Noodlecat

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My friends and I ate at Noodlecat last night, and I can honestly say that I don’t know what has taken me so long to eat there. My only excuse is that I don’t usually eat downtown, and was reminded of why when I had to pay almost $10 to park since House of Blues was having some special event that night. Yes, I am a spoiled suburbanite (if Cleveland Heights can be considered the suburbs – but I gladly pay a couple quarters at their meters…). That said, I do occasionally eat in the Warehouse District, but generally can find a cheap spot on the street or cough up $5 for a spot in the parking lot. It’s not that I mind paying to park, but when there are so many other options that don’t necessitate paying half to one-fourth of the cost of the meal… Unfortunately there were no available spots on Prospect or Euclid, so I valeted it on E. 4th.

Noodlecat is unpretentious and casual, using recycled materials in the same way as The Greenhouse Tavern. Being an environmentalist from way back (since the 1980s) I love that. My only complaint about the decor is that the chair started becoming uncomfortable after an hour and a half. In short, my butt hurt from sitting on the little metal chair, and my fellow diners told me the wood bench wasn’t much better.

Kim Chee salad

Those are the only two negatives I have to report. In short, the food was simply amazing, and I take it as a good sign that I am craving the food the next day. If you are a fan of pho or ramen you will be quite pleased with what they serve. It was a happy accident that I scheduled our dinner for 6:30, which was at the tail end of their happy hour. All the ramen was $5 and the steam buns were just $2. I walked away paying just $20 including tip.

I started off by ordering a sparkling sake, which was on draft and only $4. Win! The sake was just what I wanted/needed. It was light and just a little sweet. Choosing an entree was a difficult decision. I was tempted to order Roscoe’s Fried Chicken & Ramen with fried chicken, butter, hot sauce, maple syrup, greens and fried chicken broth, but changed my mind when I heard the chicken was bone-in. Three of my fellow diners ordered it and loved it. They did, however, have trouble getting the meat off the bone with only chopsticks and an Asian-style soup spoon.

Chicken yakitori steam bun

One of my fellow diners ordered the Kim Chee Salad with Napa cabbage, sweet pureed kim chee, cashews, peanuts and pickled melon. Not being a fan of kim chee but willing to keep an open mind I was able to try several bites. The salad was flavorful and had a subtle heat that snuck up on you. Another friend ordered the “Super” Salad with adzuki beans, local greens, dry blueberry, savory green tea granola and ancient grains. He loved it and even pointed out to the waiter that there wasn’t a drop left.

Pork miso ramen

I decided to go with a chicken yakitori steam bun with pickled carrots, miso mayo and cilantro, which I enjoyed. However, as luck would have it our waiter had accidentally ordered two Tonkatsu buns that featured a crispy fried pork cutlet and smoked egg sauce. I told him I would be happy to pay for one of them, and I am so glad I did because it was my favorite part of the meal (and that is saying a lot). It was a taste explosion of goodness.

Green tea pot de creme

For my entree I ordered a bowl of the pork miso ramen, which features roasted Ohio pork, miso, scallions and greens. The noodles and roasted pork were perfectly cooked, and the broth was so flavorful and delicious that I drank up every last drop.

I ended my meal with the green tea pot de creme. I love green tea ice cream, and the pot de creme was absolutely perfect. The consistency was firm and not runny, and the flavor was light and balanced. The shaved chocolate on top was a nice complement to the green tea pot de creme. The waiter informed us that the chef had spent two weeks working to perfect it. I say thumbs up!

Several of us headed over to the Chocolate Bar for a night cap afterward. Since the temperature had dropped 40 degrees in a day I was chilled and chose the caramel and sea salt hot chocolate. It was creamy and delicious. The perfect ending to a perfect meal.

Contact info:

Noodlecat
234 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
(216) 589-0007

Babushka’s Kitchen in Independence

in-memoriam-graphicMy dining out group recently ate at Babushka’s Kitchen in Independence. The restaurant in Northfield was closed for renovations at the time, so we decided to check out the newest location in Independence. It is worth mentioning that it is impossible to see from the street. It is tucked in the middle of the Independence Square shopping plaza. Look for the shopping plaza with the Independence water tower on the periphery, and you’ll know you are in the right place. Thank heavens for GPS, because I never would have found it otherwise.

The restaurant is a “casual quick-service style cafe” featuring pierogi, stuffed cabbage, kielbasi, roast pork, dumplings and all those Eastern European favorites. You order at the register in the front of the restaurant, you are given a number, and the kitchen staff brings your order out to you from the kitchen in the back. This isn’t fancy dining by any stretch of the imagination, but if you want comfort food your grandmother (well, okay, *my* Ukrainian grandmother) used to make you will be very pleased.

The pierogi are to die for! They are advertised as jumbo pierogi, and boy are they. The night we were there they had several flavors on offer – potato, potato and cheddar cheese, mushroom and Swiss, and sauerkraut. There was one other flavor, but I don’t remember what it was and I can’t read it on the dry erase board in the photo.

They offer several platters to allow new customers to try a variety of their entrees. The platters come with your choice of one or two side dishes, which include soup, green beans, kraut & noodles, mashed potatoes & gravy (red or brown), and cinnamon applesauce. There may be one or two that I can’t remember. The tables were practically groaning from all the food that was brought out. No one went home hungry – that is for sure!

I chose Grandma Olga’s Favorite, which features two of the jumbo pierogi with grilled onions and sour cream, two side dishes and a slice of rye bread and butter. I also ordered a cabbage roll on the side. It was HUGE! One of these and a side would have completely sufficed. For my side dishes I chose the applesauce and green beans and bacon. The beans were canned not fresh, but I am a huge fan of canned beans and prefer them over fresh (I blame my school lunch indoctrination). The cinnamon apple sauce was perfectly seasoned and was the perfect accompaniment to the heavy entrees. I wasn’t that thrilled with the cabbage roll, but I have high standards. It was simply too sweet for my tastes. I prefer Sokolowski’s cabbage roll because it is more savory than sweet. Other people loved it. I absolutely adored the jumbo pierogi. I chose a mushroom and Swiss and a potato and cheddar. Both were delicious. One of my fellow diners also gave me his side of kraut and dumplings, which was also quite tasty (although the kraut was slightly overcooked). I had so much food that I took most of it home.

I am intrigued by The Warsaw, which is a large potato pancake layered with grilled onions, sliced pork loin, sauerkraut, pork gravy, then topped with another potato pancake and a dollop of sour cream, served with any side dish or cup of chicken noodle soup. I will probably get this next time. No one ordered this that night, but my friend M. ordered a potato pancake as a side (see above photo of the pierogi platter) and several people had the roasted pork with their meal and loved them.

If you can’t decide what to order, I suggest getting the Hunter’s Feast, which features one stuffed cabbage, a link of smoked kielbasa, roasted pork with sauerkraut & dumplings, one jumbo potato & cheese pierogi with grilled onion and sour cream and your choice of two side dishes, or the Gatherer’s Platter (photo above on the beige platter), which features one stuffed cabbage, one jumbo potato & cheddar cheese pierogi with grilled onions & sour cream plus your choice of one side dish. You will be stuffed!

I bought two dozen kolachky, which were just as good (if not better!) than my grandmother used to make, to share among my fellow diners and took the leftover kolachky home. I need to go back for more soon! The kolachky were flaky and melted in our mouths. The only flavor left by the time I bought them was raspberry, but that was fine with me because that happens to be my favorite. Apricot would be a close second.

Contact info:

Babushka’s Kitchen

6531 Brecksville Rd
Independence, OH
(216) 447-9275

9199 Olde 8 Road
Northfield Center, OH
(330) 468-0402

Frank & Pauly’s is now in Mentor – and is sublime

in-memoriam-graphicFrank and Pauly’s opened its first restaurant in 1993 on Public Square in the BP Building. I remember eating there and being impressed by the food. We ordered several family style entrees that night, and I remember going back to my room at the Ritz Carlton a very happy translator. The restaurant closed shortly after that. It reopened briefly in Independence, and I ate there once with the executive board of my local translators group.

Frank and Pauly’s is now open in Mentor at The Sawyer House, which is on the National Register of Historic places as one of the only Stone Homes in Lake County. Owner Dennis Koury is using his brother Wayne Koury’s (founder of Frank and Pauly’s) recipes. They take care to use fresh ingredients and import quality pasta and cheese from Italy. When I heard the news that Frank and Pauly’s was now in Mentor I knew this would be the perfect venue for my new dining out group and quickly scheduled a dinner. I apologize for the darkness of the photos, but I didn’t want to detract from the other diners’ enjoyment by turning on my flash.

The Sawyer House is a gorgeous venue. We were immediately blown away by the sumptuous woodwork and cozy dining room. We were seated at a round table, which pleased us to no end because it allowed us all to talk with everyone in the group. We started the evening off with cocktails. I am a sucker for dreamsicles, so when I saw the Orange Dreamsicle on the menu I was thrilled. It was a delicious cocktail. I then switched to red wine with dinner, but a cocktail was the perfect way to take the edge off the day.

The group ordered several appetizers for the table to share. The bruschetta was delicious (unfortunately I wasn’t able to photograph it). The Roma tomatoes were plump and luscious, the crostini bread was soft and had a good bite to it, and the balsamic dressing was really delicious. I can’t wait to go back and order it again. We also split several grilled flatbreads, featuring arugula, Ohio Creamery goat cheese, lemon, garlic and oil. The arugula was a bit dry for my taste (being grilled), but the goat cheese paired really well with the arugula and the lemon and garlic kicked it up a notch.

We also ordered two family style salads to share. The Frank & Pauly’s salad with mixed greens, crispy prosciutto, crumbled gorgonzola and red onions did not disappoint. It was very flavorful and just as good as I remembered it. The second salad, the cranberry walnut salad, was my favorite of the two though. It featured mixed greens, dried cranberries, candied walnuts, croutons, green onions, and creamy goat cheese and was topped with a delicious raspberry vinaigrette.

I ordered the spaghetti and meat sauce. The pasta was al dente, and the meat sauce was very flavorful. I liked it, but I wasn’t thrilled with it. I love a good Bolognese, but I have very high standards. No meat sauce measures up to the Bolognese I had at a little hole-in-the-wall Italian place down in Cincinnati. It probably isn’t fair to compare, but that’s what diners do all the time. Don’t get me wrong, this was a very tasty meat sauce of fresh ground beef, veal, pork and is definitely worth ordering. That said, the addition of hunks of crispy prosciutto might kick this meat sauce up a notch.

When I go back to Frank & Pauly’s I will definitely order the lasagna, because both people at our table adored their meal. Everyone else was very pleased with their entrees, from the fuscilli vegetable ricotta sauce, mostaccioli eggplant marinara, eggplant parmesan (R. ate the entire entree so it must have been good), veal piccata, and the stuffed shrimp scampi, which were the special that night.

The service at Frank & Pauly’s was impeccable. Our waitress was very attentive and had no problems with separate checks for our table of ten. The timing of the food was perfect, and she even waited to put our entree orders in to allow one of our latecomers to eat with the group (we had just finished ordering when she arrived). Our water glasses were topped up several times, and everyone was very friendly. I can’t wait to go back to this little gem in Lake County. It is well worth the drive! Everyone at my table agreed.

Contact info:

Frank & Pauly’s
at “The Sawyer House”
9470 Mentor Ave, Mentor Ohio
(440) 392-9500

Istanbul Grill

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If you are looking for a good Mediterranean restaurant, you can’t go wrong with the Istanbul Grill in Tremont. The Istanbul Grill was established in 2010 in the historic Tremont neighborhood at the south end of Professor, near the St. Teodosious Church and Lucky’s Cafe. The food is fresh and very flavorful.

As we walked in the door we were greeted enthusiastically and shown to our tables. Our group of 20 was seated at three separate tables, one of which was in an alcove on the upper floor, but no one cared after the food came out. The service was attentive, and the food was delicious. The atmosphere in the restaurant was simple, clean, and modern yet warm. I have heard wonderful things about the patio, although I haven’t had a chance to check it out.

I like to start my meal off with a beverage (in the case of Turkish cuisine I like to enjoy an apple tea), and the Istanbul Grill didn’t disappoint. This fruity flavored delight is much more popular in the Turkish culture than traditional tea and coffee. In fact it is regarded as the national soft drink of Turkey.

My friend is a vegetarian, so we ordered several vegetarian appetizers. I wasn’t quick enough to photograph the baba gannush (chargrilled eggplant pureed with olive oil, lemon and garlic) before she dug in. The baba was fresh and delicious. You could taste that it was freshly prepared on site. The other appetizer – the soslu patlican (pictured to the left) – featured chopped eggplant cooked in a moderately spicy sauce of fresh tomato, green pepper, garlic, onions and parsley) was also quite fresh. Of the two I preferred the baba, but I am not a huge eggplant fan.

When it comes to Turkish food, my entree of choice is usually the Chicken Adana, although Doner Kebab is a close second. I ordered the Adana kebab (ground chicken and beef grilled on skewers), which was flavorful, and the meat was perfectly cooked – crispy on the outside, yet juicy from the inside, seasoned to perfection. The rice was flaky and a nice complement to the meat. Since I have a dairy allergy I did not order the yogurt kebabs, although several people did and raved about them.

My friend ordered the Sigara Börek on Mediterranean Salad. The “cigars” filled with feta cheese and parsley were artfully placed over the bed of greens, and she loved her choice.

No meal is complete without dessert, and the Istanbul Grill didn’t disappoint. Our group tends to order several desserts and shares them. In this case, the baklava was fresh and tender, and the Kadayif (shredded pastry dough stuffed with walnuts, baked, and topped with
chopped pistachios) was a delight. And of course no meal is complete without a Turkish coffee.

The members of my dining out group couldn’t wait to go back, and have mentioned it several times since our meal. The vegetarians in the group were especially pleased with their meals. If you are looking for an affordable yet tasty meal, you can’t go wrong with the Istanbul Grill in Tremont.

Contact info:

Istanbul Grill
2505 Professor Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 298-4450

Mekong River

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One of my New Year’s resolutions is to stop ignoring this blog, so I intend to post at least one post a month. Let’s see if I can do better than last time. If I don’t, feel free to get on my case.

Tangerine Tilapia

I have been hearing about Mekong River for several years now and finally got a chance to check them out. I initially stopped by on a whim because I was craving fish, so I whipped out my smartphone, googled them while in the Beachwood library parking lot and called my carryout order in. I was surprised to find this place practically empty when I got there, although there was another woman waiting for her carryout order as well. She told me she and her husband get take-out from Mekong every week and recommended I try the Crystal Noodle Soup.

Crystal Noodle Soup

I was not disappointed. I had ordered the Cambodian eggrolls and Tangerine Tilapia and liked it so much that I brought my mother there the next night to try the tilapia as well. She has dietary restrictions and I knew it would be perfect for her. She loved it too. It is bright and fresh and served with steamed broccoli. The fish is lightly fried and flaky and tender, and the tangerine is served in slices on top of the fish. I have noted that the in-house servings are larger than the carryout servings, so if you are hungry try to eat there.

I also tried the Crystal Noodle Soup the second night, and it was delicious. The broth was light, and the cabbage was not overcooked and had a good bite to it. The pork was cooked perfectly, and the fresh cilantro on top really made the soup excel.

Thai Curry Puffs

Several tips on Foursquare recommend the Thai Curry Puffs, and they are not wrong! The curry puffs are amazingly light and flavorful. I could easily eat these and the tilapia for the rest of my life and be blissfully happy.

Cambodian Crepe

One thing to note about Mekong River is that the food is outstanding, but the service is lacking. I have heard several stories of bad service here, and witnessed it myself when my dining out group met there last week. One of my members may or may not have ordered the Tangerine Duck instead of the tilapia. I didn’t hear him order, so I don’t know if he made the mistake or the waiter did. However, the waiter’s response was unbelievably rude. He got upset with us, gave the tilapia to my friend, and then no longer came out to serve us. I was left sitting there with no meal for about five minutes. The owner then came out asking which of us had ordered the duck and I responded that none of us had. The kitchen then proceeded to cook another tilapia for me, which I was given shortly before everyone was finished with their meals. Luckily everyone in our group shares their meals, so I did not go hungry and ended up boxing almost the entire entree to take home.

Red Tom Kha Kai

We also had to ask for the Cambodian crepe after a while, because I was not the only person without her meal. I tried the crepe as well. The crepe is an egg crepe, but it could have been more flavorful. I took a Viking Cooking School class on Vietnamese cooking, and the crepe we cooked there was much more flavorful. The crepe here seemed more like an omelette than a crepe.

One thing I should note is that the place is freezing (especially the bathroom), so dress warmly in the winter. Or order tea and a soup to start to warm yourself up! The temperature of the restaurant and the service aren’t going to stop me from frequenting there, but I certainly won’t go there if I am in a hurry! Nor will I go there again with a large group.

Contact info:

Mekong River
1918 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118-2125
(216) 371-9575

Brasa Grill Steakhouse

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Brasa closed in November 2018. I will miss the delicious skewers of meat and amazing salad bar, but luckily we have Rodizio Grill in Valley View and Texas de Brazil on the east (Woodmere) and west (Crocker Park) sides in case you have a craving for skewers of meat.

brasaI love Brazilian steakhouses. Brazilian steakhouses feature skewered cuts of meat grilled over a wood burning fire and sliced into thin, succulent pieces (churrasco) and served to you continuously at your table from skewers. They also feature an all-you-can-eat salad bar. When you want some meat, you flip the table-side card to green and when you need a break you flip the card to red. My first experience was in Cincinnati at Boi Nai Brasa. As a beginner I had no idea what to expect and filled up on its truly outstanding salad bar and barely had any room for the delicious grilled meats.brasa1

I didn’t make the mistake at The Brasa Grill Steakhouse, which is located in Cleveland’s Warehouse District. Brasa is a truly unique restaurant for Cleveland. For $35 you can eat your choice of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, sausage, and turkey. If you love meat, this is the place for you. You can also pay $25 for just the salad bar, but why would you when brasa2you can eat your fill of prime rib, filet, chicken and lamb? Dinner starts off with a selection of appetizers and a trip to the salad bar. The salad bar features 40 different salads, vegetables, seafood and pastas.

Then the fun begins. Gauchos walk around the dining room with skewers of meat, announcing which cuts brasa3they are offering. When you would like a piece, they slice off a generous portion and you use your tongs to transfer it to your plate.

Definitely go there hungry. This is not a place for the faint-hearted. Also, be sure to allow yourself plenty of time. The food is best enjoyed in a leisurely fashion.

Contact info:

1300 West 9th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44113
(216) 575-0699

Romanini’s in Aurora

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I’ve heard good things about Romanini’s in Aurora and figured I should see for myself. The original plan was to meet friends there for dinner to carb up the night before the Cleveland 3-Day a few weeks ago, but life got in the way and we agreed on a raincheck. The night we were there was probably one of the best nights to sit outside we’ve had all year. Not too hot, not too cool – but just right.

First of all, valet parking is mandatory and complementary. It is also a necessity, because Romanini’s does not have many parking spaces and there aren’t many parking options in the immediate area. Be sure to plan accordingly to have money to tip the valet after your meal.

Romanini’s menu reflects the wide range of cuisines – the small plates and entree sections are broken down into Asian, Southwestern and Italian. It was hard to decide from such diverse choices. I’m going to have to try the mussels the next time I’m there. I just have to decide which ones to try. There are three options…

100_0969My friends were seated at the bar, enjoying a stemless glass of wine, when I arrived. Since the evening was so beautiful we chose to sit on the outside patio. The patio overlooks a body of water, and there were kayakers cruising back and forth on the water that night. It was very peaceful.

The first order of business for me was a cocktail. I tried the Romaninitini and then followed it with the New Age Martini, which the table next to us was enjoying, and it very refreshing. Both cocktails were very light and fruity. The New Age Martini relied on sparking white wine and fruit, but it was not too sweet. It was quite nice.

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Romaninintini

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New Age Martini

Gretchen and I split the vegetable tempura and sushi appetizer. I’m not a fan of tempura (I find it generally too greasy and not very savory), but the sushi 100_0970was delicious. I only wish there were several more pieces of it. The tempura was batter-dipped vegetable slices of eggplant, carrot, and zucchini and a shrimp, which we divided in two to try each one.

One of the servers suggested ordering several small plates, but we decided to order entrees. The entrees come with a choice of three salads and the vegetable of the day. Jon and I chose the Caesar salad with roasted red peppers, which was delicious, while Gretchen ordered the house salad.

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Caesar salad with roasted red peppers

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House garden salad

100_0974I had chosen Romanini’s for the spaghetti and meatballs, but once I saw trout on the menu I had to order it. This trout was rainbow trout stuffed with crab and wrapped with pancetta. It was served with sauteed yellow and green zucchini. It was delicious – and just as good the next day.

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Jon ordered the Meza Rigatoni Bolognese and offered me a taste, which was good. However, it isn’t like any Bolognese I’ve ever seen/enjoyed. It features beef short ribs and hot Italian sausage in the sauce, but most Bolognese I have enjoyed are usually piled with meat. But I’m not ripping on this version, because it was delicious. The fresh chopped basil was a nice touch.

100_0976Gretchen wanted the halibut, but they were out. She ordered another fish (I think it was haddock?) with a sweet mushroom sauce. She was surprised by the sweetness of the sauce, but said it complemented the fish very nicely.

We were too full for dessert, but the choices were so tempting that Gretchen ordered a cannoli for the three of us. It was a nice way to round out the evening, but I would have probably ordered the Derby Pie.

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Contact info:

Romanini’s
238 Garfield Route 82
Aurora, OH 44202
330-562-1205

Akira Hibachi in Solon

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I just enjoyed a very pleasant meal tonight at Akira Hibachi in Solon. When I was younger the idea of eating “raw fish” was not appealing, but I became hooked on it while living in Germany of all places. Did you know that Düsseldorf has a very large Japanese population? I had the best green tea ice cream there and have never been able to find a comparable green tea ice cream since.

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The hibachi chef keeps everyone entertained

I have eaten at a lot of sushi places in Cleveland, and I have to say Akira Hibachi is at the top of my list for sushi as well as hibachi. Sure, it is within walking distance of my home (lucky me), but the sushi is consistently fresh and delicious and is worth the drive. You can tell that this independent restaurant is a labor of love, because Anna the owner is almost always present, greeting guests like old friends and circulating through the dining room and stopping at the tables to chat.

The hibachi chefs have a sense of humor and really put on a show, and you definitely walk out of there full and happy. The hibachi offers a nice mix of meat, vegetables and rice with flavorful dipping sauces. The grilled shrimp appetizers are nice too – but not if you are out to dinner with a vegetarian (on second thought, you get your dinner companion’s appetizer, so I recommended it!). Hibachi entrees come with miso soup and salad.

Tonight my neighbor Kim and I spontaneously decided to go out for sushi, which to be honest happens quite often. I had delivered batch 4 of a rather large translation project today and wanted to celebrate. I had tried the Iidako Nigiri last Saturday when I ordered sushi to eat at home after my training walk for the Breast Cancer 3-Day, and I was craving it again. It did not disappoint.

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Seaweed salad

I always start my meal with a martini there. The Cherry Bomb (featuring Three Olives Cherry Vodka) is always delicious and refreshing. My friend Kim ordered a Sam Adams. Akira also serves Kendall Jackson Chardonnay, which pairs really well with sushi. We are creatures of habit, so Kim ordered the seaweed salad and I ordered the miso soup and house salad. The miso soup has fresh seaweed and generous cubes of tofu in a delicious broth. The ginger dressing on the house salad is light and refreshing and can be quite addictive as well.

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Miso soup

We tend to order a la carte because we have our favorites. Tonight I ordered two orders of the Iidako (baby octopus) Nigiri, the Philadelphia Maki (rolls with seawood with salmon, cream cheese and scallion), and the Rainbow Roll Futomaki (double size maki roll of tuna, whitefish, salmon, yellowtail and shrimp wrapped around the California Maki). Kim ordered the Tobiko (flying fish roe) Nigiri, Lobster Maki (lobster, lettuce and tobiko) and the Nama Sake Nigiri (fresh salmon). Other favorites on the menu include the Cloud 9 Maki (sushi roll with shrimp, mango and sour cream), the Volcano Roll (with shrimp tempura, conch, tobiko and spicy mayonnaise)  and anything with the Toro (marble tuna). Akira is one of the few sushi places that serves Toro. The toro is sold at market price and simply melts in your mouth. If you are looking for a treat and it is on the special board, I suggest you try it.

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Philadelphia Maki (left), Rainbow Roll (back), Iidako Nigiri (right)

Sushi newcomers might want to start with smoked salmon, shrimp (always cooked) or crab stick and work into the raw fish selections. You may soon find yourself happily dining on Unagi (eel, which is rather sweet and quite delicious) and Iidako. It’s the pickled ginger and the mixture of wasabi, soy sauce and sushi. I crave it constantly.

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Left to right: Salmon Nigiri, Lobster Maki and Tobiko Nigiri

Online reviews of Akira (and past personal experience) complain of slow service, but we have noticed that the service at Akira has really improved. Our servers have been extremely attentive the last few times we have been there. Our server was surprised how fast our sushi was up.

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Akira’s sushi bar

When we left at 7:30 there were lots of folks standing in the foyer still waiting to be seated. I have no idea if they were there for the hibachi or the sushi, but business was definitely booming on both sides of the restaurant. We were in and out in an hour, which we appreciated since we were both exhausted from a busy week.

Now if only Akira served Benihana’s Lobster Roll (big chunks of lobster meat served with melted butter instead of soy sauce and $20 a pop – talk about orgasmic!) I would never have to go anywhere else…

Contact info:

Akira Hibachi
6025 Kruse Drive
Solon, OH 44139
440-349-6850

Henry’s at the Barn in Avon

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The dining room and patio are both very inviting
The dining room and patio are both very inviting

I enjoyed the most wonderful meal last night at Henry’s at the Barn in Avon. As Henry’s website explains: “Located in Avon’s Olde Avon Village, Henry’s is constructed from an 1830’s stone-and-wood barn that was moved to the site last spring. The eminently comfortable restaurant features a cozy barroom with fireplace, a 60-seat dining room that shares the same see-through fireplace, and a cocktail lounge tucked into an upstairs loft.”

Fried green tomatoes and smoked scallop appetizers
Fried green tomatoes and smoked scallop appetizers

Henry’s features Southern, specifically Carolina Low Country, cuisine. It was an enjoyable evening from start to finish. I had made a reservation for 18. Unfortunately only 11 people showed up, but the restaurant could not have been more gracious. They also had no problems giving us separate checks, which is always appreciated. There is nothing worse than fighting over what everyone owes at the end of a lovely evening.

The dining room and patio are both very inviting. We congregated at the bar until our table was ready. The bar features knotty driftwood and rough-hewn beams. It was extremely cozy. Henry’s serves pimiento cheese and crackers instead of the usual bar snacks.

She-crab soup
She-crab soup

We shared two tables in the dining room since it was a little too cold to sit on the patio. Two brave souls did sit on the patio, and the staff lit the fire pit for them. I look forward to going back soon this summer and enjoying drinks on that patio. The dining room features wood beams with Spanish moss, flowers and twinkle lights. It was extremely cozy and romantic. I can imagine the fireplace roaring in the winter.

Bacon wrapped walleye with corn & tomato, sweet potato praline bread pudding and Carolina BBQ sauce
Bacon wrapped walleye with corn & tomato, sweet potato praline bread pudding and Carolina BBQ sauce

Our dinners were impeccably seasoned – from start to finish. The horseradish sauce for the peel and eat shrimp had quite the kick. One of my fellow diners enjoyed the sauce with his fried oysters as well.

Henry’s is known for its she-crab soup, which was perfectly seasoned, and its South Carolina shrimp with stone ground grits, Andouille sausage and peppers and onions in cream.

Buttermilk fried chicken with tomato & onion stewed collards, black eye peas, corn & hot pepper hushpuppies
Buttermilk fried chicken with tomato & onion stewed collards, black eye peas, corn & hot pepper hushpuppies

I could still taste the bacon on my bacon-wrapped walleye this morning. The walleye was served with corn and tomato, a savory sweet potato bread pudding, and barbecue sauce. My fellow diners all raved about their meals – from the NY strip with butter garlic mushrooms, smoked bleu cheese, melted leek and sweet & Yukon potato gratin (which I was told melted in your mouth), the buttermilk fried chicken with collards, black eye peas and corn & hot pepper hushpuppies to the Frogmore stew (clams, mussels, oysters, shrimp, sausage, sweet & hot peppers, Vidalia onions, potatoes, corn and spiced broth). One of my friends remarked that the scallops and tiramisu were the best she had ever eaten – and she had eaten them a lot.

Frogmore stew
Frogmore stew

Henry’s offered three different desserts, which we all tasted: flourless chocolate cake, pineapple upside down cake, and the aforementioned tiramisu. I’m not normally a fan of tiramisu, but this one has definitely won me over. As my friend commented, it was “Not too sweet, not too creamy, not too rummy. Just a perfect balance.”

Tiramisu
Tiramisu

Henry’s was pricey, but worth every dollar. It is the perfect place for celebrating a special occasion or getting together with some girlfriends for a bottle of wine. It was truly a magical night. I can’t wait to go back – and it’s a 45 minute drive for me.

Contact info:

Henry’s at the Barn
36840 Detroit Rd
Avon, OH 44011-1570
(440) 934-6636