V’s Gourmet Chicken is a tiny little take-out place in a tiny strip mall on Lakeshore Boulevard in Collinwood. It serves without a doubt the best fried chicken in Cleveland. It is take-out only, and every order is prepared fresh, so either call ahead or be prepared to wait. Luckily I live 8 miles from it so it doesn’t get cold, but even if it did the chicken would still be amazing because I’ve had it for leftovers and it stood up.
On a whim I ordered the fried zucchini and was very glad I did. The zucchini is sliced up into circles, breaded and fried. The outside is lightly breaded and crisp, while the inside has a delicious creaminess to it. I can highly recommend them.
The 3 piece fried chicken (wing, thigh and breast) is the most popular item on their menu. I can’t finish the whole 3-pc dinner at once, but it easily makes a couple of meals. The chicken breast alone was almost too big to fit into a Ziplock sandwich bag. I’ve had both the honey crisp and the seasoned breading. There are 8 breadings to choose from: Western, Mild, Honey Crisp, Seasoned, Coconut Crisp, Chipotle and Cajun. I personally like the Honey Crisp and Seasoned chicken. The chicken is crispy, juicy and perfectly seasoned.
Sometimes you don’t want to deal with the bones in fried chicken and might prefer a chicken tender. The chicken tenders are just as good as the fried chicken. They come in 5, 6, 10 or 15 pieces, and you can add a tender to any meal for $1.50 each. They offer the same seasoned breadings and 11 different dipping sauces. You can either get a 3 oz. cup for $0.75 or a 16 oz bottle for $5. The mild sauces are original BBQ, creamy honey mustard, creamy garlic, honey BBQ, honey glaze and teriyaki glaze. The spicy sauces are BBQ chipotle, creamy chipotle, berry jalapeno, creamy hot, Louisiana hot, Buffalo hot and chipotle pepper. I ordered creamy honey mustard and honey BBQ, and I preferred the creamy honey mustard. Get a couple different sauces and an even number of tenders and go to town.
The sides are hit or miss. The first time I had V’s chicken I was less than impressed with the sides. I also didn’t choose well. I’ve found over time that I do adore the coleslaw (nice and creamy with a nice jolt of horseradish). The rest are okay. The rice and greens have an Indian-like flavor profile. I’ve had it on good days and bad. When it’s good it is very good. The mashed potatoes and stuffing and gravy are okay, if a bit salty. The green beans are nothing to write home about, but I also don’t hate them. They are a nice vegetable option. I haven’t tried the JoJos (potato wedges) yet, but I hear they are great. Other choices include rice and beans, potato salad, buttered corn, baked beans and mac n cheese. I enjoy both the honey biscuit and the dinner rolls. If you want a hint of sweet order the honey biscuit. If you want a nice, soft, yeasty roll get the dinner roll.
They also offer ribs, fried fish, sandwiches, and salads, but I am all about the fried chicken.
Don’t forget about dessert! They have huge pieces of cake and cheesecake on offer. I have had the cherry cheesecake and the banana cream cheesecake. If you love banana cream you will love this cheesecake. Both cheesecakes were nice and creamy, but the banana cream cheesecake had me swooning. The cherry cheesecake topping offered a sweet contrast to the creamy cheesecake. I’m not a huge cake person, but everything always looks great.
V’s Gourmet Chicken
15418 Lakeshore Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44110
Open Monday through Saturday from 11 AM to 8 PM and Sunday from 3-7 PM
Is the name Kifaya’s Kitchen or Kafaya’s Kitchen? According to the storefront sign it is Kifaya’s Kitchen, but social media calls it Kafaya’s Kitchen. No matter the spelling, I call it delicious. The phone number on their Facebook page is disconnected. The phone number on Yelp (below) works. Kifaya’s has been in business since 2013. One of my friends had read about it and wanted to try it, so I scheduled an evening with some fellow adventurous diners.
I had never had Somalian food before and didn’t really know what to expect. As anyone who follows me knows, I love being adventurous and will try anything. Ethiopian? Bring it on. Afghani? Yum. Squid on a stick? Yes, please. It turns out Somalian is like a cross between Arabic, Mediterranean and Indian with a little Italian thrown in for good measure.
It is an unassuming storefront on W. 117th. The place itself is very small, and there is a limited menu. You can order goat, chicken, fish, beef or vegetable with pasta or rice. The door was propped open, but since it was 35 degrees out and we were right by the door we asked to close it. It then got quite hot with the door closed. It appears their ventilation system is inadequate.
They were very accommodating for our large group of ten (with a reservation since it was a larger group – I wanted to give them a heads up we were coming). We almost filled up the place on our own, although there were two other tables of diners when we arrived. We sat around a long table and pulled chairs on the ends. I was glad I had called ahead.
Orders are placed at a counter (where you also pay at the end). We ordered in waves in order to not overtax the kitchen, but it turns out that was unnecessary. People who ordered last got served at the same time as the first wave of people who ordered because we had ordered similar things. It took a little longer to get the Kaykay delivered to the table, because it was a little more involved.
There is a sink in the dining room to wash your hands. Beverages and bananas were brought out while we waited for our food. Pro tip: the bananas are not an appetizer. They are to be sliced or mashed and mixed with the rice or pasta. The food was quickly brought to the table, and any minor mix-ups were quickly rectified without complaint.
Everything here is made from scratch, meat tossed upon a large flat-top grill and sautéed with vegetables and an array of spices. The quality of the food was excellent. It is very reminiscent of Indian food, with shai (chai), samosas and jabatic (chapati-like flatbread) served along with stewed or grilled meats and veggies. I ordered the goat with rice and vegetables, and another friend ordered the chicken so that we could try both.
Others in the group enjoyed pasta (angelhair pasta – although they call it spaghetti) or Kaykay (grilled jabatic mixed with goat gravy) instead of rice. The goat had some bones, but it was so tender that the meat easily fell off the bone. I enjoyed the goat, but preferred the chicken. The chicken had a very nice grilled flavor to it. The Basmati rice and sautéed vegetables were absolutely outstanding. The rice is flavored with fenugreek, cumin, coriander, cardamom and turmeric. I loved the sautéed greens, white beans and rice. Other vegetables include peas and carrots, potatoes, and okra. They also served a green chopped salad of greens with cucumber, red onion, green pepper and tomato with fresh lemon for acidity. Squeeze bottles of hot sauce and ranch dressing were delivered to the table, and the server suggested the ranch went particularly well with the chicken. I just put it on my salad, preferring the taste of the meat to be unadulterated.
The jabatic was like Indian griddled bread, but slightly sweet. It was a little greasy, but it was very thin and light, reminiscent of a scallion pancake. It had a slightly sweet flavor to it. We used forks, but I could imagine using the jabatic as a kind of injera to eat the food with our hands.
The kitchen served us chicken samosas when several of the folks had only ordered the beef. The server put it on the table, and we cut it into 8 pieces and shared it. Someone then did the same with the beef samosa. The filling in both samosa was different from Indian samosas. It was ground meat with some onion and no vegetables like the Indian potato and peas that I could see. The samosa themselves were perfectly fried and not at all greasy. The pastry was very delicate, and the filling was very flavorful. I think I preferred the beef over the chicken, but both were lovely.
The beverages are all $1 each. I ordered the shai (Yemeni tea), which I loved. I rarely find a chai that I enjoy. The flavors of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove really shine here. I ordered it with milk, but it is also available without. I find most chais watery. Not so here. It was absolutely perfect. I had also ordered two cans of soda, but since the food was not as spicy as I expected I ended up taking the second can home with me. They had a container of what looked like mango juice in the dining area for people to drink, but it was almost gone by the time we were there.
The portions were enormous, and most of us got boxes for our leftovers. I will be definitely going back again soon. I want to have the chicken again and really want to try the fish as well. If you want to have a fun culinary adventure, I recommend checking out Kifaya’s Kitchen. It is open every day from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m.
I thought fish fry season was over, but it turns out it was only the churches because of their Good Friday services. Restaurants and alternative venues like Big Met Golf Course were still dishing out fish and other Lenten-friendly foods. Being raised Lutheran the only day we really refrain from eating meat is on Good Friday. I usually forget and remember as I bite into a sandwich or enjoy something with bacon. This year I was good and stayed meatless.
I’ve been hearing about La Vera and its fish fry for a few years now. My old hairdresser grew up there and still spends New Year’s Eve there with her family. Her mother is apparently quite well-known there, being an old Italian family in Cleveland (her aunt runs a small place in Little Italy for primarily locals). One of my friends is a huge fan of the fish fry and goes every year (if not twice in the season), so I spontaneously decided to give it a try on Good Friday.
La Vera has been in business as a catering and event center since 1952. It can accommodate events ranging from 100-720 guests for a variety of junctions including weddings, proms, bar and bat mitzvahs, anniversary parties, luncheons, holiday company parties, sales rallies, seminars, auction and fund raisers. So finding parking was not a problem. They have a spacious parking lot in back.
TLDR: I was underwhelmed, but will give it another shot next year.
I rolled up on La Vera just before 6 PM. I figured it was prime fish fry attendance time and expected a line. To my surprise there was only a back up at the entrance due to someone with a walker and a couple other people chit-chatting and blocking the hallway. I followed the guy in front of me to the dining area. The reservations and credit card customers have their own dining room, because he and his wife were sent on their way to the other room. I paid my $11 to the cashier and was shown to a table. I was surprised, because it had been advertised as $12 per person.
The venue itself was very pretty. Ornate statues, mirrors and chandeliers. My mother’s godmother would have felt right at home. And they had a coat room, which was a nice touch.
After sitting for a second I asked the folks at my table what to do. They directed me to the line where they were dishing out two kinds of fish and sides like macaroni and cheese, whipped potatoes, penne in marinara sauce, and cabbage and noodles. I decided to skip the whipped potatoes and got small portions of everything else. My plate was still full. I grabbed a roll, butter, tartar sauce, a plastic container of cole slaw and napkins and silverware. A woman was ladling out soup at the end of the table, but I could not carry it all. I put my plate down at my table and headed back to get salad and a bowl of soup. I also grabbed some non-alcoholic beverages that were lined up on the bar.
Everything was okay. My favorite thing that night was the cole slaw. I don’t know if the regulars were all at Good Friday services, but everything just tasted bland to me. Both the fried beer battered pollock and baked cod were also kind of dry and nothing to get excited about. I ate the pollock and left some cod on the plate. The cabbage and noodles were full of big pieces of cabbage. I almost salted everything up, but resisted. That soup that everyone raves about? The pasta fagioli? I just thought it was meh. Like watered down tomato soup. To be fair, I’m really not a huge fan of tomato soup. The salad was good, with a nice Italian dressing.
On the plus side, I really enjoyed chatting with my table full of strangers. We recommended various fish fries to one another and talked about the crime of big business stealing pensions from hard-working employees. One big plus was that the dessert table was still plentifully stocked when I went to grab some dessert (even though I was full and left a lot on my plate). There were trays of cookies, some jello and slices of cake. I grabbed a small piece of cake, which I found cloyingly sweet, but it grew on me and I enjoyed it. It was nice and moist.
And you can’t beat the price – $11/12 for all-you-can-eat. Unfortunately I can never eat more than one plate at AYCE spots. The guy next to me went back for seconds, and my friend’s friend went back for thirds the last time they were there. So if you value quantity over quality this is the place for you. Like I said, maybe I was just having an off night and am being a little harsh, because I have heard rave reviews from people whose opinions I value.
If you are a regular reader you might have noticed that I enjoy Ethiopian food. I think it’s super fun and has great flavor. A third Ethiopian restaurant just opened in Cleveland – this time on the west side in Old Brooklyn. My friends and I decided to check it out. We were so excited that we didn’t let something like a winter weather advisory stop us. We had planned on meeting at 6:30 but pushed it up a half hour to get a jump on the snow that was supposed to arrive starting at 7 p.m. It was a good thing we did, because driving home several traffic lights were out and power was out at my home from midnight until 11:30 a.m. the next day. Luckily I had kept my leftovers on the back porch.
I arrived after battling rush hour traffic and exploring new-to-me side roads between Cleveland Heights and Old Brooklyn. What would normally take me 20 minutes took me 45. Several of my friends were already there and had ordered beverages. I parked in the large parking lot behind the building and walked around to the front entrance. Don’t be me. There is a door in the back up a couple of stairs. It’s much more convenient.
The place is a little odd. It’s part neighborhood bar and part Ethiopian restaurant. When entering from the front, the neighborhood bar is on the right and the dining room is on the left. If you aren’t greeted right away feel free to seat yourself. They had no Ethiopian beer yet, but had several crappy beers (Budweiser, MGD, Miller, Heineken,
Corona, etc.) to choose from. Pass. Hopefully that changes. E. had ordered a large Yuengling. My other friend had a large vodka and tonic. They also serve Ethiopian honey wine, but I decided to stick with soda since the drive home would be treacherous. Also worth noting: this is the only Ethiopian restaurant that I’ve ever seen with a kids menu and chicken tenders, wings, grilled cheese, and burgers. Guess they are trying to still keep the locals frequenting the bar happy. It’s a shame if the locals don’t try being adventurous, because the Ethiopian food was really good.
We ordered five orders of sambusa to start. We were a little unsure of what we were going to get, because there were two kinds listed on the various menus – one vegetarian with potato, onion, peas and lentils and one with ground beef. Happily we were served the vegetarian ones, because our friend who was running later than me had been craving them
and specifically asked us to order it for her. Lucy’s sambusa uses a different dough than I am used to. They were a little lighter and flakier than the ones I have had in the past, and they were huge. Everyone but me finished both of theirs. I took my second one home for later and reheated it for lunch.
If you’ve read my other Ethiopian restaurant posts here you know that I love tikil gomen, which is the cabbage, carrot and potato dish on their menu they call Alicha Alkilt. I wanted to try one of their tibs, and the Lega Tibs was the only one that served tikil gomen as its side. The others had salad. Lega Tibs are billed as “cubes of lean beef marinated with green pepper, seasoned
butter, exotic spices, onion, rosemary, garlic and fresh cut tomatoes,” but I would swear that it was lamb. The meat was a little tough and gristly. I enjoyed the flavor, and loved the tikil gomen. The seasoning was great in both dishes. I also ordered a side of their homemade cottage cheese. Ethiopian cottage cheese is not as creamy as American cottage cheese, but it does a nice job cutting down on the heat of some dishes.
Three of my friends ordered combination platters – vegetarian, beef, and chicken, respectively, so I was able to try a lot of different things. I absolutely loved the flavor of the Kaywat from the beef combination platter. It was ground beef (not cubes as billed) that were stewed with red hot pepper (berbere – a very typical Ethiopian flavor profile) and flavored with onion, garlic, ginger and seasoned butter. I had a couple bites of that and would definitely order it again in the future.
The vegetarian combination platter features red hot lentils, mild lentils, yellow split peas, shiro, collard greens, cabbage and salad. My friend, who is new to Cleveland and was on a quest to try all of the Ethiopian restaurants in DC before her husband was transferred here, also ordered a Timatim Fit for the table. Timatim Fit is a salad that uses chopped tomatoes, green peppers, lemon, onion and olive oil mixed with pieces of injera. It was a nice version of it.
My other friend ordered the chicken combination platter just to try the Kitfo, which isn’t chicken. Kitfo is Ethiopian steak tartar made with lean chopped beef, seasoned with spiced butter, cardamom and mitmita (a powdered seasoning mix that is orange-red in color and contains ground African bird’s eye chili peppers, cardamom seed, cloves, and salt). They serve the kitfo either raw, rare, or medium, so don’t let the tartar of it all scare you off. It came out medium on the combination platter. It was very tender and flavorful. The fifth person in our intrepid band loves raw Kitfo, so I knew he would be ordering that. He enjoyed it and had no leftovers either.
Dorowat can be quite spicy, but it is one of the most popular and well-known Ethiopian dishes. The different lentil dishes have different spices and flavor profiles. The red lentils can be quite spicy. The collard greens are tender and have a nice flavor. The cabbage, carrot and potato (tikil gomen) is not spicy at all and has a lot of tumeric. I make it at home sometimes.
Everyone really enjoyed their meals. Ethiopian can be deceiving, because when you get the food put in front of you it doesn’t look like it would be filling. However, the injera you use to eat the food with expands and fills you up. My ex-boyfriend and I used to split a vegetarian combo between the two of us at Empress Taytu, so I was prepared to bring home leftovers to enjoy the next day. Most of us did. I was very impressed that my friend with the beef combination platter finished hers. She said it was just so good she couldn’t stop eating it.
I’ve hopefully intrigued you enough to give it a try if you haven’t yet. The service was a little slow, but they were very friendly and kept coming out to update us on the status of our orders. We were enjoying ourselves, so it didn’t really bother us. When we ventured out into the snowy tundra she came running after us because one of us had forgotten their leftovers. We were cleaning off our cars, so none of us had left yet. The drive home was a bit harrowing, but we all made it home safe and had full bellies.
When it is snowing I really have to motivate myself to venture out. I was very tempted to blow it off and stay in tonight, but I am so glad I didn’t. Several of my friends were feeling under the weather today, so instead of six we were three. The decision had been made to go to St. Dominic’s in Shaker Heights. It has a good reputation, apparently being voted by Sun News readers to be “the best in the Heights and Hillcrest areas in an online poll that saw the parish receiving 44 percent of the roughly 400 ballots cast.” Unlike other fish fries, St. Dominic also accepts reservations for parties of 10 or more. They offer 36 tables as well as a private dining room for groups looking to enjoy a more intimate dining experience. That said, it was not crowded like some of the more popular fish fries I’ve been to, and we easily found seats together.
I got there tonight at 6:30. It was a whopping 15 minute drive from my home, so a little snow did not scare me off. I pulled into the parking lot, but was unable to find a spot. So I pulled out and circled back around and parked in one of the snowed-over RTA parking lots on the other side of the street. As I was walking up to the church a car slowed down next to me asking if I was walking to my car. I had to disappoint him and he probably also ended up parking on the street.
There was not much of a line to pay. I was behind two small groups. They have a table to the left for credit cards and to the right for cash payments. My meal totaled $18 – $12 for the dinner, $4 for clam chowder and $2 for 2 cans of soda. The man who waited on me was running out of ones, but I happily gave him a twenty, a five and three ones in exchange for a ten.
My friend and I waited in the lobby for our other friends (resisting the siren calls of the Girl Scout cookie table – a valiant effort if you ask me). Once our third friend arrived and the fourth texted back saying she was still waiting for her daughter, we got into what we thought was the food line. We stood for about 5 minutes chatting until someone realized we were holding dine-in receipts and directed us from the take-out line to the dine-in line. Oops. We queued for our food and grabbed a cafeteria tray in the cafeteria window decorated with fancy fish made of hearts, markers and glitter. A table was set up in front of it with dessert choices. I chose the (food service) eclairs, because I love a good cream puff with custard. The efficient person behind the window organized my food and I was on my way. She explained that the condiments and plastic ware were on the table. I set my food down and headed to the beverage table. One of my other friends grabbed some tea from the tea and coffee table (it came with the dinner). I was totally tickled when I noticed that the bread rolls were German bread rolls. I had a Vollkornbrotchen, my friend directly to my right had a round Austrian Semmel, and my third friend had a German Brotchen. I suspect Zoss the Swiss Baker had a hand in the bread offerings.
My friends and I tucked into our meals and chatted for a bit. We also enjoyed the musical stylings of a high school barbershop quartet that was entertaining the room. I had ordered the fish and shrimp combo. I very much enjoyed the shrimp. The fish had a crispy, golden-brown exterior and soft, moist interior (as you can see below). My fries were very crunchy, which is not my preference, so I ended up leaving most of them on my plate at the end of my meal. The coleslaw was definitely homemade and was nice.
My friends raved about the sweet potato. Not too many fish fries offer sweet potato. One of my friends had never been to a fish fry before because she doesn’t like fish and has a food intolerance to potatoes. The shrimp and sweet potato convinced her to join us, and I’m fairly certain she had a good time.
The thing I love about Cleveland and local fish fries is sometimes you run into people you know. Not only did I run into someone I knew from Meetup in the lobby as she and her family were leaving, but I ran into a friend from my undergraduate days at BGSU. Her best friend was my residence hall adviser and all-around cool chick. I was thrilled when she sat down at our table with her husband and mother. I hadn’t seen her since we graduated in 1992. We had a good time catching up, and I added her and her husband to my dining out group so I look forward to catching up more in the future.
All in all, this was a decent fish fry and a wonderful evening out. We closed the place down and left shortly before 8 PM. We bused our trays and headed out into the night.
The St. Dominic fish fry will continue from 5-8 p.m. through Lent.
I missed last week because I was sick, so even though it says fish fry #2 it is week 3 already – we’re already halfway finished with Lenten fish fry season.
They say old-time neighborhood holes-in-the-wall serve the best burgers and fried fish. They would be right when it comes to the Ridgewood Inn. It has a lot of old-time ambiance. Dark red walls and wood. They were screening old Charlie Chaplin movies (including The Great Dictator) on one TV while playing tunes from the 1950s over the speakers. The place exudes “dive” from the worn chairs to the paper placemats.
Located on Ridge Road just north of Snow Road, it was easy to get to from the Heights taking I-176 and I-480. Parking is easy. The lot behind the building was full, but there was a sign directing us across the street behind Barabicu Smokehouse. I entered through the front, but there is a back door from the parking lot. The staff was friendly. Our server has worked there for 17 years and it showed in her no-nonsense service. They make the food as they go and it seems as if the kitchen is small. We were not in a hurry and weren’t offended when half the table were served their food and the other had to wait for the next batch. During Lent they serve a limited menu – all seafood – from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. We went at 1 for lunch to make sure they didn’t run out of anything. It was easy to hear everyone at that time, but I’ve heard of lines for dinner during Lent. If you want cheap classic beer and drinks and want pierogi that will fill you up and then some, all for a great price then this is the place for you.
First things first, we ordered drinks, and the server brought out a plate of soft rye bread and semi-soft butter pats. I had two slices of bread slathered with butter and had to refrain from eating more. I was the only one of my group that ordered a beer, but I figured it would go nicely with the fish. I also ordered a ginger ale to make sure I didn’t drink my beer to fast.
They serve a nice selection of fish – Sauger pike, beer battered cod, yellow perch, and baked scrod. I ordered the yellow perch, which wasn’t on the printed menu but was on offer if you knew to ask for it. I got five pieces of perch, two pierogi (one sauerkraut, one potato – fried instead of boiled), and coleslaw for $16.50. A little ramekin of sour cream was 35 cents. The perch were nicely fried and were not greasy. The pierogi were deep-fried to perfection with lots of butter and caramelized onion. The sauerkraut pierogi was indicated with the little yellow sword. I think I liked it better than the potato pierogi, which is saying something. The sauerkraut was nicely caramelized and sweet, not sour. The coleslaw was a nice, creamy version that I enjoyed a lot.
I was very tempted to order the fried scallops, because you rarely see fried scallops on a menu anywhere. The choice of fried scallops, fried clam strips or fried shrimp. My friend ordered the fried scallops with two potato pierogi (boiled) for I think around $13.50. I ordered one to go for later with the boiled pierogi and enjoyed the sweet, deep-fried nuggets a lot. Some of my friends were not that impressed with the pierogi, which were rather large and a little tough. I think the deep-fried pierogi were better than the boiled. They seemed a bit more tender. All of the pierogi were obviously handmade. But if you ask me any pierogi is a good pierogi (except maybe Mrs. T’s).
They also serve half orders of their fish dinners available as well that come with half the fish (2 1/2 or so), one pierogi and coleslaw. One of my other friends ordered that because she was hard-core and meeting friends with her husband that night for another fish fry. One of my friends ordered the large cabbage and noodles ($4) to share, and it was a really nice, tender, flavorful version with well-cooked cabbage and noodles.
The server was really good and reminded me not to forget my fried scallops to go. She kept our drinks refilled and was on top of anything we needed. We were able to get an extra plastic bottle of tartar sauce for our table, and she even brought us a plate of lemons when someone asked for them.
Everyone enjoyed their fish fry lunch today and hitting some of the spots in the area like Barabicu, Rudy’s and Chuppa’s afterwards. I went home to take a nap since my power went out at midnight the night before and had just come on when I left to meet them for lunch at 12:30. My verdict: it wasn’t the best fish fry I’ve ever had, but it was a nice solid choice.
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.
3142 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114 (216) 400-6936