Bonchon

imag0150I had no idea what Bonchon was, but one of the people I follow on Instagram checked in here on its opening night. It looked delicious so I googled it.

Several of us met there (on Broadview Road in Seven Hills) a few days later to check it out. It is an Asian fusion restaurant with a wide variety of menu options, imag0157but they specialize in Korean fried chicken and wings.

The parking lot was packed, but they offered complementary valet. I’m not sure if it will continue, but it was nice to drop off the car and run in since I was running late due to traffic. It was the night of Game 3 of the World Series, so the TVs were going and once the game started it got pretty loud.

Let’s talk about what they do best – the fried chicken. The chicken is dipped in corn starch and double fried. They are super crispy andimag0156 packed with flavor. We ordered a ton off the menu and shared a lot of it. The chicken is delicious. A++ Would order again. We ordered a medium half and half combo – half spicy and half soy garlic. The spicy was a nice pleasant heat that wasn’t overwhelming. It is served with a small bowl of pickled radishes that help extinguish the heat.

The “drums” are full-sized drum sticks. My friends who ordered this in a combo had the drums brought out first since they were finished already. They enjoyed them just as much as the wings.

My imag0159friend and I also split an order of potstickers. The potstickers also come in the spicy and soy garlic flavor offerings. Once again we ordered half and half. The wrappers were a little thicker than I like, but the filling itself was flavorful and firm. You could tell they were made in-house due to the lack of uniformity. I always like to see that.

I was less impressed with the Japchae (more like a teriyaki noodle bowl – I think it was a bit overcooked last night) and shu mai (I’ll try them fried next time, they were too delicate steamed). Others at the table ordered sliders, bulgogi, and tteokbokki. I’ll definitely be back. Our waitress was super competent and deftly handled a table of 8. They are still in “soft opening” mode and will be gradually adding things to the menu. Be sure to check it out. I may head there again tomorrow for some more wings. They are that good.

imag0158

Update:
I can highly recommend the Salmon-Avocado Ball. I got one to go on Superbowl Sunday 2017 along with some wings and loved every bite. I paired it with Triscuits, but it is served alone in the restaurant. So good!

Contact info:

Bonchon
7581 Broadview Road
Seven Hills, OH 44131

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Lopez Southwest Kitchen

IMAG2863Lopez began in 1979 as Lopez y Gonzalez, which was conceived as a multi-international chain of cutting edge Mexican restaurants. The only cities where the owners succeeded are Palm Beach, Beverly Hills, Mexico City, and Cleveland Heights. Celebrity chef Rick Bayless opened the restaurant as its first chef in 1980. Lopez has been turning out southwestern food and drinks since 1979. Lopez y Gonzalez was located at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Lee Road and closed in 1998. Lopez on Lee opened in 2001.

I hadn’t been back after an unfortunate incident with chipssalsaa bartender in 2009, but decided I needed to check it out again. We went on a Monday night when they don’t offer valet parking, so I parked in its small parking lot. But valet parking is only $3, which is a small price to pay if the heavens are threatening to open up that night. I arrived a few minutes late to find my friends there, water glasses filled and chips and salsa waiting for me. It was a nice beginning to the evening.

I have been bloodorangemargon a blood orange kick lately, so I ordered a tall blood orange margarita. It was during happy hour, so I got it for $6 instead of $12! It was delicious. Not too sweet, not too bitter and not too potent. It definitely tasted as if they used fresh blood orange juice. I sucked down two that evening. They were that good.

I’ve had their shrimp ‘n’ grits before and was seriously tempted to order it again. It features corn, chiles, smoked gouda, roasted peppers and scallion. It has a nice heat to it thanks the jalapenos and chiles in the grits and sauce IMG_20120828_184052and is outrageously good. The photo here is just a sample portion from when I was on the NEO Food Tour of the Cedar-Lee district.

Instead I ordered the guacamole trio for the table to start. My favorite was a blue cheese and bacon guac. I learned later it is the Iron Chef guac created by Michael Symon with blue cheese, sage and house-cured bacon chunks. Yeah. Big fan. The cheese and bacon complemented each other well and were a good guactriomatch for the fresh creamy and chunky avocado. The other two flavors (lobster guac with salmon caviar and the traditional) were also really good.

My friend B. is a huge taco fan, so it was obvious what we were all going to order.The tacos are pricy, but the flavors are inventive, the ingredients are upscale, and they are actually quite filling. I had a tough time deciding which I wanted and how many I wanted (there is a minimum order of two). I ordered a trio and ended up taking half of each one home with me. Next time I will just order two. I knew I wanted to order the Buttery Lobster Taco, and that was in fact my favorite taco out of the three Ilobstercatfishtrout chose. It features butter-poached lobster, bacon, arugula, smoked tomato and guacamole. The lobster was fresh and tender, and the flavor of the smoked tomato really came out when it popped in my mouth. My second favorite was the Smoked Trout Taco. It comes with jicama slaw and a habanero corn mustard crema. The server told me the cream was a little spicy, so I ordered it on the side just to be safe. After dipping my fork to test it I quickly troutcarnitasslathered the entire portion on the taco. The crema was delicious and not spicy at all. I chose the Ancho Battered Catfish with jicama slaw and a gaucho crema for my third taco. The catfish was a good portion of fish and it was perfectly fried. It was good, but just couldn’t compare with the other two tacos. I was extremely pleased with my meal, as were my dining companions who both ordered the trout, but one ordered the Smoked Brisket Tops taco and the other ordered the Mole Dusted Seared troutshrimpTuna and the Spicy Grilled Shrimp. The two of us who ordered 3 tacos ended up with small to-go boxes.

None of us had room for dessert. I plan on going back soon to try the lobster enchiladas, the fajitas, and the garlic and spinach stuffed trout (not necessarily in that order). Now that the weather is getting nicer I plan on enjoying some more blood orange margaritas on their inviting patio. They take reservations through Open Table.

Contact info:

Lopez on Lee
2196 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 932-9000

Southern Cookin’ class at Viking Cooking School

I’m a sucker for banana pudding and fried chicken, so signing up for the Southern Cookin’ class at Viking Cooking School in Lyndhurst was a no-brainer for me. Viking Cooking School is located in the Viking Store at Legacy Village, and they offer a variety of fun hands-on cooking classes and chef demonstrations. I have attended 9 hands-on classes there so far, my favorite being the Steak, Roast and Chop class and my least favorite being the Vietnamese Cooking class. I am on a cooking class kick at the moment, so I have attended cooking classes at both The Chubby Cook and Viking recently. This led to some confusion on my part when I showed up for the Southern Cooking class at The Chubby Cook. I realized my mistake when they started passing around edamame, and I apologized and ran out of there to drive to Viking. Luckily they are close to each other, so I was only five minutes late. I had missed the introductions, but quickly grabbed a seat next to my friend A., put on my apron, grabbed a sweet tea and took a deep breath (not necessarily in that order).

Viking always puts out a snack to nibble on while we cook, and the “sample recipe” this time was cheese straws. Not being a big fan of cheese straws I ate one and then concentrated on the recipes at hand. We started out making banana pudding with vanilla wafers, because it needed to set in the refrigerator for a while (at least 1 hour, but preferably up to 4). We whisked the ingredients together, added egg yolks (carefully tempering them into the heated mix), and made a custard. We especially enjoyed pushing in the bananas and vanilla wafers into the serving dish.

Next up were the slow-cooked collard greens, because they needed to cook on the stove for at least 20 to 30 minutes. We cooked the bacon and onions (in A.’s case, because she is Jewish, she cooked the onions in a separate sauce pot and made her very own bacon-free collard greens), washed and chopped the greens, added them to the bacon and onion, added water and let them cook down until tender while we focused on the mashed potatoes and fried chicken.

The mashed potatoes were fairly straight-forward. We cooked and riced the potatoes and mashed them with warm half and half and butter, adding salt and pepper. The interesting technique we learned is that you can make them ahead, wrap them tightly with plastic wrap and keep them in a 200° oven or warming drawer for up to 4 hours. They were still warm once they were served with the gravy later.

I had most anticipated learning how to fry chicken in a Dutch oven. I recently inherited my grandmother’s, so I was anxious to learn how to use it properly. The chicken had been brined in a buttermilk mixture overnight, so all we had to do was heat up the oil in the Dutch oven (checking the temperature constantly with a candy thermometer), coat the chicken in a bag of flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cayenne, paprika and black pepper, and fry it up two pieces at a time. The toughest part about frying the chicken was maintaining a steady heat, because the heat drops once you add the chicken. I was the fry master, learning how to scoop out the little bits that broke loose while frying using a fine-meshed sieve to use later for the gravy. I only burned myself once when A. accidentally singed me with the sieve. The chicken was then put into the oven to finish cooking.

Our instructor Brie then showed us how to make a quick skillet cornbread and sent us out into the store while she and her assistant whipped up some gravy using some leftover oil and crispy chicken bits, cleaned up, and prepped and set the table. Class attendees get 10% off on most items in the store during classes. I used my discount to buy a sieve, a good Viking Santoku knife and a scone pan.

We then came back into the classroom and took our seats for a delicious meal and a glass or two of wine. I wanted a chicken breast, so I had to wait a bit until it wasn’t raw on the inside. I ended up taking another one home for the next day. The food was delicious. There is something about enjoying the fruits of your labor over a glass of wine with friends. No one went home hungry, and I couldn’t wait to go home and try making the banana pudding on my own. It was a very enjoyable and delicious evening.

Contact info:

Viking Cooking School
24703 Cedar Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124
(216) 381-2100

A&W Drive-In in Kent

100_0978I had a craving for a root beer float this afternoon after taking my dog to Bow Wow Beach in Stow. I haven’t had a root beer float in about twenty years and really enjoyed it. I was hoping it would be served in the big glass mug the root beer is served in, but unfortunately it came in a “to go” cup.

Who doesn’t love root beer? My German friends can’t understand the appeal, but anyone who has grown up in the U.S. surely has fond memories of it. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of a root beer float,  it is traditionally made by pairing root beer with vanilla ice cream. A&W serves soft serve ice cream, but floats can also be served with scoops of ice cream.

I love A&W, because it features old-fashioned car hops. The root beer is mixed fresh on site every day. I think the A&W in Kent must have been built in the late 1960s, but that just adds to its charm. I wanted to get there before they closed down for the season.

100_0979Feeling a little peckish, I decided to try something different and tried their Mozza Burger, which features mozzarella cheese, bacon and a Thousand Island dressing. The patties were a little overcooked, but the mozzarella cheese and bacon really went well together. I’m going to have to try to recreate this burger at home. The crinkle fries were perfectly done, and my dog enjoyed her plain beef hotdog. It was a pleasant afternoon, and I was sad that I had finished my root beer float so quickly.

Contact info:

A&W Restaurant
1124 Main Street
Kent, OH 44240
330-673-6912