Xinji Noodle Bar

February 20, 2018

There’s a new ramen place in town that is worth a visit. Xinji opened in October 2017 on Lorain Avenue in Ohio City and is a welcome addition to the Cleveland dining scene. The Cantonese proprietor and chef got his start making sushi and working at Akira Sushi and Hibachi in Solon as well as Momocho and Gingko and the famous Momofuku in New York City. In any event, he is meticulous about sourcing his ingredients, and it shows. Most importantly, the ramen noodles are Sun Noodle ramen noodles – the best one according to my friends in the know.

The parking is mostly street parking, but you don’t need to feed the meters after six p.m. and the parking lot across the street from Xinji doesn’t appear to be patrolled (someone was teaching their girlfriend to drive a stick shift in the parking lot when we were leaving). If I’m wrong please mention it in the comments! I was lucky enough to get a spot on the street across from Xinji.

The restaurant has a modern, industrial look, with plenty of exposed brick walls and duct work along with rather austere metal tables and chairs in steel gray and deep blue. The chairs could be a bit more comfortable. I don’t know why our local ramen places have such uncomfortable chairs. Maybe to make sure diners don’t linger?

The menu is fairly limited, with five ramen choices (unfortunately tonkatsu broth is not one of the choices), two rice bowls, and lots of different appetizers to choose from, including wings, fried chicken, two different dumplings, three different kimchi balls, and three different bao (steam buns – the flat ones, not the round fluffy ones). I ordered the special kimchi ball with peaches and miso ramen with chicken (instead of pork) and a soy egg added to it. I am not a huge fan of pork belly, but next time I’ll suck it up because the extras added up! The kimchi ball was interesting. It was nicely fried and was pretty to look at. Cutting into it, it had a nice kick to it, but was not too heavy. Others at my table ordered the spicy pork dumplings, which were absolutely outstanding (my friend N. still raves about them) and the fried chicken bao. The dumplings are amazing – and not to be missed! The fried chicken in the bao was really nicely fried and had great flavor.

As for my miso ramen, the broth was very dense and rich – almost too much so. It is served with scallion, woodear mushrooms, corn, and bean sprouts. My one criticism is that it was lukewarm and cooled quickly. Ramen is supposed to be eaten quickly, but I would have liked it to be a little hotter. Not hot so you burn your mouth, but a little more warmth would be appreciated. The noodles had a rougher texture and nice bite to them. They weren’t overcooked. The service that first night was really slow. Like glacially slow. I normally don’t complain about service, but I would have liked a second sake at some point. This sake was absolutely delicious. My friend N. ordered the champagne sake, but I preferred my choice. It was light and delicious with just a hint of fruit.

I intend to try a tonkatsu rice bowl on my next visit, which will hopefully be soon. If you haven’t been yet, be sure to give it a try. I know you won’t regret it. They are now serving during lunchtime hours as well, so you have plenty of opportunities.

Contact info:

Xinji Noodle Bar
4211 Lorain Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 465-2439

Advertisements

Fish Fry Friday #1 – Sts. Helen and Constantine

February 16, 2018

Hang onto your hats, kids. This one is going to be a bumpy review. I just got back from my first fish fry of the year. I decided to get take-out from Sts. Helen and Constantine, because I’ve been sick and wanted to stay close to home.

The fish fry runs every Friday during Lent from 5-8 PM. Enter the fish fry from the back door off the parking lot (the far-right door was the only one that was unlocked).

I got there right at 5 o’clock when they opened, because it is easier to find parking in the lot and the wait shouldn’t be as long. I got in line for the take-outs. As you can see, there were not that many people in front of me. I left the building 25 minutes later. The cashier was GLACIAL. There were two cashiers for the other line, which was much longer. One guy even tried to jump in line in front of me after he got his food, and I firmly informed him that we had all been waiting.

I have gone to Sts. Helen and Constantine in the past and ordered what I thought was the whitefish. Turns out it was the walleye, because once again it was so salty that it was not edible. So if you do go, order the whitefish, calamari or the fried shrimp. Also, the advertised “rice pilaf” was white rice. I ordered a side of rice pudding for $3 and an order of spanakopita for $3. The cashier charged me $23. $23 for rice pudding, 2 pieces of spanakopita, 1 piece of inedible fish, white rice and a dinner roll. I went online to look up the prices, and they range from $9 to $13.50. No way was my fish dinner $17. The money they raise from the fish fry does not go toward boosting the church’s coffers, but instead is used strictly to benefit the less fortunate, so I’m going to consider my dinner a mitzvah as I throw it out. At least the rice pudding and spanakopita are delicious.

All of these tables will be filled by 7 PM.

Contact info:

Sts. Helen and Constantine
3352 Mayfield Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 932-3300


Donutfest

February 11, 2018

Note: I use the spellings doughnut and donut interchangeably here. It is deliberate. Usually based on the name of vendor.

Today was Cleveland’s second annual Donutfest. I didn’t hear about it until it took place last year, and it had sold out way ahead of then – in fact it sold out in 3 hours. So this year my friends and I marked the sale date on the calendar. Tickets were $35 for General Admission and $50 for VIP. VIP times ran 9 – 11 a.m. (let’s face it – I am not a morning person, so there was no way in hell I would be attending the VIP session). There were two hour GA sessions beginning at 11. 11 was a stretch for me, but I made it. GA tickets included 11 doughnut tastings, three coffee tickets, and a goodie bag. VIP tickets included early entry and a mug as well.

This was way better than Cheese Fest, but considering the bar on that is so dreadfully low that isn’t saying much. The lines were manageable, and breaking it up into two GA sessions definitely helped. There were only two long lines – for Brewnuts and for the four tables on the right-hand wall. I think the idea of tickets definitely slowed things down. A punch card might be easier to deal with. I didn’t follow the numerical order, so I had a few loose tickets in my hand at one point. I gave the wrong ticket to one competitor, and they handed it back so I could correct it. I understand the need to control that people don’t act like vultures, but it took folks a while to tear their tickets while at the table. Just a suggestion if one of the organizers ever reads this.

I had to park on Rockwell, because parking closer to the event was non-existent. If I had known I could park in one of the empty lots I would have. Trudging through unshoveled snow on the sidewalks on Rockwell and E. 24th was no picnic, but they had shoveled and put salt down in front of Red Space so yay. Winters in Cleveland, man. While crossing the street I saw Crystal from Eat*Drink*Cleveland as she was leaving. She gave me the pro tip of buying a box for $1, which I happily took. The money went to the Cleveland Food Bank. They also had hats and t-shirts to buy with proceeds going to the Food Bank. I was also impressed that a couple of people dressed for the occasion. One girl wore these stylish doughnut socks, while a dudebro had a doughnut baseball cap on backwards. One woman wore an OSU onesie, and I applaud her bravery because it got pretty darn hot in the space.

Once I got inside I was confronted by a huge line. It turns out this was for four tables at once (including crowd favorite Jack Frost), so I headed for the less congested tables first. I eventually collected my 11 doughnuts, and my friends and I grabbed a table. I took one bite out of each of the doughnuts and chose my favorite. It was sometimes hard to remember which doughnut belonged to which vendor.

The competitors this year were Holey Toledough; Brewnuts; Madsen Donuts; Peace, Love & Little Donuts; Jack Frost; The Vegan Doughnut Company; Urban Farmer; Fiona’s Coffee Bar & Bakery; City Girl Donuts; Mary Ann Donuts; and Jubilee Donuts. Bigmouth Donuts was at the Kurentovanje Party on E. 55th, which makes sense since that is where they were located. I’ll have to try their dossants another time. I had also hoped Biagio’s would be there, because I have heard good things about their doughnuts. Or Spudnuts? Maybe next year? This was a great opportunity for doughnut shops to get their names out there, because I was unfamiliar with most of them. Unfortunately, some of them are not exactly local, which explains why they were unknowns.

Holy Toledough offered a carrot cake fritter or a peanut butter & jelly doughnut. I went with the PB&J, which was a fun little doughnut. But they are in Toledo, so I don’t see myself ever having them again. There were a couple of competitors from Norton and Canton, which are closer than Toledo. I think Mary Ann Donuts (with five locations to the south of us) might have been the one offering a cherry cream stick or a chocolate cream stick. I chose the cherry, because it was different.

It’s all about preference, and everyone has different taste. I prefer a yeast doughnut over a cake doughnut. Others prefer cake over yeast. It’s all subjective. Most of the competitors offered several choices to allow people to choose their favorite. For example, one competitor offered a key lime doughnut, a birthday cake doughnut, and an espresso crunch doughnut (I went with the espresso crunch). Some had boxes of doughnuts that they would cut and restock. Others were putting the finishing touches to keep up with the demand. For example, Peace, Love & Little Donuts were dipping their doughnuts fresh. I very much enjoyed their M&M donut. It was soft and fresh, and the M&Ms were a nice crunchy topping.

Circles on the Square in Medina won Judge’s Choice for their Caramel Apple Pie doughnut. It was a cake doughnut so it wasn’t my favorite, but it had a nice flavor and caramel apple is always a good choice.

Jack Frost is obviously a fan favorite because they were the only table handing out almost-full-sized doughnuts instead of quarters, halves or small tastes. They won Crowd Choice last year along with Peace, Love & Little Donuts. They had lots of their popular flavors, including maple bacon, chocolate custard, and plain glazed. Because I have already had most of those choices I chose the strawberry shortcake doughnut, which I very much enjoyed, but I did not enjoy the shower of powdered sugar down the front of my brown t-shirt.

This year’s Crowd Choice, Brewnuts, had the long line to prove it. They had three or four choices to choose from. I chose the Fruity Pebbles Brewnut, because come on, fruity pebbles! The doughnut had a nice crunch from the Fruity Pebbles and the doughnut itself. It also had a hint of ale to it. Because Brewnuts. They are craft beer-based doughnuts, and everyone loves them. I will definitely be seeking them out in the future.

I also enjoyed Madsen Donuts’ (from Geneva on the Lake) marshmallow filled eclair-type doughnut, and was pleased with the Vegan Doughnut Company’s choice. They served a creamy doughnut hole. I didn’t even miss the dairy.

Overall, I enjoyed all of the doughnuts but one. Urban Farmer, I love you, but putting up a foie gras doughnut against all those conventional (mostly sweet) doughnuts was super jarring. I was in the long line for the last four doughnuts, and the guy behind me warned of the “strange flavor of the filling” in that doughnut. It didn’t help that I had thought I had chosen the butterscotch doughnut, but alas I had not. I’m sure it would work well as an appetizer in the restaurant, but up against all the other sweeter choices (and less adventurous attendees) it just didn’t work.

Out of all 11 doughnuts I tried, my favorite doughnut was a lemon goat cheese doughnut with blueberry topping from City Girl Donuts. It was also an almost-full-sized doughnut. The doughnut really packed a flavorful punch that wowed my taste buds. I have heard good things about City Girl Donuts, which opened in September 2017 and has been a huge hit in Rocky River. I’ll definitely be seeking them out again.

At some point I also grabbed some coffee (one pour-over from Heartwood coffee and one cold brewed iced coffee from Solstice Coffee Roasters) and happily sampled the Hartzler milk samples while in the long line for four different doughnut vendors. Love their chocolate milk – especially with coffee!

And the winners were:

Judge’s Choice: Circles On The Square
Judge’s Choice runner-up: Peace, Love & Little Donuts
Judge’s Choice 2nd runner-up: Holey Toledough

Crowd Choice: Brewnuts
Crowd Choice runner-up: Fiona’s Coffee Bar & Bakery
Crowd Choice 2nd runner-up: Madsen Donuts

Best Cake: Circle On The Square
Best-raised: Jack Frost Donuts
Best filling: Jack Frost Donuts
Best Classic Donut: Mary Ann Donuts
Most Creative Donut: Holey Toledough

I’ve been all about the paczki in the last couple of weeks, so I think it is fair to say that I am officially doughnuted out for a while. I may or may not attend next year’s Donutfest. The space was really cool, and it was good venue for this event. It was a lot of fun and wasn’t nearly as crowded as Cheese Fest. The doughnuts were all fantastic. But $35 is a lot of money for 11 small doughnuts and a couple coffee samples. If you haven’t done it I can recommend it. Would I do it again? I’m not sure, but I didn’t hate it or regret getting up so early after a late night out at a cooking class at Kitchen 216 and nightcap at Coquette Patisserie.

Disclosure: I bought my own ticket and was not compensated in any way, shape or form for attending.

Contact info:

Donut Fest
Tickets go on sale in early January


The Best Bites of 2017

January 12, 2018

It was quite a year. I started experimenting with sous vide. If you are unfamiliar with sous video, it cooks food that is sealed in air tight bags with an immersion cooker in a water bath. I made ribs, steak, chicken breasts (grilled and as fried chicken), and an amazing garlic-rubbed skirt steak with scallion vinaigrette from the Mozza at Home cookbook, but my absolute favorite meal was a sous vide lobster roll with homemade JoJo potatoes. Although that skirt steak absolutely rocked! I also made creme brulee for Thanksgiving this year using sous vide and a kitchen torch. It was fun! I also learned how to make pierogi and gyoza and ramen at the Western Reserve School of Cooking. But I don’t talk about the food I make here. Onto my favorite bites from Cleveland this year…

I hit a bunch of fish fries and pancake breakfasts. I also ate 40 Days of Sandwiches for Lent. I’ve got to be honest – it was really hard. As Crystal from EatDrinkCleveland remarked, it felt like I was doing 40 Years of Sandwiches. I ate at Crust for the first time. They have some good subs. Some were better than others, and a couple of days I didn’t eat a sandwich for one reason or another. I only threw out one sandwich. I have to say my favorite sandwich (and the one I keep thinking about) was the Green Goddess from Byte Cafe on Superior (see above). It features fresh avocado, goat cheese, basil pesto, arugula, balsamic reduction, roasted walnuts, and salt&pepper on multigrain bread. My photo does not do it justice, so I am using one from Trip Advisor.

After seeing photos from Pranzo Bistro in Willoughby for months on the All Things Food in Cleveland page on Facebook I managed to get a bunch of friends together to check it out. It was a snowy night, but the meal made it absolutely worth the white-knuckle drive. I started off splitting a burrata with asparagus, ordered the Italian wedding soup, and then had an amazing lobster pappardelle. The pappardelle featured homemade noodles, langustino meat, and lobster tail in a cream sauce dressed with fresh arugula. My photo is literally the world’s darkest photo, so I borrowed this one from Corinne D. on Yelp.

I started the year off with a new addiction – the chicken noodle soup at Red Chimney. Someone posted a photo of it, and I could not stop thinking about it. I now get it every time I go there. It is packed with noodles and chunks of chicken, and the broth is super flavorful. Paired with a soft dinner roll or their homemade rye bread you’ve got the perfect meal. Tip: if you go be sure to bring cash! They don’t accept credit cards.

Mason’s Creamery has become a favorite stop this year. They have such playful flavors. I would be hard picked to choose a favorite between their Tang sorbet, Jelly bean sorbet, Oatmeal cream pie, Fried ice cream, and Thai tea ice cream. I usually just stuck with scoops in a cup, but then I finally tried the egg waffle. This egg waffle with Ceylon cinnamon and cafe con leche with Nutella whipped cream really blew me away. I mean, come on, Nutella whipped cream? Amazing! I had taken out-of-town friends here after dinner at Citizen Pie, and they raved about their choices as well.

My friend Nancy invited me to Rosh Hashana this year, and her brisket blew me away. It was so simple, but had such great flavor. She roasted Wagyu brisket from Mister Brisket over San Marzano tomatoes and onions and then pureed them to make a gravy. The entire dinner was divine (I have also started eating apples with honey because of this meal), but this brisket melted in my mouth.

Hatfield’s Goode Grub started out as a food truck and now has a brick and mortar restaurant in Kamm’s Corners. My friends and I met for breakfast back in September, because I saw a photo of a coffee with sprinkles. The coffee was overpowered by the berry syrup (and not in a good way), but this Shrooms and Swiss omelette was a great start to the weekend. It had so much flavor. They are turning out some amazing food at Hatfield’s Goode Grub. Be sure to check it out!

We celebrated my birthday at Boiling Seafood Crawfish. They serve boiled seafood with potato and corn and whatever seasoning you choose in a bag. It’s just messy fun. They give you bibs and plastic gloves, but don’t dress up. You will be covered with messy goodness by the time you are done no matter how careful you are. I built my own and ordered the crab legs and lobster tail. Look at the size of my lobster tail! I treated myself to a slice of Corbo’s Cassata Cake earlier in the day, so it was one of the best days of the year.

My mother and I road tripped to Seabrook Island, South Carolina for the total solar eclipse. I got to experience the eclipse on a beach with a tequila sunrise and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. There were worse ways to spend the day. After a day in the heat we wanted something cool and light. I had brought a sugar kiss melon from Heinen’s down with me because it was about to turn. Mom bought a prepared shrimp salad at Harris Teeter to pair with it along with a steamed lobster tail and some garlic broccoli. It was simple but absolutely succulent.

Tommy’s on Coventry got a little press this year when they shipped a milkshake to a dying woman in Maryland. I was so touched by the story I met friends several times for milkshakes. My usual favorite is banana, but I tried peach as well. I’ve gotta say… I’ve never had a bad milkshake at Tommy’s. I like supporting good people who are compassionate.

After seeing a video of an ooey gooey grilled cheese sandwich posted by someone I follow I had to have it. The grilled cheese was from the Rowley Inn. The Rowley Inn is a dive bar near The Christmas Story House. They recently invited some Cleveland bloggers to a media night, so you might have heard of it from one of them. Anyway, the grilled cheese was really, really good, but I was absolutely blown away by the fries. Such a simple meal, and yet so good! They make their grilled cheese with smoked Gouda and a mozzarella and provolone blend with mayonnaise. I’d never had mayonnaise on a grilled cheese before, but I liked it a lot. It didn’t hurt that I paired the meal with a hard orange soda. It was like meal from childhood, but not.

My friends and I enjoyed a perfect summer evening on the patio of EDWINS in July. After finishing a huge translation I decided to treat myself to Le Burger, which they prepare table-side, and then continued the table-side service with Cherries Jubilee. I loved everything I ate that night – including the broccoli, but the thing that absolutely wowed me was a bite of my friend’s creme brulee. It was the best creme brulee I’ve ever had.

If you asked anyone who ate at Salt+ this year what their favorite thing they ate they are going to tell you it was these duck meatballs. We went for the squid ink paella, but the duck meatballs blew everyone away. I can’t even begin to describe them. The meatballs were savory and peppery, yet light as a feather. The pasta was a perfect al dente. A very welcome plate! I hope they bring it back this year.

This Valrhona dark chocolate brownie topped with housemade blueberry gelato, candied violets and dark chocolate granite paired with Buffalo Bill’s Blueberry Oatmeal Stout was my favorite course at one of many chocolate tastings at Lilly Handmade Chocolates. Each tasting is unique – whether it is Berries and Chocolate, Mead and Mousse, or Deep Dark Reds, champagne, or just various beers. Amanda has a great palate and really knows how to pair things to bring out the best in each.

My list cannot be complete without mentioning my favorite meal in Cleveland – Empress Taytu‘s Chicken Tibs with a side of Tikil Gomen. With several Ethiopian restaurants opening up here in Cleveland recently I still have to say I prefer Empress Taytu (note: I haven’t been to Lucy’s yet). Every once in a while I have a bad day and treat myself to a nice dinner there. It’s my comfort food, and you can’t beat the injera!


Lilly Handmade Chocolates

December 29, 2017

Lilly Handmade Chocolates is worth mentioning here, because it is a great Cleveland destination. When I was at the last event the woman sitting across from me was here from Detroit for a weekend trip on her own to explore. A Google search led her to Lilly’s bubbles and chocolate tasting. Lilly Handmade Chocolates offers great handmade chocolates and does amazing pairings with its chocolates and beer, wine, champagne or cheese. They bill themselves as “chocolatiers that specialize in pairing craft beer & fine wine with our delicious hand made chocolates, both sweet and savory inspired!”

The chocolates here are expensive, but they are handcrafted and so worth it. You will savor every bite. You will pay $2.25 each for a piece of chocolate and can buy a box of 6 for $13 and 12 for $25. Each one packs a tasty wallop, whether it’s rich Valrhona chocolate or fine Swiss white chocolate featuring cinnamon, lime, hazelnut, bourbon or passion fruit. I am not normally a fan of white chocolates, but the Frou-Frou and Maui Wowie truffles are among my absolute favorites. You can buy their chocolate in truffle, bar, bark and seasonal forms. The truffles are gorgeous – each with a distinctive hand-painted decoration. Some of the truffles are mainstays, but some change at whim or with the season. When it comes to seasonal chocolate, their Dreamsicle Bark is the stuff of dreams in the summer and their drinking chocolate has a spicy kick to it that will warm you up in the winter.

They also have a liquor license now, so they can offer cocktails with their chocolates. I can recommend the Fruit Cocktail. It tastes just like a fruit cup. And who doesn’t enjoy a boozy ice cream float even in the winter? You can check out their cocktail menu here.

I started coming here to buy the chocolates, but I am now the Mayor on Swarm because of their special events. Amanda and Josh and all of their employees are super friendly and welcoming, and Amanda has one of the best palates I have ever seen in action. She can bring out flavors in beer or wine that pair perfectly with her amazing chocolates or mousse. OMG, the mousse! I have been there for the beer and mousse tasting, beer and chocolate pairings during Beer Week, beer, cheese and chocolate pairings, deep dark chocolates and deep dark reds pairing, and their anniversary mousse. I have never left disappointed or unhappy.

The wine or beer distributors are sometimes here to explain their product, and sometimes Amanda announces what we are about to eat and drink and why she chose what she did. She always explains that you should take a sip of the beverage and then nibble the chocolate to experience the pairing taste sensation. The products are usually available for purchase after the event. I have been turned on to some great wines and beers because of these events.

I usually can find a parking spot in front of the store, but if no spots are available there is a big parking lot behind the building. So whether you are looking for a special gift or a special night out, be sure to keep Lilly Handmade Chocolates in mind!

Contact info:

Lilly Handmade Chocolates
761 Starkweather Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
(Tremont)
(216) 771-3333


LJ Shanghai

December 21, 2017

There is nothing more satisfying than a dumpling. Just about every culture has dumplings. The most iconic of the Chinese dumpling is the soup dumpling or Xiao Long Bao. The tender pillows of dough are filled with solidified broth or aspic that then liquifies when steamed. Eating a soup dumpling is an art form – put a dumpling carefully on a soup spoon (being careful not to tear it), bite off the top and allow the broth inside to cool for a second before slurping it down and then eating the dumpling. It was not easy to find soup dumplings here in Cleveland. My first experience with them was at Emperor’s Palace, but we had to get there early because they would sell out quickly. I also had them at Bo Loong once, but the soup had seeped out of the dumplings while still on the cart. They were flavorful but had no liquid in them. Well, I am happy to announce that that is no longer the case. Enter LJ Shanghai, which specializes in soup dumplings. It opened in the old Saigon Grille restaurant space, one door over from No. 1 Pho on Superior. They make all their dumplings by hand, but the noodles come from a place in Toronto. They are tender and ethereal. We each got 2, and everyone agreed they would be back for more. The dough was just right, and they were the perfect temperature – no burned mouths to report.

I got together a group of enthusiasts for a visit so we could try their menu – and try the menu we did! We started off with an order of cucumber with garlic and then enjoyed three orders of soup dumplings as well as the veggie and shrimp and pork wonton soups, the Chongqing spicy beef noodle soup, Shanghai Pan Fried Flat Noodles, braised duck in soy sauce, an order of pig ear with chili sauce, and nine Shanghai shrimp & veggie egg rolls (one for each person).

Everyone loved everything – except the pig ear, which everyone was happy to give to the one person in our group who is a pig ear enthusiast. The texture was very off-putting. I had hoped it would be a little crisper. But hey, we at least tried them. Our pig ear enthusiast loved them, so if you like pig ear you’ll be happy.

The duck was okay. Some of us would have preferred it to be a little more crisp. The soy flavor really came out. I unfortunately do not have a photo of it because my shot was too blurry.

I have become a big fan of smashed Chinese cucumbers in the past year or so. This version is more cucumbery than others I have had, with minced garlic clearly visible. The photo shows them with chili sauce, but that wasn’t the case. The cucumbers were fresh, crisp and very lightly pickled, and a nice, refreshing counter to the dumplings and noodles, but I find I prefer to add chili sauce, which can be found on the table along with vinegar (for the soup dumplings) and soy sauce.

I really enjoyed the Shanghai pan fried flat noodles too. They got delivered to the other end of the table, so I wasn’t able to photograph them. They were very simple, but had a great flavor to them.

The soups were a big hit. We passed the bowls around and tried each one. The beef in the spicy beef noodle soup was extremely tender. If you like spicy soup you will love this. I found it a wee too spicy for me, but it slowly grew on me. That said, I fell in love with their wonton soup. The broth is light and has a bright, gingery flavor that I adore. The wonton soups come with 10 handmade wonton dumplings. I preferred the shrimp and pork wonton soup. The filling is densely packed and each one has a full mini-shrimp in it. I’m not sure what the garnish is along with the scallions – it could be seaweed. It doesn’t matter. The whole thing just works together so well. I loved it so much I went back for lunch this week and ordered the cucumbers, shrimp and pork wonton soup and an egg roll. I was tempted to get soup dumplings too, but decided that was too much for one person.

The egg roll is more like a spring roll – it was very thin and crisp with a nice filling. There was no residual oil on the plate, nor did I get any on my fingers when eating it. The soup and egg roll were perfect. I had a few cucumbers and took the rest home for later.

One little side note: I really like their tea cups. They are more substantial than the little finger bowl-sized cups you get at most restaurants and hold more tea. They also have built-in grooves for your fingers to grasp them.

In short, I really enjoyed LJ Shanghai. I am in love with their wonton soup and look forward to eating it all winter. When I went back for lunch the other day on my own I fully planned on bringing half home with me, but I ate all ten dumplings and had to hold myself back from slurping the broth out of the bowl. The gingery flavor of the broth is my new addiction.

Contact info:

LJ Shanghai
3142 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 400-6936


Mason’s Creamery

September 28, 2017

Mason’s Creamery opened in 2015 and has quickly become a favorite ice cream spot for me. They started out making ice cream at local farmer’s markets. Located on Bridge Avenue and W. 44th Street, Mason’s is a small, local business serving high-quality ice cream in all kinds of adventurous flavors. The flavors are constantly changing, so it’s always fun to go and try new things. They are always trying new flavors and are open to suggestions. There are always 16 flavors available, five of which are usually vegan or dairy free. At a place like this it’s worth venturing out of your comfort zone to try the taro, red bean, black sesame, matcha or the chai tea latte ice cream. My absolute favorite so far has been the fried ice cream, but their sorbets are also intriguing (and vegan if you like that sort of thing). They allow you to sample the flavors before you order. They also serve vegan soft serve on Sundays. In addition to scoops in a cup (2 for $4 or 3 for $5.50), you can order your ice cream or sorbet in a waffle cone, with a churro (with or without dipping chocolate), as an iced cream sandwich between warm, fresh cookies or Coquette Patisserie macarons, or nestled in a fluffy egg waffle. They make everything there fresh.

I am usually boring and prefer my ice cream scooped in a cup. It may be austere, but their ice cream is never boring. I’ve enjoyed the Tang sorbet, fried ice cream, Vietnamese coffee, Ceylon Cinnamon, Matcha, Cafe con Leche, Thai iced tea… I could go on. When I had the Tang sorbet I regretted not ordering it with the Thai ice tea because that would have been an amazing dreamsicle-like creation.

I had been wanting to try the egg waffle and I am so glad I finally did, because it is absolutely delicious. It is a great accompaniment to the creamier flavors, and you can imagine my surprise when I was then asked if I wanted regular whipped cream, peanut butter whipped cream or Nutella whipped cream. What? My friends also ordered egg waffles and raved about them. One went with the French toast and is now a HUGE fan, and the other ordered the salted caramel and loved it. I opted for Ceylon Cinnamon and Thai ice tea with Nutella whipped cream. Go big or go home, right?

Pay attention to your spoon. It changes color when it hits the ice cream (you can see it in the photo of the sorbet above). My friend freaked out tonight when I pointed it out and his boring white spoon then turned pink. I love that.

If that isn’t enough, they occasionally do Ramen Nights where they make big pots of ramen and serve it to long lines of ramen enthusiasts until they run out. I have yet to make it to one, but it is on my list of things to do.

Contact info:

Mason’s Creamery
4401 Bridge Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
216) 245-8942