I had expected and was a very nice start.
I ordered the Sterle Schnitzel. Pounded veal smothered in a mushroom and sour cream sauce, and potatoes on the side. The veal was nice and tender and the savory sauce was quite tasty. The potatoes were a cross between hash brown and mashed potatoes, also very good.
Other dishes ordered were the Weiner Schnitzel and the Breaded Pork Chops, both served with the potatoes. The Pork Chops were ok, nothing too special there. The Schnitzel was also good but nothing too outstanding.
We ordered the Strudel and the Cheesecake for dessert, I found both dishes to be lacking in flavor and freshness.
Although the food was not outstandingly wonderful, having a live Polka band more than made up for it.
We danced the Polka and we waltzed and I don't know why it took me so long to come to Sterle's.
All four of us had a great time during our visit at Sterle's and next time, yes there will be a next time, I will be sure to try all the other menu options that we did not get to that evening. Sausages, sauerkraut, stuffed cabbage, mmm mmm.

Monday, October 20, 2008

La Brasa

6110 Denison Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44102

La Brasa, located in the Old Brooklyn area of Cleveland is one of those tiny and unassuming neighborhood restaurants. La Brasa specializes in Ecuadorian and El Salvadorian cuisine. The five table restaurant is situated so that I probably wouldn't have even noticed it if I hadn't been specifically looking.
The first thing I noticed were the bars on the windows as we entered the small space. As soon as I crossed the threshold into this hidden gem, the smell of the grilled meats from the long charcoal grill at the back of the open kitchen wafted over me.
The menu was written on a dry erase board to the right of the counter where you place your order. I really liked the place settings on the tables; what more would you need?
In addition to the dry erase board menu, there are also photos above the counter that depict combination meal options complete with descriptions in Spanish and English. The nice young lady behind the counter explained which was Spanish and which was English...
There were eight of us for dinner, and the three of us at my table ordered three appetizers and three entrees. We started with the Tamale, the Pepusa, and the Enchilada. I believe they called it an Enchilada but it was open faced like a Tostado. The Enchilada was one of my favorite items of the meal. The crisp tortilla was dressed with thinly sliced radish, grilled onions, lettuce, sour cream, cheese, and cilantro. I loved the radish in the dish. It was sweet, crisp, and the accompanying cilantro brought the dish together perfectly.
The Pepusa was a dough pocket filled with refried beans that you top with cabbage and a mild red sauce. This also was quite tasty and flavorful. Next, the Tamale. Ohh, the tamale. Sweet, soft corn filled with meat and chilies, delicious.
For the entrees we ordered the Beef Stew served with beans and white rice, the half roasted Chicken served with French fries and spiced rice, and the Grilled Steak served with beans, white rice, Plantains, and salsa. The Beef Stew was flavorful, tender, and succulent. Even the white rice was delicious, perfectly cooked with a mild sweetness.
The roasted chicken had a spicy rub that left it with a very nice and unique flavor when combined with the smokiness of the grill. The French fries were perfect; hot and crispy.
Finally, the grilled Steak. I would not recommend this dish. The steak itself was so rubbery, I could barely cut it with the knife, and I could hardly bite into it. Fortunately the Plantains were wonderful, very sweet, and had a slight char from the grill. Once again, the rice was very good and the beans were tasty, it is unfortunate that the Steak was so tough.La Brasa ended up being quite a pleasant surprise. If I happen to be in the area again I would definitely stop in to savor their flavors.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Larchmere Tavern

13051 Larchmere Blvd
Cleveland, OH 44120

Get Directions
(216) 721-1111

The Larchmere Tavern has been around for years now. In fact the last time I went was six years ago, and I can't really remember what dishes I enjoyed or didn't. Well, we gave it a try the other night. There were six of us, and we wanted to go some where we haven't all been yet.
Big Mistake.
Not only did we spend a ridiculous amount of money on such ( I want to say slop, but I feel that is too harsh, so we will go with) dishes, the service was ridiculous as well. I don't have a problem with spending money on good food, but that is the difference, GOOD FOOD. I wished I had spoke up and suggested after the three appetizers that we pay the bill and move on, but I didn't so we endured the uninspired fare that we were served.
Now, before I continue the company was wonderful and the occasion was fabulous, it is just unfortunate that this place gets away with serving this sub par fare. Maybe this is what some people like, maybe this is what people are into, so be it.
I only took one pic of the meal. I was trying not to focus on the food, but on my companions and the wine that I seemed to be drinking just a bit faster than the rest. And speaking of the wine, we started with a bottle that four of us were drinking. We finished it, so we ordered another of the same bottle at the same time we ordered our entrees.
We were served the salad course, no wine.
The salads were cleared, still no wine.
Not only were our wine glasses empty, so too were our water glasses. The place had maybe three other tables, with what I could see, at least, three individuals taking care of the room. Hmmm. So I asked the gentleman taking care of us for another bottle of wine, when he exclaimed, "oh, yea! The wine." We all forget things, I understand, that is just fine, but so far this isn't going well for the old Larchmere Tavern.
The appetizers we ordered were the Calamari, the Chicken Taco "Stackers", and the Roquefort Cheese Fritters with Granny Smith Apple Puree. Needless to say I was not impressed in the least. The "Stackers" were some taco mix on chicken with what tasted like cinnamon. The Calamari; I just don't know what was going on there. The Cheese Fritters with a "puree", were so doughy, and the "puree" was chunks of apples that obviously had been sitting in the hot kitchen for some time.
Here we go with the entrees: I ordered the Chicken Paprikash. There is nothing like a good Paprikash, and let me say this presentation was nothing near to a GOOD Paprikash. First of all there were both green and red peppers in the sauce, the sauce was thick and the spaetzle were obviously pan fried so they were chewy and brown on one side. Two of my companions ordered the Beef Short Ribs of which I tasted. The Mashed Potatoes that were served, were piped onto the plate and had the consistency of wet sand paper. The sauce on the ribs was gooey and reminiscent of a canned demi glace.
It is unbelievable that people actually come to dine here and apparently continue to come back, because they have been there forever. If that is what people are into, go for it, but I have no reason to return. Thanks but no thanks.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Vine and Bean Cafe

12706 Larchmere Blvd.
Cleveland, OH

The owners of Lucky's Cafe in Tremont have opened up a new cafe in the Larchmere district and I finally got a chance to go check them out the other weekend. Vine and Bean Cafe has taken over the old Cafe Limbo house and serves up the same delectable menu items as Lucky's. They day I visited there were two individuals working the front counter and serving the outside patio that had two other tables seated when we arrived. They have not been open too long so they are still ironing out the details of staff and hours. They seemed to be a bit disorganized as whom was doing what, i.e. menus/delivering food/drinks, etc. That is one of the good details about Lucky's in Tremont, you order at the front counter and then someone brings the food to the table. Nice and easy, there is no question of traditional table service, but at Vine and Bean, there was definitely some confusion of table service or no table service. I am just fine without the traditional, but they need to decide which works best for them and just go with it.
We ordered cappuccinos which were delicious. I opted for the Lemon Waffles with honey whipped cream and a Blueberry Compote. The waffles had a great Lemon flavor, but I wasn't all that impressed with the texture of the waffles. You can't go wrong with Honey Whipped Cream and I am not usually a huge fan of the Blueberry, but the compote was delicious. The blueberries lent a perfect tartness that paired well with the sweet cream.
My companion ordered an egg, ham, and cheese croissant sandwich. He seemed very pleased with his selection, and said it was exactly what he was looking for.
The space of the new Vine and Bean Cafe is very comfortable and the outside patio is a great place to relax on a late morning or early afternoon. I look forward to sipping a glass of wine on their patio, as they advertise live music sometime in the future.
Vine and Bean Cafe is definitely a place I will return to if not for the delicious cappuccino, for the beautiful surroundings and relaxed atmosphere.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Bar Jules

609 Hayes St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 621-5482

Ok, last post about San Francisco...This will not be a long post, but I have to mention Bar Jules in the Hayes Valley of San Francisco. Again no pics because of how much I enjoyed the experience. Which is kind of a funny thing I guess, but no pics.
We were wandering around the Hayes Valley one evening during our stay in San Francisco and happened upon Bar Jules. As I have mentioned, I had done the research in preparation for our journey, Bar Jules was a place I did take notice of, but that night I had not realized we were in the vicinity.
We entered into a small room full of people chatting, laughing and eating everywhere we looked. Bar Jules seemed to have a special air that surrounded you as soon as you crossed its threshold. We grabbed seats at the bar which overlooked the prep counter of the open kitchen. The menus for Bar Jules are written on chalkboards, one on the back wall and one on the side wall by the entrance.
The daily menus are limited to what the chef gathers at markets or receives from their farmers for the night. A small selection of appetizers and a soup and then about three entrees and a few desserts. That is it. The wine list is small too; one wine of each varietal they have for the evening. We selected some glasses of wine and started with the seared scallops appetizer which was served with greens beans, carrots, and a lemon tarragon butter. We conversed with one of the chefs that was preparing our scallops no more than a foot away from us. He and one other gentleman were running the kitchen that night with swift movements, not once becoming flustered from the multiple orders that were coming in from the dining room.
The scallops were perfectly cooked and the tarragon butter was delightful.
The simple yet superb menu, the warmth you feel when you enter, and the delicious offerings of Bar Jules should definitely be commended.
We moved on after that delicious tease, but I will certainly make a point to return to Bar Jules the next time I am in the Hayes Valley.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Clover Coffee at the Coffee Bar

1890 Bryant St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 551-8100

The Clover Coffee experience has been around for a few years now. I got wind that a coffee place called The Coffee Bar in the Mission District of San Francisco serves this rich coffee, so I had to go give it a whirl. The Coffee Bar is located in a somewhat industrial strip of the Mission. The Coffee Bar is a sleek and simple space with no nonsense menu and patrons. Really, I came specifically for the Clover Coffee.
The Clover Coffee machine is a single cup brewing process that is similar to a reverse French Press process. Hot water (of which the temperature can be regulated) is poured in the top of the machine from its own spout. The per order measured grounds are then raised up and down within the machine. The brew is extrapolated down and the grinds rise up to the top of the machine where they form a perfect disk and are then discarded. This Clover Coffee machine can cost between $8,000 and $20,000. The coffee I purchased was $3.
The Clover coffee was definitely rich. The flavor was deep and a sheen of coffee oil danced upon the surface of the brew. I would get the Clover again in the future if I happened to be somewhere that served the luscious brew, but I would not go out of my way again to find it.
Also, as of recent the Starbucks Company has purchased the Clover Coffee Machine Company. Now, I don't know how you feel about Starbucks, but I have never really liked the taste of their coffee. Nor do I support their attitudes about "venti", "grande" and the like. I much rather support a mom and pop coffee shop instead, or at the very least, a coffee establishment that has a better cup of coffee.
This is the quote from the Clover Equipment Company regarding "What's Next" for the merger:
"Starbucks is uniquely positioned to change the way the world thinks about brewed coffee with its coffee heritage and tremendous passion for the industry. Working together profound change is possible." (Clover Coffee Equipment)
Now yes, I am sure
"profound change" is possible, but do we really want someone that makes bad coffee to take over something that makes good coffee? We shall see I suppose. I am just glad I was able to try it before the buy out.