Carrie Cerino’s Ristorante and Party Center in North Royalton

November 21, 2014
Photo by Tom Noe of Exploring Food My Way

Photo by Tom Noe of Exploring Food My Way

Carrie Cerino’s is an institution on the southwest side of town in North Royalton. The place is huge, and the decor is “old school.” People come here for the food and not necessarily for the ambiance. The dining room we ate in was cozy, but rather dated. They also offer party rooms for weddings, reunions and other larger celebrations.

Carrie Cerino opened a bakery in Maple Heights in 1945 with $3,000 bank loan. She branched into catering in 1955 and bought the location where the restaurant is in 1962. They kept adding extensions to the property, 600_21693669and it truly is a family business. Four generations work at Cerino restaurants, and her grandson Eddie Cerino has branched out to open pizzerias in Parma and Lakewood. I regret I never had the chance to try Dominic Cerino III’s cooking and the Blue Egg Ravioli. Dominic is missed by many foodies, may he rest in peace. As for the Blue Egg Ravioli, you had to call and order it ahead of time, but they stopped serving it several years ago.

This is not a hip place, but it also does not contend to be. It’s all about the food. The food and menu is very traditional: bread, soup or salad, and pasta come with every meal. The pasta is homemade and delicious.

The bread came out warm, and the butter was nice and soft. There is nothing I hate more than cold, rock-hard butter. saladThere were two choices of bread – one plain and one with an herb mix and sun-dried tomatoes. Each dish comes with your choice of a soup or salad.

I ordered the soup as my side and then ordered a side salad for an additional $1.95. The salad was pretty decent and was topped with some cucumbers, chickpeas, tomatoes, shredded cheese and a couple small slices of salami. The dressing was a bright Italian.

I am a huge fanweddingsoup of Italian wedding soup, so my choice was easy. The Italian wedding soup which was very flavorful and an interesting twist to a traditional recipe. There was one big meatball in the middle and some fresh spinach leaves and little bits of chicken throughout the broth. It was a very good soup.

One of my fellow diners ordered the French Onion Soup and was extremely pleased with it. I love a good French onion soup, and this one had scads of cheese, which is a bonus. I’ll be sure to order it myself some time.IMG_0945

I had heard great things about their chicken parmesan and white sauce, so my choice was an easy one. The chicken parmesan is a sauteed boneless, skinless breast of chicken finished in the oven with sliced tomato, prosciuttini and mozzarella. The chicken was well-seasoned and moist. It came with housemade spaghetti with a choice of sauce. I of course ordered the white sauce because it is fairly unique. I have no idea what is in the white sauce, but it wasn’t overpowering at all. It was, in fact, quite subtle and not at all cheesy or too creamy. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, and the sauce was delicious. It was a really nice accompaniment to the chicken.

Most of my fellow diners ordered some version of the chicken parm. One friend ordered the Parmesan Crusted Tilapia and was extremely pleased with it. It was tender, flaky and perfectly broiled.chickenparm_whitesauce

The desserts there were nothing but amazing. The two standouts were the chocolate bomb and the tiramisu, but the cassata cake was also really well executed.

There is a reason Carrie Cerino’s has such a large location – it draws the crowds because they consistently turn out great food at a reasonable price.

They are open for lunch Tuesday – Friday from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm and dinner Tuesday – Thursday from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Friday and Saturday they are open from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm, and on Sunday from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm. They are also open on Mondays in December.

Here are some other photos from our delicious meal:

Eggplant Parmesan and side of spaghetti

Eggplant Parmesan and side of spaghetti

Eggplant Parmesan and side of risotto

Eggplant Parmesan and side of risotto

Chicken Parmesan with spaghetti

Chicken Parmesan with spaghetti

Not sure - this could be chicken or veal.

I believe this is the Veal Parmesan.

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

Tuscan Chicken and Risotto

Tuscan Chicken and Risotto

Cassata cake

Cassata cake

Chocolate Bomb

Chocolate Bomb



Contact info:

Carrie Cerino’s Ristorante & Party Center
8922 Ridge Road
North Royalton, OH 44133
(440) 237-3434

Jack Flaps

November 11, 2014

IMAG0839Jack Flaps opened in Ohio City back in December, billed as an “urban breakfast shoppe.” The restaurant is a 40-seat eatery serving pancakes, waffles and other breakfast creations to the masses in Ohio City. It is a joint venture between Chef Eric Williams and Randy Carter of Momocho. I had heard so many good things about this place since it opened, but I never managed to make it here until one morning I read on my Facebook feed that their Breakfast Bahn Mi had just been named best IMAG0835breakfast sandwich from the Best Sandwiches in America for 2014. I was convinced that it was high time to try the place and headed out within a half an hour.

This place did not disappointed. The coffee is a City Roast blend, the juice hits the spot, and they serve Yoohoo. How quirky is that? The coffee is served in a to go cup, and they offer to fill you up before you leave. That is a nice perk.

IMAG0836As for the food, I have been back several times. I keep intending to order something sweet, but the savory side of the menu appeals to me more when I am actually there.

The Breakfast Bahn Mi is a serious pleasure for the mouth. It is a twist on a banh mi with a fried egg, kim chi, and housemade Vietnamese sausage patty. The egg was perfectly runny. The kim chi was not too spicy, not too bland, but juuuuust right. I ADORED the Everything Bagel cream cheese that came with the sandwich. I could seriously just be blissfully happy with the cream cheese and a piece of toast. It is so good! I posted a photo of the sandwich IMAG0837on my Facebook wall, and one of my friends in Chicago who was visiting me within the next few months said he wanted to go there and try it. He loved it just as much as I did.

I paired the Bahn Mi with the root vegetable hash. Wow, it is seriously good. Kind of like fried potatoes, but better because it is made of root vegetables. It had a nice spicy kick to it and was crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside.IMAG0997

On my next visit I was craving the Everything Bagel cream cheese, so I ordered the Happy Jack waffle, which has an all-beef hot dog chopped up inside the waffle and is topped with garlicky greens and the EB cream cheese. Good God almighty that cream cheese is good. The waffle itself was a little dry with just the cream cheese alone on it, and I would have really appreciated some syrup to go with it. But it was a good waffle, and I left happy.

When my friend came to visit I had just started my diet, so IMAG1204I stuck with The Old Standard – two eggs to order (scrambled), choice of breakfast meat (I went with the Mexican Coke-glazed pork belly), the root vegetable hash, and toast. The toast was made from homemade bread and was delicious. It was a crime to just eat the one piece and leave the other uneaten. IMAG1205Jack Flaps’ toast gives Lucky’s Cafe’s Como toast a run for its money in my heart. I would be hard pressed to choose between the two. The eggs were well scrambled just like I asked. As for the pork belly, it was good. I have friends who adore it. Me? I’ve come to the conclusion recently that I just donIMAG0838‘t love pork belly. I love bacon, but I really don’t like all the fat in pork belly. I think it’s a Virgo thing. I ordered the pork belly because I had already had the Vietnamese sausage. I should have stuck with the sausage because it is awesome.

I can’t wait to try the S.O.S. and the Deviled Egg Benedict (hopefully they will carry it again next spring or summer). The Fall pancake, waffle and eggy bread choices also sound appealing. Maybe next time I’ll actually order from the Sweet side of the menu.

Contact info:

Jack Flaps
3900 Lorain Ave
Cleveland (Ohio City), OH 44113
(216) 961-5199

Cork & Cleaver Social Kitchen

October 30, 2014

IMG_20130522_184147Cork & Cleaver Social Kitchen is the labor of love of Brian Okin (formerly of Verve, Fountain, and Luxe and founder of the monthly Dinner in the Dark productions) and his brother-in-law Adam Bostwick (who I loved at Melange). The restaurant contains a full bar and seats 70 people. The talented duo set out to make a different kind of restaurant from the very beginning. They are best known for their “Reuben Ribs” as well as a eclectic style. I recently attended their pop-up at Toast, which featured a “Hillbilly Picnic” complete with Kool-Aid-inspired cocktails, fried chicken deviled eggs, chips and dip, bologna fried rice (with fried Spam) and potato salad, chicken and tuna salads, and the most amazing homemade Ambrosia (with panna cotta, homemade “Cool Whip”, roasted pineapples and cherries and toasted pistachios). It was divine from start to finish! It was easily the best meal I have had all year.IMG_20130522_184348

I have been to Cork and Cleaver twice now, and if it was closer I would probably be there a lot more often. It is located on Broadview Road at the intersection with Wallings Road in Broadview Heights. It is an unassuming strip mall just down from Danny Boy’s Pizza (formerly Pipers III), but don’t let the outside fool you. The inside is inviting, and an amazing experience awaits you.

The bread service features dense, dark pumpernickle bread with a compound butter of butter, garlic, spinach, and Parmesan cheese. The butter is served soft, and it is easy to spread on the dense pumpernickle.

IMG_20130522_191448Both times I have not strayed from the same cocktail, the St*ella*r, which is made with Ciroc Peach vodka shaken with cream and honey syrup and then ‘fizzed’ with sparkling soda water. It is served in a Mason jar. The drinks are not served in the jars to be hipster. One of the chef’s sons is named Mason, hence the loving homage. The Mason’s Mule also tempts me, but I can’t get away from the St*ella*r. It’s that good.

The first time I was there I had to order the Reuben Ribs. They were amazing. The ribs had been corned on the bone, tasting like bone-in corned beef/pork. The ribs are then paired with a 1,000 Island-dressed slaw, grated Gruyere, and sprinkle of rye salt. It tastes like a Reuben sandwich without the bread. It is so good!IMG_20130522_194759

Another unique appetizer is the Fried Green Tomatoes. The platter features deep-fried tomatillos. The fried morsels are crisp and juicy with a dip of spicy aioli. My friend who ordered them was absolutely in love with them once he tried them. I had a bite, and they were definitely one of the best fried green tomatoes I have ever had.

I was very impressed by the light and fluffy omelet. I have never seen an omelet puff up that much, but they would not tell me their secret to getting it so fluffy. My friend who ordered it was very pleased with it, and she is not an easy diner to please.

The chicken and waffles are also a great choice. It is made with fried chicken, thyme waffle, spicy butter, savory mapleIMAG0606, but the fried chicken is not your standard fried pieces of chicken. The meat is brined, confited, stripped from the bones, molded into nuggets, breaded and deep fried. The thyme waffle pairs well with it and complements it nicely. It was amazingly good.

The second time I was there I ordered the Verve Fries, which features hand cut fries topped with garlic sausage gravy. It was a high-end version of poutine. The sausage gravy was delicious, and the fries were fried perfectly.

IMAG0607I was hell-bent on ordering the Fried Chicken and Macaroni and Cheese, despite ordering a heap of Verve Fries. The fried chicken is topped with a garlic honey, so it reminded me a bit of Barberton chicken. The fried chicken is also brined and confited, but it stays on the bone. I rolled out of there that night in a carb coma, but I was happy.

IMAG0609The friends I was dining with the second time are friends with Brian and Adam, and the chefs treated us to a board of their desserts. I wish I had had more room for dessert, because all four choices were amazing. They served us (from bottom to top) Country Fried Brownie (with Red-eye caramel, pickled cherries, and vanilla ice cream), their C&C Bread Pudding with vanilla bean ice cream), Banana Panna Cotta (my absolute favorite, topped with banana bread crumble, toasted marshmallow, and coconut) and Apples and Brie (with apple pie pierogis, brie ice cream and caramel).

If you like inventive food prepared perfectly you need to give this restaurant a try. You will be happy you made the drive. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday. Check the website for times.

Contact info:

Cork & Cleaver Social Kitchen
8130 Broadview Road
Broadview Heights, OH

Han Chinese Kabob & Grill

October 19, 2014

IMAG1268Some friends and I recently dined at one of Asiatown’s newest (it opened this summer) and most unique restaurant, Han Chinese Kabob & Grill. Han Kabob (as I will call it) is located in the small strip mall on Payne Avenue just west of E. 40th in which Map of Thailand and Koko Bakery are located. It is small, yet turns out consistently good Northern Chinese food. The decor is modern without all the kitschy Chinese trappings. They are appealing to a younger, more modern diner and attract a lot of students in the area and from as far as Kent and Akron. The diners around us were mostly young Asian-born students, which lent it a great vibe. It is also open late, usually until 10:30 or 1:30 PM (note: they are closed on Wednesdays).

They are the only Chinese restaurant in Cleveland to serve grilled meat kabob skewers, such as grilled lamb, chicken, beef, squid, and other choices. IMAG1274Not all of the skewers are served every day, but the signature lamb kabobs are. The lamb kabobs are marinated and garnished with lots of cumin and spice and grilled fresh.

There were eight of us, and we were seated at a comfortable table that allowed us to talk easily amongst ourselves and pass our food around. We are a bunch of sharers, so we were all able to try the numerous dishes.

IMAG1270I started my meal ordering the lamb kabobs for the table and a wonton soup. The wonton soup was quite a large portion that could easily serve two. It featured five or six wontons, lots of fresh bok choy and carrot strips in a flavorful broth. The wonton lover in me savored every dumpling. The wontons had a nice pork filling, and I really liked the addition of the cabbage to the soup.

Ordering an entree was a tough decision, because there were several things that sounded wonderful to me. Luckily someone else planned to order my first choice, the crispy fish in a sweet and sour sauce, so I ordered the pork with garlic sauce.IMAG1271 I loved it. It had a nice subtle spicy kick to it. The pork was cut into thin strips and served with some vegetable strips and chilis. The large bowl of rice for the table cut some of the heat.

IMAG1276I have to say that out of all the entrees that the table ordered the whole crispy fish with sweet and sour sauce was my favorite. The sauce was not at all the gloppy orange sweet and sour stuff that is so ubiquitous at Chinese restaurants here. As you can see from the picture it was a brown sauce that was scrumptious. It was delicious and was worth the wait (we aren’t sure if it took that long to prepare or if the waitress forgot to put it in to the kitchen, but it came out after most of us were finished with our meal). The fish was crispy outside and perfectly cooked inside. I particularly loved the bright sauce and the fresh ginger and aromatics served on top of the fish. I can’t wait to go back and order this again for myself.

Some of the other dishes we enjoyed included the Yuxiang Shrimp (which had a sauce that was very similar to my entree’s garlic sauce), a spicy lamb special (which was even better than the kabobs with a nice jalapeno kick to it), a chicken dish, the shredded potato salad (pictured to the right), IMAG1273a crispy squid special, and a pork belly with pickled vegetables that was very similar to sauerkraut and pork.

Several tables of Chinese diners were enjoying a huge boiling pan over a tableside grill. It was the Hot Pot, which was described to me as a kind of Chinese fondue in which various meats and vegetables are boiled in broth.


Picture from the Han Chinese Kabob Facebook page

It is apparently the ultimate test of Chinese spiciness. Choose what you’d like to cook in the soup: ultra-thin beef slices, cabbage leaves, needle mushrooms, potato slices, etc. It’s a secret menu item for the brave souls only – some Chinese people can’t even handle the spicy level!

I was a bit dismayed to note that there were no drinks offered other than water and tea – at least our waitress didn’t offer any to us. But on the bright side I was not tempted to order a cocktail or soft drink, which my diet appreciates. The restaurant was great. The bill was very reasonable. There was not a single dish I disliked. Everything here was delicious, and we all left very happy.

Contact info:

Han Chinese Kabob & Grill
3710 Payne Avenue
Cleveland, OH
(216) 769-8745


October 12, 2014

IMAG1027Chef Jonathon Sawyer and his wife Amelia recently opened Trentina, a northern Italian inspired restaurant in the old Sergio’s location, to much fanfare this summer. They raised funds to open the restaurant on Kickstarter, and it was successfully funded in March 2014 by 206 backers. They exceeded their $21,999 goal by $18,000. The food is inspired by the Trentina Alto-Adige region of Northern Italy.

The night before I started my diet I met some friends at Trentina for one last hurrah. I can’t imagine a more perfect way to end an era. The portions are small, but 12 courses can add up. The courses change with the season, so this review no longer reflects what is being currently offered. In fact, it was no longer accurate a week later. However, several of the stalwarts have not changed. As the Cleveland Scene explained, “Trentina is not for every diner, but rather foodies with a capital “F” who seek out once-in-a-lifetime meals flush with one-of-a-kind creations.” This is fine dining at its best. The 32-seat Trentina focuses on Sawyer’s “Menu Bianco,” a daily procession of tasting courses served in small courses, priced at $100 per diner (purchased in advance and non-refundable) or $115 (if paying at time of dining) – not including beverages, gratuity and tax.

IMAG1020We added the wine tasting for an additional $40, but I would recommend just ordering a couple drinks as you go. We simply couldn’t keep up with a new wine with every course and at one point had four glasses each in front of us. One of my dining companions chose not to order the wine tasting and enjoyed a cocktail customized to her tastes by Trentina’s beverage director Nate. The cocktail with a coffee ice cube was divine. She also enjoyed one of my wines.

We were immediately greeted and escorted to a table. We had tried to get a reservation for 6, but the restaurant could only accommodate our smaller table at an earlier time, which necessitated some of my friends dropping out. The restaurant became packed over the night and quite loud, which is due to the interior design. With mirrored tables and bare walls there is nothing to muffle sound. We had trouble hearing the explanations of the various courses at some point, so please bear with me as I try to recreate the evening.


Primi Assaggio

The first course, Primi Assaggio, featured Crusto di Polenta, Charcuterie alla Trentina and Vegetables from Larder & Fields. In our case, the polenta was flash fried to a crisp parchment wafer, the charcuterie was a house-cured meat and pickled carrots.

Caviar and Ciccoli

Caviar and Ciccoli

This course featured sumac, cucumber and puffed pasta. I didn’t so much as think “pasta” as I did the puffed shrimp chips you get at a Chinese restaurant. At this point I was thinking, “Oh, I don’t think this is for me.” I quickly changed my mind.

Suet candle

Edible candle

Next up they brought out a candle molded out of aged beef suet, edible 24k gold leaf, honey and crunch salt, which melts into a dipping sauce for the crusty baguette that is brought out later.

Crostaceo Crudo

Crostaceo Crudo

This course started turning me around. The crustacean (conch?) was poached and served on a bed of sea foam. The flavors that stood out were apple and citrus. This innovative dish was a lot of fun.

Sable Fish Al Cartoccio

Sable Fish Al Cartoccio

This next course was my favorite of the night – a white fish and foraged mushrooms in a parchment paper. The paper sacks were cut open at the table and steaming, and the sauce was then poured into the parchment. My sauce was a pea puree. I loved the flavors of this. When it came time to revisit a favorite course this one was a very close second.

Crusty bread to accompany the suet candle

Crusty bread to accompany the suet candle

The edible candle had melted down at this point and was a delicious accompaniment to the fresh, crusty loaf of bread from On The Rise Bakery. I love On The Rise. They are the best bakery in Cleveland, so it is not surprising that I loved this course.

Pasta alla Chitara

Pasta alla Chitarra

This next course was another one of my favorites. Normally served with an Ohio farm egg, mine was served without the egg to accommodate my egg allergy (they asked at the beginning if we had any allergies or dietary restrictions, which I appreciated). The pasta is cut with a chitarra, which is a “guitar-stringed” pasta cutter. This long pasta was dressed in a very rich sauce made of egg and lentils. I don’t know what they chose instead of egg, but my pasta did not lack the creaminess of the pasta of my fellow dining companions. The pasta my fellow diners enjoyed had an egg is cooked on a wooden spoon in embers, which is then carefully placed over the pasta along with a bit of the ember to the side.

Pasta Cuscino

Pasta Cuscino

This was almost everyone’s favorite course. The Strangolapreti (pasta dumpling) is stuffed with Formaggio Che Cola and coated with what I believe to remember were nettles and served with a reduction of cabbage, onion and Spicebush (a foraged berry). This seems to be the stand-out dish of the restaurant and the one everyone talks about.

Game birds roasted with embers

Pasta Cuscino

This was the other Pasta Cuscino course. It was a pasta stuffed with crown tipped coral fungus.

Game birds

Game birds

Game birds roasted in embers was the next course. My course featured guinea fowl, foie gras, sauce of oxidized wine, and morels. There was also some kind of lentil or grain served with it. This was a nice bite of bird.

Beast roasted with embers

Beast roasted with embers

This course featured my favorite bite of the night. Although the beef was excellent and perfectly cooked, my favorite was the cauliflower puree. In fact, when it came to revisit a course I decided to just get a portion of cauliflower puree. It was that good.

Primi Dolce

Primi Dolce

This palate-cleansing sorbet was topped with a light yogurt sauce. It was a nice intermezzo before the desserts.

IMAG1023 IMAG1025

IMAG1026These three Dolce desserts were the perfect end to a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The course is billed as “fruit and cream.” My dessert was the raspberry one on the right. The berries were in season and they were accompanied by what tasted like crispy milk balls.

The meal ended with a final course, Grazie, which was a bite of gold chocolate, but I failed to photograph it. I don’t know how I did that.

Trentina is now serving lunch as well as a 7-course Pasta Degustazione tasting menu for $60 and an a la carte dinner menu that changes with the season. However, I highly recommend the 12-course Bianco menu if you are looking for something special.

We walked out of the restaurant full, happy, and, as one diner stated, “so lit” from all the wine. This is definitely a great choice for a special occasion like an anniversary. Chef Sawyer and Executive Chef Matt Danko are outstanding chefs who are passionate about serving local ingredients in a unique way. The service is impeccable and you will be pampered every step of the way.

Contact info:

Restaurant Trentina
1903 Ford Drive
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 421-2900

Sanctuary at the Doubletree Hotel in Beachwood

October 10, 2014

IMAG1243I was invited to Sanctuary’s media event Monday night before they opened on Tuesday, October 8th. Normally I turn down or ignore unsolicited publicity requests, but when I heard it was another venture by the Driftwood Group (aka Scott Kuhn and Chris Hodgson) I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Hotel food used to not have a good reputation until Amp 150 made it cool to have good food in a hotel. The Driftwood Group is not only taking over the old Capers and IMAG1242Porter’s locations, but they will be taking over all the hotel room service and catering. It makes me want to stay in the restaurant just to order room service!

After walking into the hotel I was greeted by a long line of women bearing brochures. I checked in and was escorted into the Wine Bar, where I was offered a Beehive cocktail (their signature drink featuring Old Forester Bourbon, IMAG1246St. Elder Natural ElderFlower Liqueur, fresh lemon juice, ginger-honey syrup and soda – which was quite refreshing) and an upscale hanky-panky featuring chorizo sausage, Tillamook cheddar cheese and fig jam on a toasted crostini. The hanky-panky was nothing like the sausage and Velveeta cheese on rye bread squares I am used to. The chorizo gave it a nice little kick and the fig jam cooled down the heat.

My second drink of the night was a Jack Lemmon. It features Caravella Limoncello, Plymouth Gin, Ginger, Mint, and Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon Soda. I love Bitter Lemon soda, which you don’t find here in the States that often. I had been wanting to try this cocktail since I saw it on the Cibrèo menu. IMAG1250The restaurant has brought some well-loved Driftwood favorites with them to the Beachwood location. It was delicious. I highly recommend you try it or one of the other many cocktails on the menu.

We were then ushered to the next room for the meal portion of the evening. The bread service was brought to the table along with softened butter (yes! a restaurant that knows to serve butter that isn’t rock hard and tears the bread) and a nice pesto spread. I am not in love with the bread at Cibrèo, but I really liked this bread. IMAG1252I think it has a little more moisture to it, yet it holds up well to the spread.

Our first course was a Blue Crab Hushpuppy, which was absolutely delicious. It was crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside with no trace of fishiness. The menu said it was made with blue crab and “Old Bayonnaise”. Well done, Chef Hodgson. I will definitely be ordering these appetizers when I dine here.

IMAG1253The next course was a Wedge Salad topped with cherry tomato halves, crumbled bacon, hard-boiled egg crumbles, picked red onion, a subtle blue cheese, and a light and delicious white French dressing. One of my dining companions joked that it was BLT wedge. In any event, I would definitely order this again as well.

Next up was the Seared U-10 Sea Scallops over a risotto made of butternut squash, caramelized apples, fried sage and apple gastrique. The golden beets were crisped and served on the side of the scallops. IMAG1254It was billed as a gluten-free entree. The scallop was perfectly seared and it paired well with the sweet risotto. Some people didn’t enjoy the risotto, but I did. They felt it was too sweet, but it paired well with the unseasoned scallop.

The major course of the evening was the “C.A.B. Hanger Steak” (C.A.B. being Certified Angus Beef) with shoestring potatoes. IMAG1255I loved the presentation of this course. The shoestring fries were served in a metal container with a parchment paper cone, and the steak was plated over an asparagus spear and topped with a salsa verde. The potatoes were perfectly seasoned and light and crisp on the outside yet creamy on the inside. The malt vinegar aioli reminded me of the mayo I dipped fries in Belgium into. The steak was perfectly cooked if you like a medium rare steak, which I do. It fell apart easily IMAG1257with just a fork. It was topped with a salsa verde that was somewhat overpowering and also managed to drip onto my shirt. I had done so well up until then!

I was less impressed with the dessert course, but that might be because my diet has me completely off sugar and my tastes have changed. The Chocolate Mousse was light and fluffy and was topped with a salted caramel sauce, whipped cream and pretzel rod bits. It tasted like a chocolate covered pretzel, but the pretzel had soaked up a little moisture while it was waiting to be served and had become a little stale.

Crystal at Eat*Drink*Cleveland questioned why the table was set with wine glasses when no IMAG1248wine was served. The table was beautifully set, but the glasses really should have been cleared away once it was determined no one would be using them. I also felt odd ordering a beverage when no beverage list was offered at the table, so once I finished my cocktail I stuck with water.

IMAG1244I can’t wait to go back and try some other things on the menu, like the Braised Beef & Wild Mushroom Ragu Pierogies, Veal And Shiitake Mushroom Meatloaf, and the DoubleTree Double Decker Burger. Sanctuary will offer lunch, happy hour and late-night fare and both a la carte breakfasts and DoubleTree’s signature breakfast buffet.

I’m also a bit concerned that there might be some confusion with the name, Sanctuary, because there is already Sanctuary on Green in Beachwood. I guess time will tell. They plan to open a Sanctuary on the west side next year in the old Holiday Inn in Westlake. I wish them the best of luck, and I must say it is wonderful to have downtown quality in the suburbs with ample free parking available.

Disclosure: I was invited by the Driftwood Group to attend the Media Event. I was also given a $20 gift certificate to be applied toward a future visit. However, all opinions are my own.

Contact info:

Sanctuary Beachwood in the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
3663 Park East Drive
Beachwood, OH 44122
(216) 464-5950

Siam Cafe

October 6, 2014

IMAG0803Siam Cafe, located at the corner of E. 40th and St. Clair in Cleveland’s Asia Town district, is a favorite of Asian and non-Asians alike. My foodie friends have talked about it so much that I finally decided I needed to check it out. Several of them have MSG sensitivities and enjoy eating here because they don’t have any side effects afterwards. It is housed in what looks like a converted fast food restaurant, but I think that makes it unique and charming. I particularly love the “Year of the…” sculptures around the restaurant.

IMAG0768The extensive menu features Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese dishes under the headings of soup, lobster and crab, seafood, poultry, fish, frog, beef and pork, vegetable and bean curd, casserole, rice and noodle soup. Lots and lots of choices and lots of exotic choices such as jelly fish or eel as well. They have tanks of fish, lobster and frogs that they immediately use in the kitchen. Be sure to ask for the regular menu. They gave me a very limited Americanized menu the first time I went there. You can view an online menu here.

IMAG0769One of my favorite things about this place is that it is open until midnight, which is good to know when you leave an Orchestra performance or movie at the Cinematheque and are hungry when the restaurants in Little Italy have all boarded up for the night. It is open 7 days a week from 11 a.m. to midnight.

They have eight different flavors of bubble tea (including mango, melon, coffee, and coconut), Thai iced tea, iced drip coffee with condensed milk, ginger tea, ginseng tea, fruit juices and soft drinks. If given the choice I will usually order a Thai iced tea, with the iced drip coffee as my second choice. IMAG1121A proper Thai iced tea is a thing of beauty – a deep orange tea with spices and a layer of creamy coconut or condensed milk. In Thailand, condensed milk and sugar are mixed with the tea before it is poured over ice and then topped with evaporated milk. Their version of Thai iced tea does not have layers, but it is still delicious and refreshing.

I started my meal off with an order of the Siam Wings, which are marinated boneless chicken wings stuffed with a “house filling” and and then deep fried. They are known for their wings. The house filling is apparently dumpling innards (a savory mix of pork, veggies and vermicelli). Dipped in a sweet/sour IMAG0771and slightly spicy sauce the wings were a great start and were probably the most unique preparing of wings I have ever eaten. I ate two and took one home.

They also have both summer rolls and spring rolls on the menu. I ordered the crispy spring rolls and got to try a half of the summer roll. Spring rolls have a thinner wrapper than a basic egg roll. Their spring rolls were very nicely fried, and the chicken and vegetable filling was quite delicious. The summer rolls are made with rice paper wrapper and filled with lettuce, shrimp, vermicelli and other fresh fillings. I enjoy making them at home, and this was a good version. The peanut dipping sauce was also really nice. They also serve veggie spring rolls if you are a vegetarian.

I ordered the Pla Red Pik based on an Urbanspoon review. IMAG1122I was in the mood for fish and Stuart Spivack’s photo on Flickr made it look good. Stuart is an Asian food expert, so I know I can trust his judgment. He has amassed a huge collection of photos of Siam Cafe’s food over the years. It is listed as a chef specialty. It featured three generous, very lightly breaded fish filets (I had asked for perch) in a tamarind-pepper sauce. Just a very mild amount of heat from some hot pepper slices. Not too overwhelming for this Americanized palate. I enjoyed it very much.

As for dessert, I see they have green tea ice cream as well as some other flavored ice creams, but was surprised to see they serve Black Forest Cake. That is a German dish and not the easiest one to make well. It just seems like an odd offering at an Asian restaurant. I celebrated my birthday here with friends this year and was served a piece with a candle. It wasn’t bad, but it was a little drier than I like. We all shared it.IMAG1123

We had a large group for my birthday and ordered a mess of food and passed it all around. My particular favorites were the scallops and pea pods. It was delicious. It is in a very light, clear sauce that literally made the pea pods glisten. The scallops were perfectly cooked and paired well with the pea pods. And they were generous with both ingredients.

The eggplant with minced pork was also a favorite, and the version without the pork was also quite good. The eggplant they use is small Asian eggplant. The sauce is a delicious brown sauce. It is on the right of the plate along with some scallops and pea pods.IMAG1124

The pan-fried noodles with meat and seafood was a HUGE portion. The noodles seem to be some sort of ramen noodle. They were crispy on the edges and deliciously soft where it soaked up the sauce. It also had lots of fresh vegetables. As you can see on the right, we barely made a dent in it. I thoroughly enjoyed the scallops and pea pod leftovers the next day.

Several of my vegetarian friends were rather disappointed with the Siam Cafe. They were completely taken aback to see that most of the entrees listed as vegetarian featured minced pork (a most decidedly non-vegetarian item). IMAG1126They had no problem leaving the minced pork out of one of our orders of spicy eggplant. My friends also did not like the consistency of the tofu dishes. The tofu was a bit spongier than they like. Then again, they have been spoiled by Pura Vida’s tofu and know hold all other tofu up to that standard. It’s a hard standard to meet.

In any event, this was a great place to celebrate my birthday on a Friday night. We took up two large round tables (there were 15 of us), and the service could not have been more accommodating. They had no problems with separate checks and took care of every request. I can’t wait to go back and try some other things, like the baked shrimp in shell with spicy salt or the razor clams in black bean sauce. With such an extensive menu I imagine it will take me a while to work through it.

Contact info:

Siam Cafe
3951 St. Clair
Cleveland, OH 44114


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