Kintaro Sushi & Hot Pot

February 15, 2017
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Photo by Yelp user Sushi L

Kintaro is a full-service, all-you-can-eat sushi and hot pot restaurant just off I-480 off Ridge Road. Everything is made to order. The place has been recently renovated and has two separate dining areas as well as a sushi bar. Both sides are bright and cheerful, with some stone dividers, neon lighting and lots of bamboo and wood decor. Upon entering, you can choose between sushi and hot pot, although you can opt out of the all-you-can-eat deal to order menu items individually or order the all-you-can-eat sushi on the hot pot side if you are dining with friends who want hot pot.

imag0789Hot pot is a fun way to eat with friends. The tables have inset hot pot burners, and you choose your menu items, ranging from the broth, vegetables and fish and meat. The fish and meat choices range from pork, fatty beef, chicken, crab, clams, several fish choices, lunch meat and dumplings as well as more adventurous items like beef tripe, pork stomach, quail egg and cuttlefish balls. They also offer 28 vegetarian ingredients. You also choose your noodle to enjoy with the broth at the end of your meal. Choices include instant ramen noodles, potato vermicelli, udon, rice noodles or some fun noodles like a wide, crystal clear noodle that my friend Nancy ordered and enjoyed. There is also a sauce bar where you can choose from various soy sauces, “Kitaro sauce,” oyster sauce, sesame oil, hot chili sauce, cilantro, scallions, etc. to flavor your broth. You have two hours to eat your hot pot, and they encourage you to be discerning in your choices by threatening to charge by the pound for waste.

The real deal is at lunch. The all-you-can-eat sushi and hot pot will run you about $25-26 at dinner (and you can upgrade some hot pot items for a total of $32), but it is only $11 for hot pot and $15 for sushi at lunch photogrid_1481655342555(11 to 2:30 Monday through Saturday). The lunch sushi and hot pot choices aren’t as varied as at dinner, but there are still plenty to choose from.

The first time I came I chose the all-you-can-eat sushi during lunch. You are given a menu and check off on the menu what you want. For $15 I enjoyed a miso soup, salad, several pieces of nigiri, tempura, an eel hand roll, and a Jeep specialty roll. As you can see from the left, it was a lot of food (and all-you-can-eat is usually a joke for me because I get full quickly on a good day – I’m their ideal customer). Apart from the tempura I enjoyed it. The tempura was very bland in my opinion. Yes, I know you need to dip it in a sauce, but it should have at least some underlying flavor. The sushi was fresh, and the server was very personable. I ordered it in several stages, and barely finished the specialty roll (my last stage). If you want something more filling like hibachi or udon noodle or a rice bowl, you may want to just order a small appetizer, your entree and then see how you feel. I was stuffed from my lunch choices, but I was very happy with what I ordered. For me I need the miso imag0786-1soup and salad for a sushi meal. Others might choose to skip it. My friend who came to join us for hot pot during dinner ordered just sashimi and as few rolls with rice as she could to get the most bang for her buck. I thought that was a little crazy, because with sushi the rice is just as important as the fish in my opinion. But to each their own. And that is the beauty of this place – each person can order just what you want or you can choose to share.

Our hot pot dinner adventure was a lot of fun. Since I was sick, my friends suggested I get my own pot. They then shared two broths. We all ordered the Chicken Broth, and they also ordered the Sha Cha broth, which was delicious (I took a sip from a fresh spoon). I’m definitely getting that next time. If you like spicy, they also have a Sichuan Spicy broth. I over-ordered the raw items, but luckily I only left vegetables and a little bit of fatty beef, so my server didn’t charge me the waste fee. But I would have been completely okay if he had though since it was my mistake thinking they would have small portions for one person. I also over-ordered thinking the broth would just be broth and would need some add-in flavor, but they added some things for flavor right out of the gate. I ordered the fatty beef, dumplings, cilantro fish balls, frozen crab, several kinds of mushrooms, broccoli, cilantro, Chinese cabbage, and bean sprouts. I somehow got turnip on my plate instead of the black mushrooms (47 vs. 57 so write clearly on your paper).

Photo by Nancy Heller

Photo by Nancy Heller

I would definitely skip the frozen crab. Since it was previously frozen it was very difficult to get the meat out of the shell. Go fresh or skip it. The fish balls were really good as well. My friend Nancy ordered the Fuchow fish balls and liked them better than my cilantro fish balls, which I enjoyed (I’m a big fan of cilantro). We tried choices off of each others’ trays, which was nice and added to the variety. I was not a fan of the Chinese sausage, for example. It had a cloyingly sweet taste, but she and her husband enjoyed them. I loved the dumplings the most. I dipped them in sauce after cooking them in the broth and, while they were filling, they had a really enjoyable flavor.

Even though it is all-you-can-eat, the quality at Kintaro was pretty good. It’s not Pacific East, Ginko or Ushabu, but you pay for that quality there. Nancy is a tough customer (having been to China), and she was impressed. I will definitely be going back at lunch, now that I know what to expect. I can see this going on my regular lunch rotation since it is such a deal. And if you are looking for a fun meal with friends you should definitely give this a shot. I think you’ll enjoy yourselves as much as we did.

Contact info:

Kintaro Sushi & Hot Pot
7325 Northcliff Avenue
Brooklyn, OH 44144
(216) 459-8862


Otani Noodle

February 1, 2017

imag6374Cleveland has desperately needed a good ramen place. Otani Noodle fits the bill. It isn’t amazing ramen like Slurping Turtle or some of the ramen places in New York, but it certainly fulfills the craving for a well-crafted bowl. Don’t come here with high expectations, and you will probably walk out very pleased.

Located on Euclid Avenue next to the CIA building, Otani is a small space with some tasty ramen. It is decorated in red and black with a colorful mural on one wall with four tables on the left side and the counter and kitchen on the right. You go up to the counter to order, find a seat and then they bring it out to you. imag6372Service is fairly quick. I think I waited about 5-10 minutes for my ramen. The seating (fairly high plastic stools) does not encourage you to linger. I found the higher seat to be fairly uncomfortable. Luckily I live close enough that I could take it to go if I wanted to enjoy it in the comfort of a more comfortable chair.

My first visit was in the summer right after it opened. I live up the hill in Cleveland Heights, so I am in the Uptown area a lot. I parked in the parking garage behind Crop Kitchen and hobbled my way to Otani Noodle to soothe my craving. The place was not imag6367that busy, but I hear word is spreading and people are flocking there. I’m glad to hear this, because we need it in the area. The staff was welcoming and helpful and brought out my steaming bowl for me. I sat in front of the open doors and the fan and enjoyed every warm bite.

For my first visit I tried the Torikatsu ramen, which is fried chicken cutlet in a tonkatsu broth. The broth was rich and flavorful. They get their noodles from Sun Noodle, which according to my knowledgeable friends are the best noodles you can get in the States. They had a nice toothsome bite imag6371and were great. The chicken was perfectly fried, tender and crispy. I loved the added extras like corn, broccoli, scallions, mushrooms, and seaweed, which added some great flavor. I will definitely order half a boiled egg next time as well. It isn’t ramen if it doesn’t have a hard-boiled egg half. I ordered the jasmine-infused honey tea as my beverage, which also hit the spot. It was a nice bottled ice tea.

On another more recent visit I ordered the Char Siu Tonkatsu ramen instead of the imag0823pork belly one, because another Asian noodle restaurant about a block away has turned me off pork belly for life. The char siu roasted pork came in thin slices and had a great flavor.

The only reason I haven’t tried more of their food is because I have been too busy with work to go out for lunch and have been eating at home more to save money. I look forward to trying the tempura shrimp and miso ramens.

The website is fairly useless. I still haven’t figured out if they have a menu listed on it. If you are going to make a website that contains no information (and no menu?!?), do your customers a favor and don’t bother. Thank goodness some kind soul posted photos of the menu on Yelp (page one and page two).

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Contact info:

Otani Noodle
11472 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106
216-862-1400


Zoma Ethiopian

January 21, 2017

imag0703Cleveland has a new Ethiopian restaurant – Zoma just opened in Cleveland Heights in mid-December. It is open six days a week (closed on Mondays) as well as for lunch. I love Ethiopian, so I can imagine frequenting both Zoma and Empress Taytu. There is some overlap with Empress Taytu, but they are different enough that I can see them both happily coexisting.

Zoma is located on the corner of Lee Road and Meadowbrook – across from Best Gyro. imag0687Parking is available behind Best Gyro and in a little parking lot at the corner of Lee and Meadowbrook as well as along Meadowbrook (free if you don’t mind walking a little bit).

I gathered a group to eat there a few weeks after their Grand Opening. We were all very excited, so we had quite a nice group gather on a Wednesday night, despite the weather advisory and bitter cold. We took up half the place, and it was great to see the restaurant busy. All of the tables were filled for most of our visit, and several people came in for take-out as well. They have basket seating and tables. I reserved tables since it is easiest with a group, but basket seating is more communal and ideal for 2-4 people. Ethiopian cuisine is characterized bothimag0691 by its unique flavors and its communal presentation, a family-style approach with multiple items arriving on a large platter. You eat by tearing off the injera with your right hand and scooping the food up to eat it, but they gave forks to several of my fellow diners who asked for them.

They do not have a liquor license yet, but diners frequently stop at The Wine Spot across the street to buy some wine or beer to go with their meal. I ordered mango juice, which came in a bottle, and their tea. The tea was delicious, with cinnamon and several imag0689other spices.

They offer two appetizers – the vegetarian sambusa and timatim fitfit, which has pieces of injera bread mixed chopped fresh tomato, onion, jalapeno, and Ethiopian herbs. Everyone who had the tomato salad as their sides loved it. No one ordered appetizers this time around.

We managed to get our hands on the menu ahead of time, and the mild chicken stew ($14.99) caught my eye. It was absolutely delicious. The stew features chicken breast chunks simmered in mild turmeric sauce spiced with ginger, garlic, onion and herbal butter. It was absolutely scrumptious, and I can see myself ordering this a lot. I ordered the yellow split peas as my side and an extra side of cabbage for $2 or $2.50. I enjoyed the split peas, but really like the cabbage. It is made with potatoes sautéed with garlic, ginger and curry and was super tender. I love tikil gomen with carrots and tumeric, so this was close enough for me. That said, I will continue imag0698to go to Empress Taytu for my tikil gomen and mushroom and shrimp tibs fixes.

About half of the group ordered some kind of tibs – either beef or chicken – and enjoyed them as well. One fellow diner ordered the spicy chicken stew, which was a lot darker than my mild chicken stew was. The tibs and stews came in hot little skillets and spoons to spoon the entree onto the injera. Tibs are my favorite, so I can’t wait to order it next time. The other diner ordered his go-to kitfo (ground beef seasoned with herbal butter, cardamom and mitmita imag0696served with homemade cottage cheese and cooked collard green/kale) and was very happy.

Many Ethiopian dishes are built around lentils, split peas, chick peas and greens, making them popular with vegetarians, and Zoma has a wide variety of vegetarian entrees. The other half of the group ordered vegetarian combo platters. The combo platters allows you to choose three of the vegetarian entrees for $15.99 and four for $16.99. One of my friends who wanted to try all six ordered the four-entree combo and two imag0693other sides. I got to taste several of them, and particularly enjoyed the collard greens and kale steamed with garlic, jalapeno pepper and traditional spices and the Fasolia Tibs, which are beans and carrots sautéed with garlic, ginger and tomato paste.

I love that Zoma offers such a wide variety of choices. There are 11 meat entrees, six vegetarian entrees, one seafood dish, and endless combinations. My friends who are well-versed in Ethiopian cuisine raved about the injera, saying it was the best they have ever had and they’ve eaten Ethiopian all over the place. It was absolutely delicious, with a fermented lemony flavor. They use a mixture of dark teff and barley flour. It added some nice flavor to the stews.

Overall, I really liked it. I can see myself eating here a lot due to its proximity to my home (a 5-minute drive). It’s nice to have a second option for Ethiopian here in Cleveland. They also offer their coffee service, but for now only on the weekend – although they did roast some beans for us for ambiance.

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If you are unsure how to eat Ethiopian food, this video might make you feel more confident:

Contact info:

Zoma Ethiopian Restaurant
2240 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118
(216) 465-3239


The Best Bites of 2016

January 11, 2017

2016 is thankfully a thing of the past. Like in 2015, I decided to look back on the best things I remember eating this year. Money was a little tighter this year, so I had to cut back on my dining out. I cooked at home a lot, discovering the joy of microwaving 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag with just 1 tablespoon of oil and a few dashes of salt or butter salt. I made lots of pastas and soups as well as homemade pizza. Nick and Toni’s Penne alla Vecchia Bettola from the Barefoot Contessa was one wonderful discovery, as was my childhood favorite Slumgullion (aka Macaroni Beef). My Pampered Chef bakeware and electric pressure cooker saw regular use.

It was the year I finally tried some iconic Cleveland staples – like Frank’s bratwurst at the West Side Market, the paczki from Michael Angelo’s Bakery, and the perch fish fry at Academy Tavern. I also revisited childhood favorites like the chicken foldover from Uncle Al’s Pizza and the shrimp with lobster sauce at Nam Wah (love their pho – best in town!). I also feasted on cheese for two days at Counter Culture, a two-day cheesemonger workshop sponsored by Culture Magazine. I fell in love with Vermont Creamery and Mackenzie Creamery as well as Losada olives there. I also traveled to Detroit (garlic paste at Lebanese Grill!); Gettysburg (Friendly’s Peanut Butter Cup sundae!), Philadelphia and Lancaster (Amish food at Good n Plenty!); New Orleans (beignets!) and San Francisco (dim sum and meals at the Tadich Grill!), but since this is a Cleveland food blog I will limit my best bites to here. These bites are the bites I will remember for quite some time.

The new year started off deliciously with this amazing dessert at Dinner in the Dark. Paris goes Tokyo by Larissa from Coquette Patisserie featured green tea roulade, banana and black sesame mousse with black sesame brittle and honey-ginger macaron. It is not something I would have normally ordered, but I’m so glad it was offered as a course at Dinner in the Dark. I adored this dessert and had it again at Coquette later that week when they made it in the store.

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The salted caramel cheesecake at 111 Bistro was as delicious as it looks in the photo. I dined here for my friend Tom’s birthday. The food was once again amazing, but the dessert stole the show. The cheesecake was creamy, and it is impossible to describe the decadent salted caramel topping. The little side of ice cream and the little piece of brittle were a fun and delicious touch.

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MoMo’s Kebab opened on Lee Road and focuses on fresh Moroccan and Mediterranean food like kebab and fresh grilled vegetables. Back when I had their beef and vegetable tagine it was only available as a Saturday special. I believe tagine is now regularly available on their menu. Since it is cooked in a clay tower the meat and vegetables are unbelievable tender and succulent. My dining companion, who was married to a Moroccan at one point, had the prune and lamb tagine and also loved it. It was sweeter than my beef and veg tagine but just as tender. Be sure to order the mint tea! It is a wonderful ceremony.

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My tea group drives out to Sweet Shalom tea room in Sylvania every month. The menu changes based on the theme for that month. They have the best scones I’ve ever had, and these cherry almond scones are by far my favorite. The scones are huge, yet light and flaky. They are usually accompanied with butter and jam or preserves, but these cherry almond scones are amazing just as they are.

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A new tea room opened in 2016 in an old farmhouse from 1890 on the village square in Twinsburg. Greenbridge Tea House is a vegetarian and vegan tea house. They are open Wednesday through Friday from 11 to 3 and Saturday from 9 to 3. This golden mushroom and potato soup smelled divine, and I was so happy that I ordered a bowl of it instead of just a cup. Their crustless quiche and garlic bread were also delicious, but the soup stole the show for me.

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Coit Road Farmer’s Market is a farmer’s market in East Cleveland that supports the local community. They are open on Saturday mornings in the winter and Wednesdays and Saturdays in the summer. The market manager Kevin is a great cook, and they offer cooking classes to teach customers how to use and preserve produce, cook with cast iron, and cooking skills like knife skills, etc. This year they taught folks how to make spring rolls, sausage, mole, and traditional Chinese cooking, just to name a few. This weekend Kevin is going to show how to put together a sous vide set-up from parts on eBay for $30-40. Their special fundraising meals are always a good time. For a very affordable donation that goes to the market customers can enjoy the food in a casual setting. They served pizzas and had several corn roast and BBQs this year, but one of my favorite bites was their French toast and bacon in April. I don’t know what they put in the batter, but it was delicious.

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Batuqui opened on Larchmere a while ago, and I finally got a chance to eat there in 2016. I don’t know what took me so long. The food is delicious, but their seafood stew really won my heart. Fresh shrimp cooked in coconut milk and curry served over rice. I loved every single bite. Plus, they serve amazing caipirinhas. I really need to get back there more often.

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On a whim in the early days of summer I stopped at Strickland’s Custard in Streetsboro and started off a ice cream and butterscotch craving that I still cannot shake to this day. I ordered the Banana Bowl, which features half a banana, vanilla soft serve custard, topping (obviously I chose butterscotch), whipped cream and a cherry. I love the combination of banana and butterscotch, which I would have normally not put together. The photo doesn’t do it justice.

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Fat Casual BBQ took over the patio at Graffiti: A Social Kitchen this summer and served their amazing smoked meats and grilled goodness. My friends and I went for the smoked prime rib, which I enjoyed with their polka fries (spiral sliced potatoes fried and smothered in cheese sauce and bacon lardons). But Graffiti’s cereal milk panna cotta with grilled peaches, blueberries and granola stole the show that night. If I could have licked the bowl clean I probably would have. A delicious meal from start to finish. They offer their cereal milk panna cotta on the regular menu, but it isn’t available with grilled peaches.

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Lilly Handmade Chocolate always has amazing chocolate flavors, but their Dreamsicle Bark hit my sweet spot. I love the flavors of orange and vanilla together. I’m not normally a fan of white chocolate, but I absolutely adore Lilly’s white chocolates, especially the Maui Wowie. I attended several chocolate and beer tastings at Lilly’s this year and had some amazing bites like the passion fruit panna cotta, but this Dreamsicle Bark was exceptional.

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Taj Indian Palace has won my love for two main reasons – one) their peas and mushroom entree and two) their masala dosa. I never understood why people loved dosas until I had theirs. Most dosas were crispy with just a minimum of potato and onion filling. Their dosa is buttery, filled from top to bottom and just amazing. I met some friends for dinner here and ordered the peas and mushrooms because I was craving mushrooms. I loved this dish more than the saag I also ordered. I’ve been back numerous times in 2016. It’s my go-to Indian restaurant now. They also have a lovely lunch buffet.

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One of my favorite festivals is the Night Market. From May to September one Friday a month features Asian cuisine and culture in a lovely open-air market setting. Since I love Asian cuisine I thoroughly enjoy wandering through the tents and nibbling a bit from here and a bit from there. Established restaurants like Li Wah and Emperor’s Palace as well as start-up vendors like Snow Brothers and anyone who wants to offer Asian cuisine can sign up for a tent and sell their wares. I learned about vendor Ice and Rice through a friend. Andy Ng is a civil engineer who moonlights as Night Market vendor Ice or Rice with his wife, Jessie, a graphic designer born in Guangzhou. Their food is great, and their tuna onigiri is definitely one of my favorite bites of the year. The creamy tuna salad combined with the Asian sauce and tender rice to make one delicious bite.

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Jill Vedaa opened Salt+ in Lakewood, which features small plates as well as great cocktails and unique wines. I met some friends there in August and we enjoyed a variety of small plates. The smoked trout and grilled octopus were nice, but my favorite plate was the white bean puree with mashed olives and lightly grilled bread. It shines probably due to its simplicity. Just clean flavors that shine.

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Bonchon recently opened in Seven Hills and serves the most amazing Korean style fried chicken and wings as well as Korean and Asian fusion cuisine. Choices like Japchae and Bibimbap as well as udon, shrimp shumai and fried rice are just some of the choices. But the fried chicken and wings are king. We were there during their soft opening, and I’ve been meaning to get back there. The wings are double-fried and served with either a spicy or garlic soy sauce. A friend and I split the medium size wings and went with the half and half, which features both sauces. The spicy sauce was amazing and not so overly spicy that I couldn’t eat it. My lips had a nice burn, but it was so addictive I kept wanting more. The wings are served with a side of pickled radish to somewhat mitigate the heat.

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Last but not least, Boiling Seafood Crawfish on Lee Road offers boiled seafood like crawfish, shrimp, lobster and crab in your choice of sauce. The corn fritter appetizers and po’ boys are good, but the boiled seafood is clearly the star here. I made my own, choosing lobster and crab legs along with the requisite potato and corn. I chose their Juicy sauce, which is a mixture of all the sauces they offer (Cajun, lemon pepper, and garlic and herb). It was messy deliciousness that I crave constantly.

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I hope you enjoyed reading about my favorite bites of 2016 and are inspired to go out and try some of the places I’ve talked about. It seems like dessert played a big part of 2016 for me. I made a sweet tea vodka and fresh peach tiramisu for my tea group’s summer picnic this year. I riffed off the Barefoot Contessa’s rum raisin tiramisu and used sweet tea vodka since tea was supposed to be an ingredient and I was overrun with peaches from the Georgia Peach Truck. While making it, it looked like a huge disaster, with the sweet tea-soaked ladyfingers floating in the cream sauce, but it was probably the most delicious tiramisu I’ve ever had. Everyone enjoyed every boozy, creamy bite. Here’s hoping 2017 brings lots of delicious bites as well!

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Ribsticks

January 5, 2017
Photo from Jay L / Yelp

Photo from Jay L / Yelp

I like to keep aware of what is going on around me on the local restaurant scene, so I noticed one of the storefronts across from Cedar Center on Cedar Road had paper up on its windows a few months ago and then a sign announcing a new barbecue place called Ribsticks. After what seemed like forever they have finally opened – quietly. I was curious and did a Google search one night and stumbled on a Scene article about it. The article reports that Dr. Lee cooks his ribs in a ri1bsous vide bath, then smokes and grills them, resulting in less shrinkage and more meat. I can attest to that. The portions are great with reasonable prices as an added bonus.

I initially ordered a Burnt Ends sandwich ($7.50 but $1 off at lunch). It comes with one side at lunch, and I opted for the corn casserole. The corn casserole was absolutely amazing. It was a nice consistency with some chunks of corn. It was the side of the day, so if you see it be sure to img_20161202_152827order it. The Burnt Ends sandwich was not as burnt as I would have liked it. My idea of burnt ends is the burnt ends at Oak & Ember; they were so tender they were practically falling apart. The burnt ends here are chewier, because they aren’t cooked as long as the ones I have had in the past are. The bun is housemade, and the sandwich is topped with housemade pickled veggies and caramelized onions. It was a bit sloppy to eat, and I wasn’t thrilled to find a small bone in among the meat.

That said, I was still looking forward to trying other things on the menu. I organized a dinner there a few days later. I focused on the rib3ribs. The pork spare ribs with two sides, to be exact, for $14.00. I ordered a third side just for good measure for $2. My meal was really good. The ribs were actually a combination of fall-off-the-bone and stick to the bone. The meat was plentiful and chewy, and I enjoyed the barbecue sauce.

You can order samplers with two and three meats, featuring the pork spare ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken wings and beef short ribs. They also recentlyrib4 added kielbasa and the burnt ends to the options. They are tweaking the menu as they go along and adding things like Beer Bites and BBQ pulled pork nachos.

The stars here are the sides; they are absolutely amazing. You can choose herbed quinoa (gluten-free), couscous, baked beans, mac n cheese, bread pudding, bourbon peaches, heirloom coleslaw, red beans and rice, mashed potatoes and a daily side. I ordered the mashed potatoes, bourbon peaches and heirloom coleslaw, which rib5were all delicious. I bought more mashed potatoes and peaches to go with my leftover rib to enjoy the next day. The mashed potatoes are creamy, I could taste the sour cream. The bourbon peaches are to die for. I could have kept eating them forever. The heirloom cole slaw was also refreshing. I also hear the cheese grits are amazing as well. Sadly the side portions are small, but you can always order more on the side.

As for beverages, they offer sweet tea and soft drinks (Pepsi products) as well as alcoholic libations. They have Great Lakes beer and Coors on tap and IPA, and you can add a shot of bourbon to your sweet tea. I thoroughly enjoyed my Dortmunder with my ribs. You can help yourself to sauces near the register and water in a corner by the window.

imag0545They also have several desserts, most intriguingly a candied pork ends and chocolate chip cookie. I have heard the cookie is great but haven’t had the pleasure yet.

The service was great. The staff was very friendly and accommodating. The manager and owner were both present and very hospitable. We will definitely be back. In fact, several of my dining companions have already been back. Welcome to the neighborhood, Ribsticks!

Contact info:

Ribsticks
13892 Cedar Road
University Heights, OH 44118
(216) 202-4105


Batuqui

December 12, 2016

imag5919Batuqui on Larchmere Boulevard does a good job filling the void left by Sergio’s Sarava. It moved into the charming restored Victorian house that used to house the Vine and Bean. The building is small yet cozy with lots of dark wood molding. I easily found parking on the cross-street and simply crossed the street to meet my dining companions. We were greeted warmly and seated in the back room, but they happily moved us to the front room once another larger table left (two of my dining companions needed chairs with backs due to various health issues, so the bench seating imag5906wasn’t a good choice – it’s worth mentioning if you have an issue). Once comfortably situated the service, food and atmosphere all exceeded our expectations.

When in Brazil order a caipirinha. Caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail, made with cachaça, sugar and lime. Cachaça, also known as pinga, caninha, or any one of a multitude of traditional names, is Brazil’s most common distilled alcoholic beverage. It is one of my favorite alcoholic beverages, and it is executed here perfectly.

It is worth noting that a lot of the entrees are dairy-free and gluten-free. I am imag5907definitely keeping this place in mind for dining out with my DF/GF mother. Dietary choices are well-marked in the menu, which I love.

I ordered the Bolinho de Bacalhau (cod fish croquettes) with the table. They were perfectly fried, not too greasy, and the filling with light and fluffy. I loved that they served lime wedges with it. The lime was a very nice complement that brightened the croquette. I very much enjoyed this appetizer and can recommend it. My vegetarian dining companion also ordered some fried yucca without the linguica sausage.imag5909 It too was really delicious, very creamy and flavorful. The photo isn’t very appealing so I’m not posting it, but the taste was great.

I had a tough time deciding on my entree. While I love a good Fejoida I was very curious to try the Moqueca Baiana. It is a seafood stew with either shrimp or fish or both and cooked with tomato, green pepper, coconut milk and dende oil and served over white rice. I chose the version with shrimp, and I am so glad I did! I loved every bite of this. The creaminess of the coconut milk worked really well with the shrimp, and the seasoning img_20160426_221520was perfect. The portion size was also ideal. I didn’t need to take home any leftovers, but I also wasn’t too full.

My vegetarian friend ordered the Prato Misto, a savory vegetarian dish of pinto beans, Brazilian rice, red onion rings, seasonable vegetables, farofa and fried spinach. It is dairy-free, vegetarian and can be vegan. She loved her meal except for the strange flash-fried spinach, which she found a bit off-putting.

One of my pickier dining companions ordered Carolina’s imag5914Pasta, which features fettuccine pasta mixed with seafood, tomatoes, onions in a cream sauce. Her version had calamari, which were perfectly cooked and not at all rubbery, but the current version features shrimp and smoked salmon. She enjoyed the flavor and I liked the bite I had.

They have several delicious-sounding desserts, but we were too full. The caramel flan and the passion fruit mousse both sound amazing. They also serve fresh fruit with passion fruit glaze for those who like fruit for dessert.

imag5916Since I love a good Brazilian steakhouse I can’t wait to go back and order either the Linguica sausage or the Picanha steak. I might even order the Churrasco Misto, which features top sirloin, chicken and sausage, if I can’t decide which I am in the mood for.

Since the place is tiny it is highly recommended to make a reservation. An 18% gratuity is automatically added for groups of 6 or larger, but since we usually tip 20% and up (lots of former servers and restaurant workers in the group) that isn’t a problem for us. I wanted to mention it in case it is an issue.

Contact info:

Batuqui
12706 Larchmere Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 801-0227

 


Shabu-shabu at Ushabu

November 30, 2016

img_0478I love any and all forms of Asian cuisine, so I was excited to hear that Cleveland was getting a shabu-shabu restaurant. Shabu-shabu is a Japanese hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water or broth. The meats are cooked piece by piece by the diner at the table, by submerging it in the broth and stirring it. The cooked meat and vegetables are then usually dipped in sauce before eating and served with a bowl of steamed white rice. Once the meat and vegetables have img_0476been eaten, leftover broth from the pot is combined with the remaining rice (and in this case the udon noodles, which are at the bottom of the vegetable bowl), and the resulting soup is eaten last.

Ushabu opened recently in Tremont, and several of my friends and I went there to check it out. It is located on Professor in a storefront that I could swear used to be an art gallery next to the old Cookie and a Cupcake store. So the place is very small, and reservations are a must. There are about four or five img_0477booths and counter seating. The tiny restaurant seats 25 people, and they were turning folks without reservations away on a Sunday night. Edsel made a reservation for 4 at 6 PM, which was perfect because we finished at 8 when they closed. If there are two of you, you might be seated with some strangers in one of the larger booths, which is okay with me since that’s a fun way to meet people. Dante was seated two booths over from us. His restaurant has been serving shabu-shabu to diners for a while now, so if he was here eating on a Sunday I can’t think of img_0479higher praise. As it was, we had a cozy little booth up against the window. The windows steamed up from the steaming broth once things started cooking.

We started out ordering appetizers. I gave in to the peer pressure and ordered the scallop appetizer. It had a gorgeous presentation, but I honestly wasn’t too jazzed about the taste of the scallop. I normally love scallops, but didn’t love this. The scallop was cut in half and topped with a quail egg and tobiko and garnished with a couple bites of pork belly. I liked the pork belly part the best. I might try the chawanmushi next time, because it looked delicious. Kind of a img_0482savory custard with a shrimp in it. My other dining companions enjoyed their clam appetizer, although the edible sand took a little adjusting to.

After poring over the menu and Yelp photos beforehand, I started getting excited about the ginger chicken soup base and tried to figure out what to order first. I ended up going with the seafood combo, since ginger and seafood is just about the perfect combination  for this sushi and ginger addict.

Since I was new to shabu-shabu it took some adjusting to figure out how things work and how img_0480long to cook everything. I think my next time will be more successful. In addition to three different dipping sauces (a ponzu, a sesame and a soy), they bring out the soup base, a separate bowl of vegetables to cook in and flavor the broth, and a bowl of white rice sprinkled with black sesame seeds. Each diner gets their own, although our dining companions split one and were given an extra bowl of rice and their own dipping sauces. That was a nice touch. With their appetizer and splitting a beef and pork combo with a fish add-on, they found it was just enough food for them.

Onto how things work! Once the soup base gets up to a boil in the induction img_0481burner cubbyholes built into the table, it’s time to get cooking. They suggest you put in the more sturdy vegetables like the carrot, corn, cabbage, bok choy, onion and radish first, then move on to the more delicate mushrooms, tomato and tofu. After a few minutes of cooking the meats are then swirled in the broth and dipped in a sauce and eaten with rice. I enjoyed the sesame dip the best, but all three were very good.

The seafood combo came with 3 clams, 1 scallop (cut into several thin slices), 3 tiger shrimp and what I think was salmon and flounder. I was told to start with the clams first and then branch out to the other seafood on my plate. It took a while to figure out how long to cook my seafood. It took longer than what they img_0484said. For instance, it took a little while for the clams to finally open, and my first tiger shrimp was raw and cold in the middle. I put it back in to cook up a little more. It wasn’t a big problem for me since, like I’ve said, I’m a big sushi fan and don’t mind raw seafood or a raw sear. Once I got the hang of it I very much enjoyed it. I will say that I won’t boil my broth as much next time, because the end broth was too salty to eat. I ended up taking it home and cutting it with water the next day.

I finished the meal with a nice scoop of Sesame ice cream made by Mason’s Creamery. It was a nice creamy finish to the meal.

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In short, I enjoyed myself and look forward to going back. I can’t wait to try the wagyu beef. The restaurant is also vegetarian friendly, as they offer a vegetarian option with the veggies and broth. Two of the three soup bases – the spicy miso and kombu dashi – are vegetarian-friendly.

Contact info:

Ushabu
2173 Professor Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113