Monday, February 18, 2008

Where have you eaten lately?

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two weeks looking for some interesting tidbit to discuss here on my blog. It seems like the more time I spend seeking out new and useful information, the more I read the same boring stuff. Reconstituted, fake, follow-the-company-line type of crap that is un-discussable. The only thing I find at all interesting recently are restaurant reviews, and learning the things that people are interested in when they go out.

It’s funny that even these reviews carry an amount of standardization. Since every menu at every restaurant in Cleveland is essentially the same, the food discussion goes something like this, "The calamari was crispy, but the shrimp were tasteless. The salmon was fantastic, but the fillet of beef was bland, the (insert single unique characteristic here) was hit or miss’ but we liked the food." Does that not sum up every restaurant review you’ve read in the past 3 years?

Service is usually not mentioned until the last two sentences with an ambiguous, "efficient but unobtrusive," which means one of two scenarios: You got your water, bread, and food as fast as possible, then the server disappeared and it took 20 minutes to pay your bill or get coffee because the restaurant was slow and this was the server's only table and she was pissed she even had to stay to work that night. Most likely she will be driving the car in front of you leaving the restaurant. The second scenario is that it takes 20 minutes to get your drinks then another 90 minutes til’ entrees come, you don’t even see a dessert menu and the check comes with your coffee. In this case there are two scenarios, either the server from above who did a crap job on one table can’t handle more than two and you just happen to be her third table of the night, or it’s seven o’clock on Friday and for the first time this week there are people lined up out the door who want to be seated, and your table just became prime real-estate that you are no longer welcomed at!

I’ve attempted to write about my visits to area restaurants but it didn’t work out too well. The usual response was something along the lines of "What do you know?" or "Who are you to judge?" I went into it knowing very well I had to keep opinions separate from facts. Being a chef, I know there are right and wrong ways to do things, properly and improperly cooked food. No one cared. I understand that a statement along the lines of, "Very few beets appeared in the beet salad," is an opinion, but "The beets were rock hard and undercooked," - this is a factual statement. Anyone who says, "I like rock hard, undercooked beets and Mike, you’re a jerk for criticizing this," well, that person is very misinformed about things. For these reasons I took a hiatus from writing about any place I’ve been, along with the fact I’ve not been out much lately.

Today is a unique day, I have an urge to briefly discuss my recent adventures into the Cleveland culinary landscape. By no means does this include many fine dining establishments.

Angelo’s Pizza in Lakewood is great! The pizza is good, the warm Italian sub is good, and they deliver late on Saturday night after I come home from work.

The fast food alley of West 117 between Madison and Clifton is another of my frequent stops. I’ve come to enjoy Wendy’s salads, Arby’s plain roast beef, and apple empanadas at Taco Bell.

I went to the Cheesecake Factory last week. It was my first time. I was impressed with the service, efficient yet really, the server seemed sincere about us having a pleasant time. The food was all cooked properly and tasty. The design was also quite over the top impressive. I would go back. Wouldn’t go out of my way, but I would go back.

The House of Blues has catfish nuggets they serve with sweet potato fries that I’m addicted to. I have them every 2 weeks after our manager meeting downtown. The bartender is always nice, she recognizes me and the fact I’d rather not chit-chat if sports are on the TV. Don’t worry, she gets financial considerations for such acute observations.

Flannery’s pub has a stuffed portabella app that is just a deep fried heart attack, but it tastes good, and four whole mushrooms for $7 is a steal. However, on my last visit, they were out of Jameson and Cider??? Did they think I was coming for a Bud and Jim Beam? They are a bloody fake Irish pub for God’s sake!

I went to Bar Cento by myself one night since everyone in Cleveland seems to love this place. Not me, the beets and beans were both undercooked (remember, these are facts) and the liver and onions pizza had two slices of cold foie gras on it, which means two pieces of pizza had none. When I was critical of the cold foie, I was told by some very snobby food people whose lips have spent more time on this chef’s ass than eating the food that, "foie gras is served cold in some cases, and maybe the chef was trying something new." No, no, no, pizza has warm toppings and when I say cold foie, I mean raw foie (this is a fact). In any case, the pizza was disgusting (opinion). I only ate half a piece and when the bartender noticed this along with the fact I didn’t want to take it home did he inquire why a 350 pound man didn’t eat all his foie gras pizza? No, he didn’t. I did get a glass of elusive absinthe as an after dinner cocktail. For this reason, I walked away happy.

On more pleasant experiences, the Rocky River Brew Pub always delivers with their Asian chicken nacho, but their beer is not my favorite. Great Lakes brew pub has better beer in my opinion, and the sausage sampler is always good. Salmon Dave's has a very classy happy hour with $5 drinks, and a small list of $5 apps. The food was good on both my visits. Winking Lizard is always pleasant, though I always come away with a bill that is larger than expected. As for places to spend money, Dave and Buster's provides you with more than a few ways. Fortunately the food is consistent, outside of the fried stuff, the salads are large and fresh, the pasta I had was good, and the cocktails are tasty.

A few places that I really want to try are, Crop on w. 6th, the brand new Saigon on e. 4th, and Paladar on the East side.


cmt said...

Chef, your paragraph about Bar Cento made me chuckle. I remember reading your post about cold foie gras "elsewhere" and the cyber-beatdown you got as a result, because you dared to criticize a sacred cow.
I made it to Crop during Restaurant Week and it was fantastic.

Michael Walsh said...

My friend, like i pointed out very clearly in the post, there are opinions and facts, and you can't ignore the facts. In fact i've spoken with 3 different individuals in person who claim to have had similar bar cento experiances, but would dare not admit it to a large group!! I don't remember where but someone had like 5 bed/indifferent things to say about BC, only to conclude that the place is great and JS is god's gift to Cleveland. I don't get it? Once agian, i've nothing against BC or JS, i just had one experiance and have talked about it, is that so bad?

I've yet to get to crop, but it's next on my list.