Pacific East on Coventry

February 27, 2015

IMAG1732I am a huge fan of Pacific East. In fact, I am a little shocked that I haven’t written about it sooner. I have been to all of the present and past locations (Coventry, Eton shopping center on Chagrin Boulevard, and the short-lived place in Solon), but I have to IMAG1989say that my favorite one is the restaurant on Coventry at the corner of Mayfield and Coventry. The Coventry restaurant also offers both Japanese and Malaysian cuisine, while the Eton location just serves Japanese. In fact, the Coventry location is one of the main reasons I chose to live where I live – so that I am within walking distance. One Friday night several years ago I walked in a snow storm to Inn on Coventry only to find them not open for dinner despite what their website claimed, so I walked down to Pacific East instead. I will never forget that night. I was bundled up and peacefully walked IMAG1992down Coventry, had a great meal, and walked back home with the snow collecting in my hair. It was a perfect, relaxing and simple evening. The dining area is bright and cheerful (a sea theme with blue walls with fish/sea shell decor on the walls) with austere black chairs and tightly packed tables. If you are lucky, the waitress will greet you with a complementary glass of green tea. If not, be sure to ask for it.

There is plenty of seating available, as they have expanded on both sides. There is a tiny bar area to the left as you walk in with seating, and the most recent addition is seating in the back left in the old bank space next door.

PIMAG1728acific East is known for its sushi – and rightfully so. The sushi is some of the best in Cleveland if you ask me. In all the times I have come here I have never had bad fish. The rice and fish are always fresh, and the rolls melt in your mouth. They are also always rolled tightly and don’t fall apart when you try to eat them. IMAG1776The fish slices on the Nigiri are quite generous. The fish always extends beyond the rice. The sashimi is so fresh it literally melts in your mouth. Some of my favorite rolls include the Spicy Tuna Roll, the Rainbow Roll (kani, cucumber, avocado, topped with assorted fish & fish roe), the Spider Roll (soft shell crab tempura, cucumber, avocado, fish roeIMAG1775 & eel sauce), the Alaska Roll (fresh salmon, avocado, cucumber, fish roe), the X-Mas Roll (tuna, avocado, fish roe), the Green Dragon (eel, cucumber, topped with avocado, fish roe, sesame seed and eel sauce), the Volcano Roll (California roll with baked scallops and smelt roe), and the Lobster Tempura Roll (lobster tempura w/ avocado, cucumber, fish roe, & eel sauce). I was less impressed with the Land & Sea Roll, IMAG1774but that is because – even though I love them as Surf & Turf – I just don’t like steak and lobster together as a sushi roll. If you do, you will probably love it.

Also, bargain alert: the sushi lunch specials just can’t be beat, ranging from a two-roll Maki combo* for $8.95, three-roll Maki combo* for $9.95, four pieces of sushi & one roll for $9.95 to up to $13.95 for three pieces of sushi, seven pieces of sashimi & one roll. They also serve Bento Boxes, featuring your choice of appetizer, a California roll and either a hot entree from the kitchen ($10.95), nigiri sushi ($11.95) or sashimi ($12.95). All lunch combos are served with a salad and miso soup. Lunch is served from 11-3 pm every day.IMAG1727 (*Not all rolls are included in the Maki combo specials. The ones that are are specified in the menu.)

The house-made ginger dressing on the salad is worth noting all on its own. The menu says it is made with 15 fruits and vegetables. It is creamy, delicious and plentiful. One of the best I have had. The salad features fresh lettuce, a cucumber slice, a cherry tomato IMAG1642and some carrot shavings. It is a nice balance to the rice and fish.

However, Pacific East is also known for its Malaysian cuisine. I have been on a noodle soup kick recently and fell in love with their Malaysian noodle soup called Laksa. Traditionally made with rice noodles, shrimp, chicken, tofu and curry, the soup is filling and delightfully spicy. Pacific East’s version is loaded with shrimp, chicken, tofu, peppers, onions, rice noodles, and hard-boiled egg. If you order it during their lunch hours IMAG1643you get an spring roll with it for just $8.95. I have had both the regular spring roll and the Penang spring roll served with it. I wasn’t a fan of the Penang spring roll, because it had a soft curried potato filling that I wasn’t expecting. I think if I had been expecting a curried potato filling I would have liked it more. Both spring rolls were well-fried and crispy on the outside with soft filling on the inside.

I tried their Tonkatsu Ramen after eating a bowl of Laksa and found it to be pretty bland and lifeless in comparison. It doesn’t help that I had the most amazing IMAG1730Tonkatsu ramen at The Slurping Turtle in Chicago a few months ago. There was no way anything could compare to it – although the Laksa comes close. Maybe it was just an off day for the chef, but the broth was boring, the noodles were just a wee bit overcooked, and the pork was non-existent save for 3 or 4 slices. The seaweed was the ramen’s saving grace. In any event, I don’t recommend the ramen here. I prefer the Flying Crane’s ramen.

Business is so good there are often waits in the evening. Hopefully the new expansions will alleviate some of that. Seating is available at the sushi bar as well.

Contact info:

Pacific East
1763 Coventry Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 320-2302


The Bourbon Street Barrel Room

February 16, 2015

IMAG2033I love New Orleans – the architecture, the river, the beads, the culture, the music and most importantly the food. The Bourbon Street Barrel Room opened in Tremont just before Christmas, and I have been meaning to get there ever since. I had my chance the other night, when I met a bunch of foodie friends there for dinner on a cold, snowy January evening.

I had a vague idea where it was since I had been to the art studio it had been in a previous life.IMAG2034 It is located on Professor Avenue next to Fahrenheit. I parked on the cross street just past Ty Fun and carefully made my way down the icy sidewalk. The blue twinkle lights and light shining out of the sign and front windows were a warm, welcoming sight. Can I just say that the art studio was a total pit (water leaking out of the walls, cracked concrete, terrifyingly narrow stairs with a tiny metal railing leading down into the bowels) and that they have done AMAZING things to the space. The restaurant features lots of wood, chandeliers and tile ceilings and IMAG2040has a second floor circling the main area that is reminiscent of New Orlean’s latticework balconies. It is very impressive.

I wasn’t a big fan of their seating policy. They don’t take reservations after 6 PM – even for a table of 11 – and would only seat us once 75% of our party showed up. We stood awkwardly at the bar waitingIMAG2037 for the majority of the group to get there. At least I got to watch them make 5 hurricanes at once, so I had a good idea what was in them. We ended up getting a seat in the back of the restaurant near the kitchen. It was not as cozy as upstairs and was kind of loud, but we got the food really quickly and it was nice and hot.

Their happy hour runs from 2 to 7 PM every night, and it features $1 off most of their appetizers as well as $1 off their Abita draft beers, house wines and hurricanes.

I started off the evening with a hurricane because I love them. I chose the regular hurricane instead of the top-shelf Category 5 Hurricane because I knew I was driving in snow later. The regular hurricane was delicious. You could really taste all the fruit juices they used. I would go back in a second for drinks.IMAG2041

I had a tough time deciding what to order because it all sounded good. I ended up ordering a small order of Hot Legs (frog legs with hot sauce) and the Jean Lafitte shrimp and catfish combo. It was a lot of fried food, so I ordered a side of greens once the food came out and I saw there was no greenery or plate dressing.

The Hot Legs were very tangy from the hot sauce, and the frog meat was moist and tender. The frog legs were delicately breaded and fried. I had a bit of trouble with the small bones in the leg. IMAG2042The meat was so tender it fell off the bone fairly easily, but the bones also separated easily. The hot sauce was not as overpowering as I thought it would be, and I have to say I liked it. The slaw that accompanied it was nothing special, but it did a good job cutting the heat. I had one of my friend’s Hot Rocks (fried shrimp) and they were also really good.

The Ragin’ Cajun Brochettes looked delicious as well. They feature Andouille sausage, vegetables, and pineapple on sugar cane skewers. They were very well received.

IMAG2045The Jean Lafitte shrimp and catfish combo came with a choice of hush puppies or French fries. I ordered the hush puppies and was so glad I did. These little corn bread nuggets were delicious – not too dense and had a nice flavor to them. The shrimp and catfish were nicely fried as well. The shrimp was the same shrimp as the Hot Rocks but with a different dressing drizzled over them. The catfish was moist and tender and flaked easily with my fork. The citrus slaw that was supposed to accompany it was nowhere to be seen. Overall it was a little boring, but they certainly tasted good.IMAG2046

The braised greens were very vinegary. I prefer Angie’s Soul Food’s greens over these. They were a little mushy and the vinegar was very overpowering. One of my friends loved it, and she explained that she loves dousing fries in malt vinegar and loves vinegar. As for me, I had a few bites and took them home. I will probably add them to a fried rice, but I might also just toss them. They didn’t wow me. Next time I’ll order a side salad.

IMAG2047I couldn’t go to the BSBR and not order the beignets for dessert. They were hot out of the fryer and topped with powdered sugar and some fresh berries. I shared them with the table since I was pretty full, and they were a hit. They weren’t as light and fluffy as the beignets I have had in New Orleans, but they were certainly a good choice.

One of my other friends ordered the bread pudding and sent it around the table to taste. It was OUTSTANDING. The bread was the perfect custardy consistency, and the sauce was flavorful. I want to go back just for the bread pudding and hurricanes.

IMAG2043I would probably give the place 3 thumbs up out of 5. Our server was great and handled our large table like a boss. However, the food was good but not outstanding. One diner wasn’t that enthused about the BBQ shrimp and grits, and the buns from the Po’ Boys were a lot of bread. One friend ate the catfish and left most of the bread behind. Another friend ordered the Muffaletta, and it came on a small baguette cut diagonally. It looked really good, and he appeared to enjoy it. Maybe they should use the baguette for the Po’ Boys. I’ll be back to try more things off the menu like the shrimp cocktail, lump blue crab cakes, Voodoo Mama (Red Beans, Braised Greens, Smoked Sausage & Steamed Brown Rice) and the Crawfish Etouffee. And of course I need to try out their New Orleans brunch on Sundays from 10-3.

If you haven’t been yet, you should check it out.

Contact info:

The Bourbon Street Barrel Room
2393 Professor Avenue
Cleveland, OH, 44113
(216) 298-4400

Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern

February 4, 2015

IMAG1359I am so thrilled that the Happy Dog, which I already loved in the Gordon Square district, has opened on the East Side at the Euclid Tavern in the new hip and happening Uptown district. It is now less than a mile from my home, which means I will be there a lot. After obsessively checking their Facebook page and website several times a day for weeks until they opened, I was there the night it opened and was thrilled to see what they’ve done with the place. IMAG1429I’ve been back several times since.

The Happy Dog offers lots of seating choices in addition to the extensive main room and bar, including seating in the back room near the kitchen as well as in the basement. There should hopefully be no problems finding a seat here. Parking is available on side roads as well across the street in a metered lot just past the Cleveland Institute of Art building where the old Cleveland Food Co-op used to be (I believe it is E. 112th).

IMAG1718They offer some toppings that are different from the one in Gordon Square. The basics haven’t changed though: quarter-pound all-beef franks or veggie Italian sausages topped with your choice of up to 50 toppings and fries or tater tots with 20 dips and 10 or 11 different toppings. Experience has showed me that it is best to only choose three or four toppings, since it is hard to eat a dog that has too many toppings.IMAG1371

I ordered my first dog here topped with bacon-spiked southern style greens, Everything Bagel cream cheese, and “Chix-Fil-A” cole slaw. I almost wept with joy when I bit into it. I think this is my favorite Happy Dog hot dog to date. The creaminess of the cream cheese and the cole slaw with the greens just worked together perfectly.

IMAG1428My second dog was not as successful, but still good. I tried a variation of Michael Symon’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate” (since the ingredients are somewhat different). His version features alien pickle relish, Sriracha hot sauce, chunky peanut butter and a fried egg. I decided to order it with the curried peanut butter and alien pickle relish and topped with bacon and potato stix instead of a fried egg (because I’m allergic to egg). I could barely taste the peanut butter or alien pickle relish, but I did like the crunch of the potato stix.

IMAG1721My most recent dog featured the bacon-spiked southern-style greens, Applewood smoked bacon, French brie, sauteed mushrooms, “Chix-Fil-A” coleslaw, and Japanese Yum Yum sauce. Yet another delicious dog that totally hit the spot.

The tater tots can be ordered with your choice of 20 dips and/or $1 toppings like refried beans, sloppy joe, spaghetti-Os, etc.. They have a curried Dijon mustard dip here that goes with the tots quite nicely. A ketchup, a mustard and some cheese is all you need for nirvana here or order a whole mess of dips to share with the tIMAG1723able. The top secret fry sauce, Yum Yum sauce, and roasted garlic aioli are my personal favorites. Experiment to find yours.

They have done a great job honoring the history of the Euclid Tavern while making the place their own. The autographed wall just highlights the history of the place, and the bar greets you as you walk in.IMAG1365

They are also now open for lunch, which is good news for me because I usually go out for lunch more often than for dinner. The Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern is open from 11 a.m.-1 a.m., and Happy Hour runs from 4-7. I was there shortly after 4 the other day, and I was the only person in the place  besides the employees. My tater tots were piping hot that day!

They have started serving ramen on Tuesday nights (Tokyo Tuesdays). Like the burger nights out west, the ramen will be sold only in the basement lounge and is limited in number and sold on a first come, first served basis. $6 will get you a bowl of pork or veggie ramen with Sapporo-style noodles. As the Scene explains, “The traditional pork version will feature housemade broth, soy-braised pork shoulder, 6-minute egg, nori, scallion and pickled ginger. The veggie version will be built around a kombu dashi broth with Swiss chard, soy-pickled mushrooms, pickled ginger, nori and scallion.” I haven’t made it there yet, but it is definitely on my “must try soon” list. Plus, they will have karaoke on Tuesdays.

They also feature live performances some nights with varying cover charges, and I am confident they will start offering interesting discussions and features like the Happy Dog in Gordon Square does. The fact that the Cleveland Orchestra could literally walk to the Euclid Tavern makes me think this dream will probably be a reality. So be sure to pop into the “Euc” and see what they’ve done with the place! This place truly does make Cleveland Rock.


Contact info:

Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern
11625 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH
(216) 231-5400

Choolaah Indian BBQ

January 20, 2015

IMAG1705Everyone I know has been anxiously awaiting the opening of Choolaah Indian BBQ on Chagrin across from Corky & Lenny’s. Well, it was worth the wait. The place has been mobbed since it opened. We went on a quiet Sunday afternoon. The place was not overly packed, and there were quite a few Indian and Pakistani diners (not including the two with me).

The place bills itself as “Casually Fast Indian Cuisine.” The food came out quick. IMAG1696If only the registers moved a little faster. I expect that may change once people become more familiar with the menu and don’t need as much explanation. The restaurant is bright and cheerful with pops of color and open kitchen and grill areas behind glass.IMAG1744

I ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala plate with a side of Naan bread. This hit the spot. It was a decent size portion and had a nice flavor. I forwent the “Choolaah Heat” sauce and am glad I did, as two of my fellow diners “couldn’t stand the heat.” IMAG1693They were glad they had ordered Mango Lassis, but lamented the size. After I raved about the soda dispenser they followed up with a “Coke product” from the beverage dispenser (more on that in a minute).

The side of naan bread was also fluffy and well seasoned with just a hint of salt. I was also given a side of masala sauce to dip the bread into and to pour over the rice IMAG1694bowl in areas I wanted to add a little more sauce.

I had a bite of my friends’ meals, including the Paneer Biryani and the Paneer Tikka Masala. I loved the grilled paneer in the tikka masala almost more than my grilled chicken, which I thoroughly enjoyed! I would totally order it even though I am not a vegetarian. It was that good.

IMAG1695My Indian friend loved her Paneer Biryani. I was not as enthusiastic about it. I will order this with chicken next time and see if it makes a difference. It didn’t have a lot of heat and tasted somewhat reminiscent of mango. I might have had a non-representative bite though, because there are eight layers of flavor in this topped with naan. In any event, my friend loved the idea of it coming with the bread baked on top like a pot pie.

IMAG1749Another friend loved the Salmon Tikka Masala and the chaat. I might have to try the salmon next. My two Indian friends split a Samosa Chaat. The Samosa were a little softer than I expected due to the addition of the chaat (chickpeas, spices, yogurt and tamarind sauce). They both liked it, and loved the yogurt and cheese atop the chickpea-based chaat.IMAG1747

The Samosa side features three small samosas for $1.99. The samosas were very flavorful and contained potato, onions and peas. They were a nice little side to add to my meal.

My absolutely favorite thing about Choolah though is the Coca Cola freestyle soda dispenser.IMAG1699 I had translated a text about this several years ago, so it is nice to see it in action. More and more restaurants are offering this, including the Winking Lizard, Firehouse Subs, Five Guys, etc. Testing of the fountain, which can offer up to 200 different drinks, was launched in several markets in 2009. Coca Cola started rolling out the fountains in 2010, and they are slowly deploying it in various restaurants around the country. Customers choose a base product, which they can supplement with additional flavoring. IMAG1702The machines include flavors not previously available to the American market, including Orange Coke, which was previously sold only in Russia and the Baltics (and briefly in the United Kingdom and Gibraltar). I debated between peach and grape flavoring for my Dasani Sensation and ended up going with grape. The Dasani soda was under 5 calories and was not overly sweet (0 g sugar), so it really hit the spot and was waistline-friendly. I can’t wait to experiment with more flavors in the future. Be sure to check out the above link to see all the available flavors, such as lemon, raspberry, lime, vanilla, cherry, etc., to add to Coke, Dasani, Fanta, Minute Maid Lemonade, Hi-C, Mr. Pibb, Fanta, Mello Yello, Ginger Ale, seltzer, etc.

They also sell chai, mango lassi, beer and have wine available in a WineStation dispenser. I didn’t love the chai, but my Indian friend who tried mine liked it. IMAG1703Then again, I have been ruined forever by her mother’s chai. They always seem less flavorful and somewhat watery in restaurants now.

One pro tip is to order the mango or malai (cardamom) kulfi with your meal so that it is softened by the time you eat it. My friends had a tough time eating it in its frozen-solid state.

Another really nice touch is two reserved spots right by the door for veterans and active military service members. It’s a nice way to honor them and say thanks. I just don’t know how many of them IMAG1706would be willing to take advantage of it. I know many of them are very modest.

Another pro tip is to use the entrance/exit on Orange Place to avoid the congestion on Chagrin. The entrance on Orange Place that it shares with the collision center is right next to the gas station on the corner and is well-marked.

IMAG1709Overall, the selection is small but affordable. It doesn’t have a large variety, but what they do offer is good and designed for the American fast food eater (plates, bowls, sandwiches, wraps, etc.). It was fast, and the portions were reasonable. I was perfectly satiated by my “plate,” which featured an entree and a side.

This is the first location of what the owners hope to turn into a chain of Indian BBQ places. If the crowds are any indication they have a hit on their hands. Open daily Mon-Thurs & Sun 11am-9pm, Fri & Sat 11am-10pm.

Contact info:

Choolaah Indian BBQ
27100 Chagrin Blvd
Orange Village, OH 44122
(800) 459-8860

Crop Kitchen

January 9, 2015

IMAG1389Steve Schimoler of Crop Bistro recently opened a restaurant on the East Side in the new Uptown District (intersection of Euclid Avenue and E. 115th across from Constantino’s and behind the Cleveland Wine Cellars). Steve relocated to Cleveland in 2005, as Director of Innovation and Development for Nestle North America and, after completing his term there, decided to remain in Cleveland, and we are all the better for it. Crop was initially opened to function as a test kitchen, but soon became a Cleveland favorite. His son Stevie is the General Manager of Crop Kitchen, and they recruited Matt Anderson of Umami to run the kitchen.IMAG1391 I’ve been there several times now and am happy to report the quality of Crop is available on the East Side in a hip, affordable location. Crop Kitchen is located where the old Accent used to be. They managed to inherit Accent’s awesome Robata Grill and Josper Oven. They changed the colors a bit and put up whimsical colanders as light fixtures. One side of the restaurant has a pool table and makes it the perfect venue for after work drinks or a quick, informal bite to eat, while the dining room offers light wood tablesIMAG1390 and plenty of tables to accommodate any sized party. Crop Kitchen features Crop favorites like two different flavors of popcorn (orange miso and truffle) as well as Matt Anderson specialties like spring rolls, sushi and the goat cheese dumplings (more on those later).

I started off with the Sleepy Hollow cocktail, which featured house-infused pumpkin vodka with a house-made apple crème liqueur. It was delicious. Unfortunately they are only running it in the fall, because on a visit in early December I was told they had just taken it off the menu.

IMAG1392The chile deviled eggs with crisp prosciutto are a mustardy choice for an appetizer. It was very good, with just a hint of heat and prosciutto flavor. However, you have to try the wasabi deviled eggs with pickled ginger. They are out of this world! A friend and I were served one each served side by side recently, and the wasabi egg was my hands-down favorite!

IMAG1393When I heard Steve was doing a burger for the first time ever I knew what I had to order on my first trip. The CK Double Double Burger was even better than I had hoped it would be. It features two all-beef patties, lettuce, tomato, onion, smoked cheddar cheese, and Dijon aioli on an onion bun. IMAG1394The onion bun and the melty cheddar cheese really put this burger over the top. It was cooked exactly to my specifications and was AWESOME. The roasted potatoes that accompanied the burger were perfectly cooked, with a crisp exterior and creamy interior. I was able to dip them in house-made ketchup.

I was less impressed with the sushi rolls. The tempura veggie roll was kind of bland, and the spicy tuna roll didn’t wow me. They serve three rolls a night, and the selections vary. I will try them again, but as of right now I am not all that keen on ordering them again. That said, the fish was very fresh, and the sashimi someone ordered at the next table glistened and looked delicious. However, you definitely should not avoid the Asian side of the menu. IMAG1966I can report that I had the duck ramen special the other night, and it was spectacular. It featured pork belly, duck confit and grilled eggplant and had a delicious gingery and umami taste in the broth. I hope to see this on the menu again soon!

IMAG1711Matt Anderson is also known for his goat cheese dumplings. These dumplings are crazy good. The dumplings are light and fluffy and are served over a bed of shiitake mushroom, miso vinaigrette and what may be sauteed spinach or kale. This dish is a good choice for vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians. The menu indicates if a dish is gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, which I think is a nice aid for those with dietary issues.

IMAG1713I had debated between the burger and the cassoulet, so I decided to wait and order the cassoulet once the weather turned a little colder. This is the perfect comfort food for a cold, dreary Cleveland winter. The cassoulet is made with sausage, boneless chicken thighs, pork belly, and beans. I loved the melding of all the flavors. The beans were creamy and smokey. I liked this more than the cassoulet at L’Albatros, and the cassoulet there is really good. I managed to eat half and save the other half for later. It was just as good – if not better – reheated the next day.

IMAG1714I had a couple bites of the potato salad that came with my friend’s Grilled Portabello & Marinated Tofu sandwich, which features grilled peppers & onions, lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado aioli and herbed goat cheese on request on the onion roll. She loved it and said it was some of the best tofu she has ever eaten. I have to say I am now a huge fan of the potato salad, and I am a tough critic when it comes to potato salad. It was creamy and had just the right mix of herbs. Definitely try it if you can. They only serve one side a day, so don’t come in there looking forward to a specific side dish. The orzo side dish I had the other day needed some citrus or something to brighten the flavor a bit. Crop Kitchen should consider posting its sides and specials on its Facebook page, because I would make a trip for the potato salad and would be there in a heartbeat for any of their ramen.IMAG1715 In addition to drawing in customers, it would also highlight the kitchen’s versatility.

I also want to talk about the ice cream and sorbet at Crop Kitchen. My friend and I split the Ohio Strawberry Sorbet recently, and it was bright and fresh. It was the perfect end to a meal of goat cheese dumplings and cassoulet. Steve was the VP of product development for Cabot Creamery in Vermont for several years, so the man knows his ice cream. I was lucky enough to hear about the recent launch of Pierre Ice Cream’s Chef’s Signature Ultimate Ice Cream Pints. IMAG1664You can read about the story here. They unveiled the first two flavors — Croppy Road and Holé Molé — on December 5th at Crop Kitchen. Croppy Road features chocolate ice cream, chocolate-covered marshmallow cups, almonds and smoky salted caramel swirl, while Holé Molé incorporates cinnamon ice cream with chili choco chips, chocolate-covered toffee pieces and molé fudge swirl. The Croppy Road was very smoky, but if you like that you will love the unique ice cream. However, I am head over heels for the Holé Molé. You can order the ice cream by the pint or in a sundae at Crop Kitchen (and I would imagine Crop),IMAG1712 and the pints are also available in local grocery stores that sell Pierre’s products, including Heinen’s, Marc’s, Dave’s Supermarkets and Zagara’s Market.

One final recommendation is the Maker’s Mark New Fashioned, featuring Maker’s Mark with hints of spiced orange and cherries in their housemade Orange & Cherry Chipotle Cure. I had two the other night at a good friend’s recommendation (her husband loves them so much she ordered 2 quarts of Cure for him for Christmas). They are delicious, but they are potent. Another friend I was dining with was surprised to see me happily buzzed, because I never have more than two (and we’ve been going out together to happy hours since 2005). The drinks here are strong, so plan accordingly.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Crop Kitchen! I’ll be back soon.

Contact info:

Crop Kitchen
11460 Uptown Ave (Euclid Avenue & E. 115th)
Cleveland, OH
(216) 696-2767

Flying Cranes Cafe on Larchmere

December 27, 2014

IMAG1578Flying Cranes Cafe is a quaint little cafe that blends American and Japanese cuisine, such as soups, sandwiches, udon, yakisoba, donburi rice bowls, and quiche. It also happens to serve up a fine bowl of ramen. Owner/chef Kayoko Irie-Frye and her husband Bill Frye opened the restaurant in November 2008.

IMAG1433The cafe seats 15 and is comfortably nestled among the bookshops and antique shops on Larchmere Boulevard. It is a place to come and relax with a book while you wait for your food. Things are slow here, so don’t come here if you are in a hurry. But if you want to relax for a while you will be in good hands.

Everything is made from scratch using fresh ingredients, from the soups and broths to the sandwiches and quiches.

IMAG1236I have been there several times since I first discovered it through a Meetup group tea. We were served a lovely tea with delicious soup, a Madeleine, a tiny quiche, small tea sandwiches, a fresh fruit cup, cookies, and a tier of delectable sweets. The quiche was divine, and I gladly had a second one. The desserts and the cookies were a huge hit with everyone. The tiramisu and the chocolate chip cookie were my particular favorites. If you are looking for something different try their lime bar. The cafe requires advanced notice for the tea, and the price was very reasonable considering all the effort that must have gone into preparing the food for us. If you are looking for something special be sure to order the blooming tea, which are tea leaves handsewn around flowers into bundles that that literally bloom as they steep.

IMAG1439The miso soup seems to be one of their most popular dishes. The last time I was here it seemed like everyone was ordering the miso soup to eat in the cafe and to go, so I had to try it. I’m glad I did. It comes in three different sizes. The miso broth is accompanied by fresh scallions, tofu cubes and shiitake mushrooms. It was delicious. They also have a soup of the day, so be sure to check the board to see what is on offer that day.

IMAG1437I initially went back to try the ramen. I have been on the search for a good ramen, and the Flying Cranes serves an authentic ramen that is warm and filling. I ordered the champon ramen, which features shrimp, vegetables like shiitake mushrooms and bok choy and ramen noodles. They asked if I wanted an egg, and it was then topped with two halves of a perfectly cooked hard-boiled egg. It’s not brimming with shrimp, but when the vegetables, noodles and broth are so well done you won’t miss the shrimp. At the moment this is my favorite meal in Cleveland, surpassing pho in my heart.

IMAG1440There are a variety of good Japanese noodle and rice dishes. The chicken teriyaki features a house-made teriyaki sauce served over rice, sprinkled with black sesame seeds and served with a side salad with ginger dressing. It was very flavorful and filling.

IMAG1580I also tried the curry udon, which was the perfect choice on a blustery cold November day. The curry sauce was a thick brown sauce containing some kind of meat and vegetables. It was extremely flavorful, but the curry was not overpowering. It was served piping hot, so it was easier to slurp up the noodles once it cooled down a bit.IMAG1241

I am glad to have discovered this little gem so close to my home. I have since become a regular, and the owners appear to recognize me now. The prices are affordable. Soups and sandwiches run between $2-$7.50, entrees range from $7-$11. They offer Saturday and Sunday brunch for $10.00, and all of the brunches come with coffee or tea, soup and dessert. So if you are looking for a fine bowl of warmth this winter be sure to check Flying Cranes out. I also hear they have a lovely garden filled with wisteria in the back, but I have not had the opportunity to check it out for myself.

Contact info:

Flying Cranes Cafe
13006 Larchmere Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 795-1033

Seoul Garden in Parma

December 20, 2014

IMAG1564I recently learned about Seoul Garden from one of my foodie groups, and I am so glad we went. I ate dinner there recently with several friends on a cold, rainy evening. The place is a bit of a hole in the wall, and the dining room is nothing special. One of my friends lives around the corner and had always wondered what it was like. IMAG1565She was thrilled when I scheduled this. It may not look like much from the street, but what makes it special is the authentic food. There were several tables of Korean diners enjoying barbecued beef and some kind of hot pot soup or casserole – both served over hot plates at the table.

We were greeted with a mug of hot tea. Some of us smelled barley and some of us smelled corn. Whatever it is, it is completely additive, because I came home still tasting it on my palate and want it again soon.

The highlight of the meal is the banchan – an array of small kimchi and pickled root and vegetable dishes, including several kinds of kimchi (cucumber, bok choy and cabbage), a kind of seaweed salad, some kind of delicious potato dish, what might have been cubed radishes, IMAG1562Gyeranjjim (Korean Style Steamed Egg Casserole, see second photo), and some other dishes that we just ate without knowing what they were. I liked everything I tried. It was a fun way to try a bunch of different dishes.

We ordered a couple appetizers even knowing that we would be served Banchan. I ordered the fried dumplings. They were good – deep fried dumplings served with a dipping sauce. IMAG1566The rice dumplings (Ddukbokkie – fourth photo) were really unique and different. Long dumplings made from rice flour covered in a spicy and sweet red sauce - they were delicious. One of my friends explained that people either love them or hate them (due to the texture), but we all thoroughly enjoyed them. Another friend ordered the spicy tofu. It was good, but there were so many other things to eat I only had one piece.

After debating what to order we ended up ordering 3 orders of Gopdol Bi Bim Bap, 1 order of Bulgogi and 1 Tonkasu. We are big sharers, but that wasn’t the case tonight – although I did manage a bite of BiBimBop and Bulgogi. The Bulgogi was cut thin and served with various peppersIMAG1568 and what may have been spinach. It was definitely delicious.

They serve two kinds of Bi Bim Bap. My friends all ordered the Gopdol Bi Bim Bop, which is a rice, meat, and vegetable mixture served with a raw egg cracked on top. It is served in a sizzling hot stone dish, and it is a good idea to wait a minute or so to let the rice on the bottom get somewhat crunchy. You then stir the egg through the other ingredients, and the heat from the bowl cooks the egg. Everyone had their leftover Bibimbap IMAG1569packed up, and one friend looked forward to eating it for breakfast the next day.

My Tonkasu was a fried pork cutlet with a deliciously sweet sauce on top. It was served with rice and what they called a Seoul Salad, but it was essentially iceberg lettuce with some kind of smooth dressing on it. It did a nice job cutting the heaviness of the pork cutlet. I really liked it – even if the pork cutlet was probably a food service cutlet. The sauce really made the dish.

IMAG1567I was impressed with the speed of the service once we ordered the food. Our server remembered everyone’s order without writing it down, and then brought everyone their food very quickly. The dumplings were brought out probably within a minute of ordering. The banchan and other appetizers were then served, followed by the entrees.IMAG1570

I was expecting very spicy food, but that wasn’t the case. I suspect they lowered the spice level for us – although a couple of my friends can handle it. I for one thoroughly enjoyed every bite. I only had one bite of rice dumpling that had me coughing from the spicy kick. They also serve water in a plastic water bottle, so we could serve ourselves. Canned soda lines the hallway to the bathrooms. There are no aesthetics here – just good food.

At the end of the meal we were served a delicious drinking yogurt (Yakut).IMAG1571 We couldn’t decide whether it was mango or banana or what, but we all agreed that it was delicious. Our server gave us each one to go after we raved about it as we left.

I’m already looking forward to my next meal there. I’m going to try the Korean barbecued beef. Or maybe one of their soups. Or the seafood pancakes…

In any event, the place is easy on the pocketbook. Our dinners average to around $20 a person. The prices are very reasonable given the quantity and quality of food.

Contact info:

Seoul Garden
5270 Pearl Road
Parma, OH 44129
(216) 661-5990


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