Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Japanese Fondue at Ushabu

I'm heading into the new year with a drive to start tackling the restaurants on my 2017 To Dine Challenge list. A cold night two weekends ago brought the perfect opportunity to check out Ushabu in Tremont. It's the new shabu-shabu (Japanese fondue) restaurant on Professor Avenue.
Shabu-shabu is a Japanese nabemono hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water. Here is a video on how to properly eat shabu-shabu. Our server told us that it means "swish, swish" like the sound of the meat being cooked as you lightly drag it through the broth with your chopsticks for 3-5 seconds.

While I didn't see the video, or do much research, in advance, it wasn't needed. What can appear to be an intimidating cooking process...
...was expertly explained by our server at the bar. I think your experience will depend a lot on the server you have at Ushabu. Ours was outgoing, interactive, informative, and checked on us frequently. I did notice that the other server was very shy and didn't seem to be instructing as much. I got over my hesitation pretty quickly, and just started throwing things into the simmering broth.

You have your choice of three broth bases. I had the Spicy Miso, Mr. H had the Ginger Chicken, and there is a Kombu (most traditional option). The spicy miso had a subtle heat to it, that didn't overpower the other flavors.

You cook some of the firmer vegetables first, then add in the other vegetables to continue to develop the broth's flavor. Our server gave us a timing estimate on each item, which I promptly forgot, but it didn't seem to matter much. A few items got a little overdone, and I did have to "taste test" items along the way to check their progress. Lastly, it's time to cook your meat.
I ordered the Seafood ($26), which included salmon, flounder, a scallop, three shrimp, and two clams. Mr. H and I wanted to do some sharing, so he ordered the Combo Meat (choose two- $22) and had Ohio Wagyu Beef and Australian Lamb. Rice and three side sauces are served with the meal. I suggest really letting your cooked items drip onto the rice to soak up some broth. Otherwise, it was very dry.

Once you're done cooking, you can choose to ladle your broth over the udon noodles provided. This was my favorite part of the meal! That bowl of soup warmed me right up, and made for some great leftovers.
Now, the restaurant is SMALL. Do yourself a favor and make a reservation, so that you don't get turned away at the door when you heart is set on it.

It was a new style of cuisine for me, but felt familiar as I've done Korean BBQ and traditional fondue before. My brother-in-law just traveled to Japan recently, and he said Ushabu's version of shabu-shabu wasn't too far off what he experienced there. I enjoyed the steamy, cozy restaurant on the cold night, and our server enhanced the experience. Right now, it's also BYOB before they get their liquor license.

First restaurant down for 2017, and it's one I'd recommend!

Ushabu
2173 Professor Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
216-713-1741

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ticket Giveaway: Akron's Red and White on Thursday Night 2017

Last year, I attended Akron's Red and White on Thursday Night event for the first time. It benefits the Arthritis Foundation, and it was fun for me to attend an event in the Akron area that exposed me to some restaurants that I don't typically see at events or have the opportunity to try.

Well, the event is back this year, and celebrating its 20th anniversary on Thursday, January 26th.
Very cool. Event proceeds fund critical arthritis research and support local services for the 1.3 million Northeastern Ohioans with arthritis and related diseases.

It's being held at the Quaker Station at The University of Akron from 5:30PM - 9:00PM, and it will feature restaurants like Bistro on Main, BOMBA Tacos, Chowder House Cafe, DBA, Nuevo Modern Mexican, and the Taverne of Richfield.

I enjoyed sampling some new-to-me restaurants last year, like Chowder House Cafe. I even won a silent auction package for a dinner at Chowder House Cafe, so that I could go check it out for myself (and 5 friends) at a later date.

Tickets are $85 for General Admission, or $125 for VIP (the VIP Lounge is worth it!). They are available online for purchase.

One lucky reader will get to attend this year's event! Just use the rafflecopter form below for multiple ways to enter the giveaway. You can tweet daily for additional entries. A winner will be announced on Friday the 13th.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck!

Disclosure: I was provided with two event tickets for myself, and two to give away, in exchange for this post and a review of the event. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 To Dine Challenge

Happy New Year! Forgive me, I'm two days late in posting this, but here it is...the 2017 To Dine Challenge list!

Each year, you send me restaurants suggestions throughout the month of December. On January 1st, as a New Year's resolution of sorts, I announce the 10 that I've selected and then challenge myself to dine at them over the next 12 months.

In 2016, time just flew by and other things in my life were a priority. As I wrapped up the year, I realized that I had several more restaurants left on the To Dine Challenge list. There was no way that I could get to them all before December 31st. So...that got me thinking. What other restaurants have I not made it to in the past?

I dug up the previous lists, and decided that we'll do something a little different this year. I'm starting the 2017 To Dine Challenge list with any restaurant that I've skipped in the past (only 3 in addition to the 2016 list if we exclude the ones that closed). Here they are:

North End Wine Bar (2016)
Taste of Jamaica (2016)
Chow Chow (2016)
Koko Bakery (2016)
Tinkers Creek Road Tavern (2011)
The Original Steaks and Hoagies (2014)
Thyme2 (2014)

That left me with 3 spots to fill for the 2017 list. I decided to pull in "newly" opened restaurants that I haven't tried yet.

Ushabu 
Proper Pig Smokehouse 
Nora

There you have it. 10 restaurants, 12 months.

Who's coming with me?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Scratch

I'm always excited to find a new restaurant close to work, and thanks to fellow foodie blogger Crystal, I did the other day. She invited me to lunch at Scratch on Brecksville Road in Independence.
This newly-opened breakfast and lunch spot is trying to put a spin on familiar foods, with almost everything made from scratch (hence the name).

It's quite cute inside, like this sign on the back wall.
They have some low seating and a few high tops. The three of us waited for a low table to clear, and then settled in for a long leisurely lunch.

I went for the Ultimate BLT with smoked pork belly (really just thick cut bacon), lettuce, tomato, and a pepper aioli on toasted multi grain bread ($6.95). Dining Deals Alert!
The aioli and bread are really what made this sandwich stand out. I would happily order this again. But, the fries were a real disappointment. Over-fried and dried out, both of us that had them left most of them on the plate.

We sat and chatted for quite some time after the meal, and the staff went above and beyond to be accommodating (even offering complimentary coffee).

They are still getting their groove on menu items, but I think it has real potential. I'll be scheduling some working breakfast or lunch meetings here in the future.

Scratch
6595 Brecksville Rd. #1
Independence, OH 44131
216-312-2190

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Citizen Pie

I've been trying to tick a few more restaurants off of the 2016 To Dine Challenge list before Christmas, so that led Mr. H and I to Citizen Pie for Sunday lunch.
Located on Waterloo on the east side of Cleveland (across the street from Beachland Ballroom), this little shop provides you with a handful of seating options but a front-row view of your pizza being made. The Neapolitan-style pizza only takes 90 seconds to cook in the woodfire oven.
We placed our order at the counter, and then took a seat at the only low table. There is high-top seating at the window, and a small bar surrounding half of the counter, but that's it.
I ordered the Mushroom pizza with mozzarella, brie, mushrooms, bacon, red onion and truffle oil ($16).
Mr. H got the Sunday Special pizza, which was like Eggs Benedict on dough. Here it is pre-egg cracking...
...and post-egg cracking. Look at all that gooey yolk!
He was kind enough to share one slice with me.
The crust is unmatched in Cleveland, from what I've had. They have a good variety of topping combinations, and the new "4-way" which allows you to split the pizza into four types.

My only complaint was that the Mushroom pizza was a little watery in the center. Could be the combination of water releasing from the mushrooms and the truffle oil, but it left the dough a touch soggy in the middle.

Flavor-wise though, both pizzas were killer. I'd happily drive back over to the east side for this, but luckily I won't always have to. They are slated to open a second location in Ohio City in 2017.

Citizen Pie
15710 Waterloo Rd.
North Collinwood, OH 44110
216-417-2742