Citizen Pie – W. 25th

img_20170927_202321Citizen Pie opened a second location on W. 25th just south of the West Side Market in September 2017. I’ve been there several times, but just decided to make it a separate post from the Waterloo location. This location is a good choice for West Siders who don’t want to (are afraid to?) drive to Collinwood. There are a few changes – for the better. img_20170927_185210Most obviously, the location has a lot more seating, and the pizzaiolos (I think that is what the pizza pie makers are called) have more room to work. Parking can sometimes be a challenge, but one of the parking lots across the street allows Citizen Pie img_20180803_135545customers to park there when the lot isn’t in use by the company.

Citizen Pie has a 900 degree wood fired oven, and Chef V has worked hard to perfect the pizza dough. They only make enough for the day. Once the dough is out, they close. The website has a dough meter, so you can tell how close they are to running out of dough. The pizzas cook quickly – in 90 seconds. The outside edges are nicely charred and delicious, but the center tends to run a bit thin, which makes the pizza a bit soggy. It is the biggest complaint, but it is just something that happens. If you want the delicious fermented dough you deal with it. You just have to fold your slice and eat fast.

The menu is pretty identical to the Waterloo location. You can still also build your own pie at both locations. The only main difference I can tell is the W. 25th location doesn’t offer The Collinwood and has a pizza called OC Supreme (similar to the Collinwood with Italian sausage and proscuitto cotto instead of the salami and Italian sausage). They also added a Ham and Cheese pizza featuring proscuitto cotto, Fontina cheese, mushrooms and Mozzarella. Also, my favorite addition when they opened this location is that they also launched “Salad Pizzas” topped with arugula or Caesar salad. I love this idea. The arugula is popped onto the pizza when it gets out of the oven, so it is nice and fresh. The arugula pizza comes atop a Margherita with cherry tomatoes. The Caesar salad pizza is a garlic, olive oil and mozzarella pie. You can add prosciutto or anchovies for an additional $2. My go to pizza is now the arugula pizza with prosciutto.

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Dressed Arugula without prosciutto

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Dressed Arugula pie – Margherita with prosciutto

The beverage choices are still the same. There is a water pitcher on the counter for the more frugal folks among us, but you can buy real sugar Coke, Honest Tea, Diet Coke, Dr. Brown’s Root Beer, San Pellegrino img_20170927_190412 sparkling water or Blood Orange soda, and boxed water in addition to a nice modest selection of beers and wines. My favorite is still the Stiegl Pilsner. As any proud alumni of BGSU’s Academic Year Abroad program in Salzburg, Austria will tell you, Stiegl beer has been brewed in Salzburg since 1492 (when Columbus was sailing the ocean blue).

A selection of pies

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Roman – mozzarella, cured olives, green chili, stracciatella, and basil

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Mushroom – with mushrooms, mozzarella, brie, porcini truffle crema, bacon and red onion – always a solid choice

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Little Italy – mozzarella, Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, red onion, basil and oregano

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Puttanesca – mozzarella, oil cured olives, Ortiz anchovies, Calabrian chili, garlic and basil

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Caesar Salad pie – I think there might be some pepperoni on there but I’m not sure

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Cacio e Pepe – one of my favorites

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NYC Classic Calzone

This location does not serve the desserts that the Waterloo location is known for. Instead, Chef V has been making soft serve ice cream and is toying with the idea of introducing pie to the menu.

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Photo by Edsel Little

Contact info:

Citizen Pie
2144 W 25th Street
Cleveland (Ohio City), OH 44113
(216) 860-1388

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Sichuan Hot Pot

Cleveland’s got a new Szechuan restaurant in town, and it’s become my friends’ new obsession. Sichuan Hot Pot quietly opened in April 2018 on Rockwell Avenue in the building that houses Emperor’s Palace. The storefront seems rather quiet and unassuming. You walk in and have to go through another door to the right. Make sure the door shuts behind you properly, because it forms a wind tunnel.

We keep meaning to order the hot pot, but we are enjoying discovering all the various entrees too much. It’s best enjoying everything as a group. When it comes to Chinese food we are a bunch of sharers, so everyone orders a different dish and we dig in. We then get the bill, add a 20% tip, and divide the total by however many people are in the group. I have a handy app for that, so it is really easy. The bill never comes out to more than $20 per person (it’s usually between $12-18).

The first time I ate at Sichuan Hot Pot (just before Christmas) there were 7 of us. We were the only non-Asian table in the place. We ordered 8 different dishes (one person ordered two because they were vegetarian items and cheap). We had the Dan Dan Noodles, Chongqing Noodles, Lamb Kebabs served with crinkle cut French fries (what??), Shredded Pork with Pickled Cabbage Noodles, Ma Po Tofu, Sour & Spicy Cucumbers, and a Roasted Eggplant appetizer with what looked like a green chili pesto on it. I chose the Crispy Ribs with Garlic Sauce (S7), which was delicious. The ribs were perfectly fried (popcorn chicken-sized) and served along with fried onions and fresh green scallions. I was very happy I ordered it and would happily order it again. However, the absolute standouts for me were the Shredded Pork and Pickled Cabbage Noodles and the Dan Dan Noodles. I have never been a fan of Dan Dan Noodles, but I really like their version. The Shredded Pork was the huge hit at the table. We ordered it on a whim, and I will never go there and not order it ever. It has a delicate flavor and has a soup-like consistency. Ordering small bowls for everyone to enjoy it would not be a bad idea. The Chongqing Noodles were also lovely. Apart from the eggplant, which everyone was saying was very hot so I avoided it, I didn’t find anything so spicy hot that I couldn’t eat it. Szechuan cooking has a nice heat to it, but if I can tolerate it anyone can. We were served a complementary Tofu fa with a smoky sauce and sesame seeds for dessert.

Spicy & Sour Cucumbers

Dan Dan Noodles

Chongqing Noodles

Shredded Pork with Pickled Cabbage Noodles

Lamb Kebabs

Crispy Ribs with Garlic Sauce (S7)

Roasted Eggplant (C5)
IMG_20181221_195949.jpgComplementary Tofu Fa
Mid-meal

The second time I was with a different group, with only three of us having been there already. There were six of us this time. This time we were the only table in the place, but I hear it gets busy on the weekends and at night. A few tables joined us by the time we were finishing up – including a friend of one of my friends, which was a hoot. We were there on a Tuesday for lunch. I made sure to order the Shredded Pork and Pickled Cabbage Noodle again. Two of our group had already gotten there and ordered the Dan Dan Noodles because they were hungry. We also ordered Dried Beef with Spicy Sauce (C12 – which I found to be just okay, but my friend D. loves it), “Chicken with Special Sauce” (word of warning – it’s a cold poached chicken and celery dish with bones – I wasn’t a fan), Crispy Big Ribs with Garlic Sauce (S15 – whole ribs on a bed of cabbage – quite tasty if a little dry), Sour & Spicy Cucumbers, and Sliced Potatoes with Scallions (which was too American if you ask me – basically warm parsley potatoes). The Sliced Potato dish was good, so it would be a good choice for kids or less adventurous diners. I certainly didn’t expect it at an Asian restaurant. The standout dish for me this time was a different version of eggplant – the Eggplant with Garlic Sauce (M19). I could not stop eating it, and I look forward to enjoying it again this coming Friday.

Dan Dan Noodles – after mixing

Spicy & Sour Cucumbers

Dried Beef with Spicy Sauce (C12)

Eggplant with Garlic Sauce (M19)

Crispy Big Ribs (S17) on a bed of Napa cabbage

Chicken with Special Sauce

Sliced Potatoes with Scallions (not shredded!! – that’s a completely different dish with green peppers)

Complementary Tofu Fa
Mid-meal

Like I said, I am going back there for lunch on Friday with some of the folks from the previous meals and a couple new people we are introducing the place to. I look forward to trying some new dishes as well as the favorites. I’m tempted by the Crispy Fish Hot & Spicy.

Contact info:

Sichuan Hot Pot
2162 Rockwell Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 523-1188

Sérénite in Medina

I am a huge fan of EDWINS on Shaker Square, so I knew I wanted to support Brandon Chrostowski and his latest culinary institute in Medina. I organized a dinner with a bunch of my foodie friends shortly after it opened, and we trekked down to Medina looking forward to a good meal. We were not disappointed. The restaurant is located at the old Medina Steakhouse & Saloon. They have done a nice job paring the decor down to match the sophisticated French menu. There was ample parking and two main rooms to seat diners. There are even a few tables on the front porch for those who enjoy dining al fresco.

Despite my attempt to get there early I was the last to arrive due to heavy traffic. When I arrived the entire table was enjoying their French 75s. Who was I to buck the trend? The French 75 is one of my favorite drinks, but it can suffer from a heavy hand. Luckily the person behind the bar makes a perfect French 75. It was delightfully refreshing. There was some furor in Medina about whether Sérénite should be awarded a liquor license since the restaurant is a training ground for people in addiction recovery. I am glad good sense prevailed, and the restaurant was given a license. Their employees need to learn how to work around it without giving into the temptation, and if they do fail they are in a supportive environment that will catch them as they fall and quickly set them back on the path. I wish them all the best of luck! They also offer a non-alcoholic menu for those who prefer one. Since we were there in the early days our server was understandably nervous, but when something went awry she quickly and efficiently took care of it. Things go wrong when you dine out, especially in the first few weeks. It’s all how the service staff handle things, and they did a great job taking care of us. That said, for a table of 7 only one of us had a major issue, which was immediately rectified (one of my friend’s mac n cheese was lukewarm, but they whisked it away and quickly rectified the problem). Everyone else was delighted with their meals. She was too once the mac n cheese was hotter.

I ate here twice in the first two weeks of opening, once with a small group and then with a friend to enjoy a quick drink and nibble before my nieces’ middle school orchestra concert. Unfortunately I’ve been swamped with work and haven’t had the chance to write about it until now. As a result of my visits, I was able to sample about half the menu. Although Sérénite is similar to EDWINS it does not have an identical menu, which allowed me to try some new things. The biggest surprises were the frog legs and the artichokes. More on those later.

I decided to stick with a classic appetizer-entree-dessert on my first visit, so I tried not to fill up too much on any of the courses. I ordered the shrimp cocktail. The shrimp were plump and juice and averaged out to $3 a shrimp. The cocktail sauce had the perfect amount of horseradish bite to it. The presentation was also flawless.

I was able to try a frog leg, which was absolutely delicious and perfectly prepared. They are pan-fried in butter and garlic. The meat fell from the tiny bones and were a huge hit with my friends who ordered them. The serving size is generous, so I could imagine ordering them to share or even as an entree.

After spending the afternoon studying the online menu deciding what to order I was surprised to see a range of other choices available, including several steaks. To see page two click on the arrow at the bottom of the online menu that appears when you hover over it. Don’t be a noob like me. That said, the restaurant may want to change their format if they want older, less savvy diners to be aware of page two.

I had decided on the Steak Frites (hanger steak with fries and Bérnaise sauce), but when I arrived and saw the other choices I was torn. After consulting with the server and my fellow diners I decided to order a steak along with a couple of sides. The ‘Le Boeuf’ steaks do not come with sides. You have to order them a la carte. I ordered the artichokes from the appetizer section and the risotto from the sides. I decided to order a New York prime strip steak, but could have also ordered the filet mignon or a bone-in ribeye. The steaks come with a sauce of your choice. I chose the Bordelaise sauce and could not have been more pleased. Bordelaise is a red wine demi-glace with shallots and butter. It was flavorful without overpowering the flavor of the steak. I was also able to taste the au poivre (cognac cream sauce with demi-glace and green peppercorns) and Béarnaise (rich butter sauce with tarragon vinegar and shallots) sauces. The other sauce is a Diane sauce featuring demi-glace, mushrooms, shallots, brandy and cream), which I knew I loved but decided to order something I don’t make myself. For those of you who are wondering what demi-glace is, it is a combination of espagnole sauce and a rich brown stock. The strip steak was extremely flavorful and tender, just as it should be. I loved the Bordelaise sauce as well. The braised artichokes were tender, and the white wine butter sauce delicious. The risotto features mushrooms, which is what made me decide to order it over the frites. The rice was al dente, and the flavor was phenomenal. I took half of everything home and enjoyed the meal again the next day for lunch. After all, I needed to save room for dessert.

I am a huge fan of EDWINS’ creme brulee. I think it is the best I have ever had. So I wanted to order it, but then learned that they also offer Bananas Foster, which is prepared tableside. Luckily, one of my friends and I decided to share both. The creme brulee was just as delicious as I remembered, creamy with a nice crust of caramelized sugar that broke with a tap of the spoon and complemented the custard. The surprise for me was that I adored the Bananas Foster even more. The tableside preparation was enjoyable, even though I have seen it prepared before in New Orleans. The chef did a great job with it. The bananas were perfectly flambeed and were a great complement to the creamy vanilla ice cream. I would definitely go back just for the Bananas Foster!

And go back I did within the week. I learned that my oldest niece was going to be the concertmaster of her middle school orchestra, so I decided to go down early and enjoy a quick bite with my friend who I had shared the desserts with. We sat at the bar this time and both ordered two appetizers. I chose the lobster bisque (I love French onion soup, but did not want to drip it) and the escargot. The lobster bisque was delightful – creamy and a nice underlying sherry base. But the star of the meal was the escargot. The Burgundy snails came out bubbling in the butter and garlic, and I enjoyed sopping up the sauce with Sérénite’s great homemade bread. I paid my bill and rushed out to go to the concert and was able to greet another friend who was taking her parents out for a nice meal as they walked in.

I wish I lived closer, because the Bananas Foster alone is worth the trip. Your meal can be fairly cheap if you stick with a few of the lower end items on the menu, but it can also be a perfect ‘special night’ venue if you are willing to splurge a little. I highly recommend you check them out as well and support their worthy cause.

Contact info:

Sérénite Restaurant & Culinary Institute
538 W Liberty St
Medina, OH 44256
(330) 952-2611

Lox, Stock and Brisket

Lox, Stock and Brisket opened recently at Cedar Center in the old Ribsticks storefront. They did not have to do much with the place. It looks a lot like the old Ribsticks. There was another food service place there very briefly, but Chef Anthony Zappola and his family took over the lease. He heard about the smoker, so he decided to smoke meats and open a Jewish deli. He used to own a restaurant in Las Vegas called The Rice Shop, but he wanted to move home to northeast Ohio after living and working in numerous restaurants in several major cities. A Solon native, this spot truly is a family affair. His mother works behind the counter and makes the matzoh ball soup. They are very responsive with food allergies. One of my friends has a soy allergy, which limits her a lot. They were able to find something she could order and promised to use a different oil that isn’t soy-based in the future. How awesome is that?The menu revolves around smoked meats and dishes inspired by the neighborhood around it. They offer a good matzo ball soup (with chunks of celery, carrot and chicken), a lox platter with cream cheese, capers, chopped egg and chopped red onion, and a bunch of delicious sandwiches featuring brisket, smoked turkey, lox, tuna salad and a breaded chicken schnitzel. They make most everything in-house, including the smoked fish, lox, and pickles.

I heard about Lox, Stock and Brisket the day it opened and went to check it out the very next day. During the first visit I ordered the matzo ball soup, the Santa Monica and the potato salad. I love the matzo ball soup. It’s not just broth. There are chunks of carrot, celery and moist chicken in it. The smoked turkey on the turkey sandwich was moist, and the BBQ sauce and mustard were not too heavy. I absolutely loved the potato salad. It is a red skin potato salad and is perfectly creamy.

On my second visit (the very next today) I went back to try the brisket. The “Rueben” is named after his childhood friend and features thick chunks of brined and smoked brisket, Cleveland Kraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. As those who follow this blog know, I am not a fan of corned beef because it’s too salty and fatty in my opinion. This is now the ultimate Reuben for me – featuring a tender and flavorful brisket without too much fat or salt. It is now my favorite Reuben ever. The brisket is served in thick chunks of flavorful meat – not too fatty or salty (although one of my friends was less than impressed with it and reported that one bite had it coming out in one piece due to some gristle). The one I had was perfect. The Russian dressing and kraut on a nice rye bread were just right. I wasn’t as enthused with the coleslaw, but it was good. But I prefer a very creamy coleslaw, so my choice is subjective based on my tastes.

I ordered the Roz (above left), which is the Rueben but with thick slices of turkey, on a subsequent visit. It was also a very good sandwich, with good slaw and cheese. I think I like the brisket more though. My friend with the allergies thoroughly enjoyed her Upper East Side. I can’t wait to try the rest of the sandwiches – the Buttermilk Chicken Schnitzel looks especially delicious.

The lox was a nice smoked salmon, and it was a nice sized portion. I had stopped at Bialy’s beforehand to pick up a couple bagels to enjoy with it. The lox platter came with crackers, but frankly I ended up feeding them to the birds. I’m not a huge cracker fan and don’t ever eat them with soup. Lox, Stock and Brisket’s lox platter with a Mish Mosh bagel from Bialy’s was everything.

The service was great. They definitely made me feel welcome. I see myself becoming a regular with quality – and matzo ball soup – this good. Items like brisket, turkey, lox and tuna salad are also available by the pound.

Contact info:

Lox, Stock and Brisket
13892 Cedar Road
University Heights, OH 44118
(216) 471-8175

Kifaya’s Kitchen

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.

Contact info:

Kifaya’s Kitchen
3650 W 117th Street
Cleveland, OH 44111
(216) 219-8263

Final Fish Fry Friday – Han Chinese Kabob and Grill

The original plan was to attend the fish fry at Benedictine High School on Friday. They serve a fried fish dinner (2 cod pieces), baked fish dinner (1 cod piece), shrimp dinner (9 pieces), or pierogi dinner (8 pierogies) for $8 per dinner ($7.50 for seniors), which includes a baked potato or french fries, coleslaw or applesauce, bread, condiments, and coffee, tea or milk. They also serve clam chowder, fried clams, grilled cheese sandwich, macaroni and cheese, and onion rings. I was excited to try it, but all of my friends were less excited (or sick of fried food) and bailed. I didn’t feel like going there and facing a crowd by myself, so I reached out to a friend to meet me somewhere different.

I had fond memories of the sweet and sour fish at Han Chinese Kabob and Grill on Payne Avenue, and I have been meaning to get back there to order it again. Since I do not need to observe Lent (I just do it for the love of fried fish) I also ordered the wonton soup, which includes pork dumplings. It is enough to share, so I shared it with my friend. I also ordered some less-than-exciting steam buns on a kebab (seriously boring – do not recommend). She ordered some pot stickers and the Orange Beef Tenderloin.

There are two sweet and sour fish (whole fish) on the menu, and I could not remember which one we had ordered last time. I explained that there were ginger and aromatics and that it was a whole fish. The servers suggested I order the Sweet & Sour Crispy Fish. I was a little skeptical that it was the one I remembered – and I’m not sure if it was, but that certainly did not detract from my absolute enjoyment of the dish. First of all, it was a beautiful sight, with the tail curled up. It was lightly fried and served over a luscious ginger and garlic sweet and sour sauce. This is not the gloppy, bright orange sweet and sour sauce you find at most Chinese restaurants. It is mouthwateringly good. I had to keep removing small bones, but I think that’s because I am less adept at deboning a filet. The meat inside was moist and succulent. I ate the whole thing and had no leftovers, which is rare for me. The cheeks in particular were a treat, and my friend also enjoyed her couple of bites. I likewise enjoyed the bite of her orange beef tenderloin entree as well. I have a feeling we ordered the Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish (click to see the photo), but I will just have to order it to try it. That fish was easy to debone and just as delicious. I am just not sure if it was fried, and I seem to remember an eye – although it could have been a clove of garlic. In any event, I do not regret ordering it, because it was delicious and hit the spot perfectly. The place had a nice amount of traffic (the booths in the back appear to be very popular choices), and the servers were very friendly and accommodating.

So if you are looking for a different kind of meatless Friday, consider the fish at Han Kabob.

Contact info:

Han Chinese Kabob & Grill
3710 Payne Ave #110
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 769-8745

Xinji Noodle Bar

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