Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pleasing our "Palate"s

Two weeks ago, I had one of the most pleasurable meals that I've had in a long time. And that says a lot, because as you can see...we dine out often. My parents were coming to town to visit, and I knew that I had to come up with a restaurant that could deliver a memorable meal and once again impress my out-of-town guests. I really love bragging about how amazing our city's culinary scene is! So I racked my brain and quickly decided that my maiden trip to Chef Jeff Jarrett's Palate Restaurant & Lounge in Strongsville was going to do the trick. Palate is Jarrett's first restaurant on his own, and after just opening in late December...word is spreading already about the food, atmosphere, and price point.

We had a long day spent at the Great Lakes Science Center and a late lunch at Nate's Deli, so we moved our reservation to 8:30PM on Saturday. When we arrived, the main dining room and bar area were mostly full, but the noise level was manageable thanks to strategic decor and walls sectioning off areas. It created an intimate setting that allowed us to really enjoy the company, while still feeling like we were surrounded by other restaurant patrons. The soft earth-tones and warm lighting created an atmosphere that I personally always enjoy.

Now, on to the food...because there was a lot of it! We started by sharing three small plates. Mussels with Thai flavors and cilantro ($8), Crab Cake with corn flakes, candied hot peppers, and apple butter ($5 per piece), and Buttermilk Fried Chicken Livers with cheesy polenta, spiced honey, and grilled scallion salad ($7). The mussels were good, but I didn't really get any traditional Thai flavors from the dish. It was heavy on the garlic, so my garlic-hating father steered clear of this small plate, but the rest of us enjoyed them. The crab cake had a distinct crab flavor, without being "fishy", and we loved the corn flake crust- it added great texture. I had pushed for us to order the chicken livers, as they are becoming a popular menu item at Palate, and this was the dish that Jarrett served at December's Dinner in the Dark. But, I have to say that the table was underwhelmed, and I had to agree that they were much better in December. The spicy honey was lacking, which had been my favorite component of the dish, and the polenta did not have as strong of a cheese flavor this time around. All in all, the small plates were good (some temperature issues) and we were off to a nice start. I love that several of the small plate options can be ordered in "pieces" so that you can easily adjust the dish to fit the size of your party.

Then it was on to the salads (and one soup). I only tried "R's" Fried Goat Cheese salad (top) with roasted beets and apples and a cranberry honey gastrique ($6) and then my Mache Pit salad (bottom) with goat cheese, pistachio, honey pomegranate, and a lemon vinaigrette ($6). While I loved my light, citrus dressing..."R" won the salad battle. The fried goat cheese was crispy and creamy, and once paired with the apples and beets...salad heaven.

Finally, it was entree time. The real stars of the evening! Here is my Pancetta-wrapped Pheasant with butternut squash puree, apple cranberry compote, and maple gastrique ($20):
Called their "showpiece dish", we couldn't help but to Oooh and Ahhh over the presentation when it arrived at our table. Luckily, it was just as delicious as it was beautiful. All of the components combined created the sensation of Thanksgiving dinner. But don't look for it on the spring menu, which is arriving in about a week!

And, of course, we couldn't resist dessert.Four different desserts were sampled and passed around the table, but I enjoyed my order of the Deconstructed S'more. It brought back memories of campfires and childhood cookouts. Sous Chef Lauren Stephenson knows how to please a sweet tooth!

Shortly after our entree dishes were removed, Chef Jarrett had appeared to check in on us and say hello. At this point, the dining room had cleared and he was able to spend quite a bit of time with us talking about the growing pains of opening a restaurant and teasing our tastebuds with descriptions of some spring menu items.

This meal will be remembered for quite a while. While all of the dishes we sampled that night were well thought out and overall flavorful, the experience kept building with each course and really ended on a high note. The entree course (all three dishes) was a "hit out of the park" in my opinion. I also have to note that our server was outstanding, and has traveled with Jarett throughout his culinary career. Hang on to her, Chef! 2.5 hours later, we left the restaurant with full bellies, a slight buzz, and happy palates.

Palate Restaurant & Lounge
12214 Pearl Road
Strongsville, OH 44136
(440) 238-8500

Palate Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon


Steph @ Hungry in Cleveland said...

I am finally checking out Palate later this month. Cannot wait!!

Brian said...

Nice review! We are dining at Palate tomorrow for our monthly family dinner. Those pictures and descriptions sure are a help for choosing what we order.

Anonymous said...

Loved this place! I have an allergy to honey, and they worked around it very well. I thought the chicken livers were out of this world, and that was the first time I actually ate all of the polenta offered with a dish!

Unknown said...

This has become our favorite place to eat. We've tried most of the entrees and everyone has been great. Love the fried goat cheese (get it almost every time).

Proudfather said...

Although the pheasant may be the signature dish, the "homey but sophisticated" pot pie with duck and tart cherries was a real hit with me. Beautiful blend of flavors. It sure seems like the whole menue is great!

Bite Buff said...

Just a note--- Palate has now closed.