Friday, August 6, 2010
The dining room at Michael Symon’s Lolita.
Most people don’t automatically think of Cleveland as Iron Chef territory. New York? Los Angeles? Chicago? San Francisco? Las Vegas? Those are restaurant towns.
But Iron Chef Michael Symon is from Cleveland, which means that, as far as food is concerned, this city is anything but a Mistake on the Lake.
When the Missus and I were there in late June, we had an evening free to sample the Local Provender... giving us a chance to check out Michael Symon’s offerings.
There are, in fact, two to choose from. Lola, his old restaurant in the Tremont district, outgrew its original home and moved to plusher digs downtown, in the process becoming a bit snazzier and more expensive. We opted to try Lolita, the restaurant that superseded Lola at its original location on Literary Road.
Holy crap, was it good.
Lolita has a definite Neighborhood Place vibe. There’s a bar that seats only about six, and spots are at a premium - it’s where you want to be when happy hour starts at five o’clock. But we were not there to drink - well, okay, one Martini for me and a Campari and soda for the Missus - but to see whether all of this Iron Chef hype was legitimate or bullshitimate.
I had a perfectly grilled sliced hanger steak with skordalia, chickpeas, and pickled chilies. For a side, there was no resisting the flash-fried Brussels sprouts with anchovies and capers. Meanwhile, the Missus had the daily fish special... and it was fishtastic. Even the coffee was way better than average... which is high praise for restaurant coffee.
One of the things that impressed us the most was the friendly, helpful staff. Our waiter was knowledgeable, able to describe not only what was in the various dishes but also how the various flavors would work together. None of the snooty, snotty, “This place is owned by a Media Darling and therefore you are beneath us” attitude you might think to expect. It seems that Symon runs his places very much in the family business style: Turnover is low, and most of the staff has been around for many years.
Now - given how much we enjoyed this meal - I suppose we’ll have to find an excuse to come back to Cleveland so we can check out Lolita’s big sister Lola.