Sickness has kept me from actually seeing the Falls. I know, everyone should be thinking “you idiot”. True enough, I’m going to agree with you on this one. But being under the weather combined with it being Super Bowl Sunday kept me inside the whole day.
I’ll try to make up for the lack of Falls pictures by talking about Iron Chefs. That’s right, the Iron Chefs on the Food Network. I ate at Lola Bistro while I was in Cleveland last week. Lola is the restaurant of the newest Iron Chef, Michael Symon. I can’t recommend it highly enough; four stars all the way.
It is located in the hip East 4th Street corridor, a small but lively section of downtown Cleveland. They are whacking the hell out of Superior Avenue at the moment though, making street parking and traffic a little dicey. While the neighborhood is nice, the ambiance inside Lola may still be a step up. The modern bar/lounge and simple, yet elegant, dining room are both pleasant and inviting. I really enjoyed the open kitchen in which even the prep area was visible to diners. There was a second bar at the kitchen which could seat about half a dozen diners. Lola is about as transparent a restaurant as you could imagine–a subtle hint at professionalism and comfort which I very much admire.
The wine list is nice, with over 400 bottles available. It is a nice mix of domestic and overseas vineyards, with a fairly good mix of varietals. The by-the-glass selection is representative of the full list. My only slight quibble came with desert–the port list was not well balanced. They had only one ruby on the list (which they were out of) and a half dozen or so tawnies.
Both of our entrees were superb, wonderfully conceived dishes that were perfectly seasoned. At first taste I had reservations about my striped bass ($28). Tasting just the fish (which was a perfect medium rare), I felt it was a tad bland. However, upon tasting it with the vegetable medley and sauce, it was superb. My roasted potatoes (which I ordered separately, $6) were very good as well, though personally I like them just a bit crunchier. Michelle’s hanger steak ($26) with pickled peppers and onion was wonderful as well. I generally don’t go so much for the pickled things, but they were not overpowering and complemented the steak beautifully. And, the lola fries that accompanied it were far and away the best french fries I have ever had. Slightly larger than julliene and seasoned with sea salt, cracked pepper, and rosemary–perfection.
Now, the dessert! I really did have bacon and ice cream together. I had a creation called “The 6 a.m. Special” ($9). It consists of two tiny slices of french toast, a little maple syrup, maple bacon ice cream, and caramelized diced apple. While I’m not quite sure about the sanity of the individual who created this, anything with bacon or ice cream can’t be bad. It’s not a dessert I would order very often, but it was pretty good. The toast was lovely and very sweet (not for the sugar haters), the apples well done. And, yes, there are actual pieces of diced bacon in the ice cream. The ice cream itself is reminiscent of butter pecan. All in all, something I’m very happy I tried.
If you’re ever in Cleveland, check Lola out. Don’t try it in the middle of the afternoon, though; they’re closed between lunch and dinner. I would recommend making reservations.