Thursday, February 13, 2020

Tapatia's Taqueria

It was time to kick off the 2020 To Dine Challenge, so Mr. H and I headed to Tapatia's Taqueria for some authentic street tacos on a Saturday for lunch.
Mr. H was immediately happy when warm tortilla chips and salsa arrived at the table!
I ordered the Combo Taco Special ($8.99) with your choice of two taco fillings (excluding seafood) and sides of rice and beans. There are 11 fillings to choose from.
Then you get to take your tacos up to the magical Taco Salad Bar and fill them up with all kinds of goodies like fresh salsas, cilantro, onions, lime wedges, pickled red onions, sour cream and more.
Voila!
Now I've admitted this here before, I'm a flour tortilla kinda gal. But these housemade corn tortillas were pretty darn good and also didn't split apart or get soggy despite my efforts to overload my tacos. I may prefer La Plaza Taqueria's slightly, but these were closer than any others I've had locally.

Mr. H ordered two Sopes ($4.25 - $4.75) and the thick homemade corn tortillas were a perfect mix of soft and crunchy, piled with your choice of meat and refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and crumbled cheese. He even preferred this over the tacos. 
A couple of checks in the "pro" column over La Plaza is that it's larger and has table service, a good sized bar, and a bigger menu. But no grocery store attached that you can shop at after dining! We'll be back.

Tapatia's Taqueria
12501 Lorain Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44111
(216) 600-5505

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Zhug Knocks My Socks Off

My mom was in town last weekend, and it was the perfect opportunity for a girls' night out along with one of my besties for the three of us to check out the brand new Zhug by Doug Katz (of Shaker Square's fire food and drink).

In Cleveland Heights, near Nighttown on Cedar Road, the restaurant is serving up Middle Eastern Mezze (or "small dishes"). Lucky for us, my friend had already dined there, so she helped guide us on how many and what to order.

Top of her list was the Harissa Peanut Hummus ($10) served with fresh pita. They have three different versions of hummus on the menu.
Next we tried something she hadn't had during her other two visits, the Leeks and Feta ($8) with ramp-pistachio pistou, toasted shallot, and dijon vin.
Then came another dish she recommended, the Warm White Beans ($7) with local tomato and a basil aioli.
Followed by the Duck Fat Fried Parsnip Pancakes ($9) with apples and sage.
The only savory dish that didn't wow me and I'd suggest skipping over was the Butter Roasted Shrimp ($14) with garlic and pil biber chili. It was certainly fine, but not unique or full of the interesting flavors and textures the other dishes had.
On the heartier side of the small plates are dishes like the Miller Grass Fed Beef Kofte ($15) with smoked feta, shaved fennel, and radish...
...and Yemenite Curry Fried Chicken ($14) with harissa honey.
My friend had raved about the Tahini Ice Cream Sundae, and in hindsight I wish we had just gotten that because the Lemon Cake was only ok. We all shared it, and still left a good piece of it behind.
Other than the long line of diners waiting to get in and the hour and a half we waited for a table, you'd never know that the restaurant just opened. There were no service issues, and the quality and pacing of the food was top notch. But word is spreading fast, and they don't currently take reservations, so be prepared to wait if you're trying to dine on a popular night or time. No fear, there are good drinks just down the street at Parnell's Pub or Fairmount. My only "complaint" is that a few areas of the dining room are communal seating, which I personally don't care for.

I walked away thinking that this was one of the best meals I've had in Cleveland in a while, and that says a lot because you all know that we eat good around here! I purposefully didn't order a few small plates that I knew Mr. H would love to try, so we'll be going back soon.

Zhug
12413 Cedar Road
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 862-2508

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Rosso Italia Opens in Beachwood

I was invited to attend a recent media tasting at the brand new Rosso Italia in the former Red the Steakhouse space, adjacent to Blu and also owned by Brad Friedlander.
The restaurant's décor had a complete overhaul and it's much warmer than Red was. I love the attention to detail, custom pieces, and light fixtures.
We cozied up in this corner by the bar for quite a feast!
But, secretly I just wanted to go hang out in the wine cellar. Bring me some baguette, and I think I could just live there!
The family-style meal started with several appetizer items, like the Stuffed Peppers...
...Bone Marrow with Beef Tartar...
...and Calamari. My favorites included the Calamari and Charcuterie board.
Their bread is made in-house, and it arrived with an olive spread, oil and balsamic vinegar, and a whole head of roasted garlic. Roasted garlic cloves spread on good bread is just heavenly! Maybe not ideal on date night, haha.
During the salad course next, my favorite dish of the night arrived. The Radicchio salad with white beans, blue cheese, pine nuts, and an amazing dressing has been on my mind since I had it. It was really unexpected, and not anything I would have chosen to order on a menu on my own. But I must have it again.
The next course was the only real miss for me during the meal. The Gnocchi were a little too dense and forgettable.
And the Orecchiette was dry and lacked real flavor other than the sausage.
But my second favorite dish of the night was also served during the pasta course, the Bolognese with beef and pork ragu over house-made pappardelle. I'd totally order that again!

For the final savory course...the meats. First, came out the LARGEST Chicken Parmesan I've ever seen in my life. As big as my head. I wish this picture did it justice, but the knife in the background is a huge steak knife if that helps give you a sense of size. This dish is not served with a side of pasta, as usual.
Then we also feasted on Rack of Lamb, Strip Steak, and Veal Masala. The steak was probably my favorite, seasoned and seared perfectly. For those that miss Red, the Steakhouse then they'll be pleased to see this on the menu.
As if we weren't full already, dessert arrived. The Tiramisu was my favorite, but the lemon (pictured below) and chocolate desserts were also good.
Overall, the space is warmer and more inviting, and the food was classically done well. Most of it wasn't overly memorable, but that salad and the Bolognese sure were. 

3355 Richmond Road
Beachwood, OH 44122
(216) 831-1004

Disclosure: I was invited to attend a media preview dinner and all food and one drink was provided complimentary. All opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

KCC Carry-out

Kelly Catering Co. (KCC), after more than 20+ years in the catering business in Cleveland, decided to open a brick and mortar carry-out restaurant in a small storefront on Broadview Road in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood.

Family, faith, and "serenity food" are at the heart of this business' menu and décor. Step inside, and you're welcomed by a heart-warming wall of the family's portraits done by a local artist that does a lot of work in the Hough neighborhood.
"Good food takes time." greets you, and yes, be prepared to wait for your takeout order. Because everything is made to-order. You can call ahead to speed up the wait once you arrive, but we didn't have to wait an unreasonable amount of time with even two orders ahead of us.

What drew me in even quicker to try out this new spot in the neighborhood was a posting on social media about Day's Deep Fried Deviled Eggs ($7). Umm, yes please!
We wanted to try a few different items, so the best way to do that is the Jerry and Cooney's Snack Pack Combo ($6.50) with two wings, four rib tips, one piece of fish, and fries. Came smothered in their BBQ sauce, which became so popular with their catering customers that they are now selling it by the jar. We'd buy some!
We decided to forgo the fries so we could try two of the other Sides, because let's be honest. Good BBQ and Southern food...the sides are just killer.

That included Tay's Mac n Cheese ($2 small, $4 large)...
...and Greg's Southern Style Baked Beans.
Both sides were great, and I enjoyed everything but the fish in the Snack Pack. It was totally fine, but not as good as the other meats so I'd skip it in the future.

A great little addition to the neighborhood for fast causal food, and right around the corner from the zoo for hungry families in the area. BBQ would make a fantastic picnic at the zoo!

3312 Broadview Road
Cleveland, OH 44109
(216) 862-0009

Monday, January 27, 2020

Ushabu Omaske

Mr. H and I hadn't been to Tremont's Ushabu in quite some time, so when a silent auction package came up this fall for a 7-course Omaske Tasting with premium sake pairings for 2 people...I scooped it up, and we decided to use it to kick off his birthday celebrations there. It was a milestone birthday (shh), so I wanted it to be extra special.

The meal kicked off with certainly the prettiest of presentations.
Each chef's whim dish was very different from the last.
And there wasn't a bad bite to the whole thing.
The next two courses were my favorite, with flavors of mushroom, truffle, beef, marrow, and more.
The little Japanese "pancakes" made a lovely sweet vehicle for the rich bone marrow.
Homemade udon noodles with charred fennel and soy paired well with the fish course for our last savory course of the evening.
The chocolate pot de crème and matcha whipped cream was the only course I didn't care for. But I think matcha in general is not a flavor I enjoy, and dessert is always my least favorite thing of any meal.
The sake we sampled was selected perfectly by Matt Spinner, and our buddy Chef David Kocab (formally of The Black Pig) had just stepped in to take over the helm in the kitchen just days before we dined there. You'll see some menu changes on the near horizon, and we're excited to see what these guys come up with next.

2173 Professor Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 713-1741