There are so many restaurants that you go to and think, “Wow, this is one of the best in Cleveland, it might even be as good as Michael Symon’s.”
But then you go to Lola Bistro (2058 E. 4th St. in Cleveland) and realize, no, he’s still the Iron Chef. We had our yearly reminder of that on a recent Saturday night when we went to his flagship restaurant, complete with low, indirect lighting, hushed conversations and ultra-professional service.
We stated off with cocktails – I went with their spin on a Manhattan and I really noticed the chocolate bitters in it. Jeannene went with more of a lighter drink with gin in it.
We usually split one appetizer but hey, it’s Lola’s so we went with two. We started off with the must-have beef cheek pierogi ($15) which is one of the very few items that has stayed on the menu since the beginning. The doughiness was on the light side, at least as far as pierogis are concerned and the tender shredded meat inside was only slightly on the moist side but the crème fraiche helped with that. Also on top were a couple slices of mushrooms, which I normally don’t go for as I hate the spongy texture but in the hands of a top-notch chef, they are as tender as a piece of beef.
Our other appetizer was playfully called “Fish and Chips” ($17) and it was my favorite dish of the night. While it did have plenty of bite-sized chips, the fish was not the usual fried variety, in fact it was quite the opposite – it was raw tuna mixed with peppers and olives to give it more of a ceviche look and feel. The tuna soaked up the spiciness of the pepper and the saltiness of the olive and couple that with a fragrant and cooling dill aioli and the crunch of the chips and you had the orchestra of flavors in your mouth that chefs go for.
For the main course I went with the Beef Hanger Steak ($35). The steak was decent with a nice char and a pickled pepper sauce that was more gardeny (shut up, spell check) than spicy but for both of us the best part was the huge amount of Lola fries that came with it. Sometimes the only thing better than a burger with fries is a steak with fries.
Jeannene went with the Mulard Duck Breast ($38) which got her a very tender breast on top of swiss chard and acorn squash, which she loved, as well as a duck confit leg which was my favorite part of her dish as it was more crispy and had my mouth watering more.
For dessert we split the other item that has been on Lola’s menu from the beginning – the 6 a.m. Special ($13). That’s thick French toast with maple-bacon ice cream on it. This version also had chunks of apples sprinkled on the plate amid caramel sauce. And as everyone knows, the best way to eat fruit is to use it to scoop up caramel sauce.
John Bertosa is likely out and about sampling the Northeast Ohio dining scene.