Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Umami Asian Kitchen Review

This post has been a long-time coming, for several reasons. I've known Chef Matthew Anderson for about three years now, and I liked him right away once I saw that he is so warm, enthusiastic, and passionate about what he does. When he moved to take over the kitchen at Umami in Chagrin Falls, I was thrilled for him and wanted to get out there and try it for myself. But time slips by, and unfortunately Chagrin Falls is not always on our dining radar.

So my first trip to Umami Asian Kitchen didn't come until recently, when the Jeni's Ice Cream shop opened up and eager Clevelanders descended upon Main Street. When we walked into the restaurant,"R" and I were surprised to find only a handful of tables, and the chef happily creating in the open, tight kitchen space in the back. There was no wait, and we started to peruse the brief menu. I personally felt that there were enough options for the average diner to be able to find something appealing, and I always appreciate a brief menu selection if you just focus on quality and nailing every dish. I won't say that Chef Matt is quite nailing it yet, but he's coming pretty darn close based on our first experience there.

Thankfully, some tweeps had recommended the Udon Noodles and any fish special. This helped steer our decisions. We started with some Goat Cheese Dumplings with seared greens and a soy ginger butter ($8.50).The goat cheese flavor was a little lost, and perhaps would have stood out if the dumplings were larger. I combined a couple in a few bites and the result was a tad better. But overall, we enjoyed the Asian-inspired flavors and we weren't off to a bad start.

Then, a surprise greeted us at the table. Chef Matthew had graciously sent out a complimentary appetizer for us to try. This time, it was a pork belly dish that is similar to the Crispy Pork Belly on the regular menu but this version had been served the night before at one of their special wine dinners. At first I was hesitant, because I have an issue with fatty meat and pork belly has never been a favorite of mine. Anderson changed my mind. Um, wow! "R" and I were both fighting over the last few bites, and it left me believing that I could like pork belly after all.Next up were our entrees. I had gone with the Udon Noodles with spicy beef, shiitakes, bok choy, basil, ginger, Parmesan, and dashi ($17). The thick noodles absorbed the traditional Asian flavors well, and with just a subtle bit of heat to the dish- it was very enjoyable. Although, the dish did not reheat well the next day. Several of the regular main dishes had peaked "R's" interest, but he went with the fish special. The grouper was fresh and prepared well, with the chef's simplistict approach shining through.

We were both happy with our meal, but the real highlight was the pork belly dish. It pushed our experience to another level, and the chef's lighthearted pleasure in doing what he does best helped keep it there. Even in the hustle and bustle of his tiny kitchen, he took a few moments to talk to us after the meal. I signed up for their email list to be notified of upcoming wine dinners and other special events, and I encourage you to do so as well.

A big thank you to Chef Anderson for a nice evening out trying some quality Asian cuisine that we don't often get in our neck of the woods, and for reminding me that Chagrin Falls is a great little pocket of restaurants and shops and we need to get over there more often! A nice stroll by the falls topped off the night.

Umami Asian Kitchen
42 Main Street
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022

Umami Asian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dinner in the Dark- Special Edition

Last night's Dinner in the Dark was a special version, and one that I am happy I didn't miss. Traditionally for Dinner in the Dark, six talented chefs come together to present a multi-course wine paired meal that leaves diners "in the dark" about what will be served and who is behind the dish. But they put that all aside this time, and recruited 20+ chefs to each do a tasting station. Taking place at AMP150, 260 diners descended upon the chefs and helped raise money for the Matthew Finkle Scholarship- which will help local young talent live out their dream of attending CIA.

Most of Cleveland's best chefs were in attendance, and there was a nice assortment of dishes to sample. There were quite a lot of pork dishes, but with bacon, sausage, tenderloin, pork belly...you just have so many good choice, so I see why several chefs had selected to work with it. We enjoyed strolling through the two rooms of tasting tables, but of course there were some highlights. First up was Chef Rocco Whalen's chicken spring roll from Fahrenheit, which is apparently on his regular menu and now I just can't wait to go and try the real thing. Also in that corner of the room was Ellis Cooley from AMP150, one of the founders of Dinner in the Dark, and his mussels were outstanding. Packed with flavor, and cooked right in front of you. I love a good mussel.SOHO is about to open on West 25th Street in Ohio City, so I was interested to try their dish. It was a light watermelon salad with a jalapeno vinaigrette. The heat of the dish overpowered it slightly, but other than that I loved the balance of flavors and light, crisp texture and it left my tongue dancing. Looking forward to their opening!Another personal favorite was the chorizo pierogi from Melange. I truly enjoy almost everything that these two chefs put out, and I need to get my butt over to Beachwood more often!One station that was causing quite a stir is Fat Casual BBQ. These talented chefs have worked through several great restaurants in Cleveland, and now they've opened "their" kind of place...with some wonderful meats and classic side dishes done well. It looks like we are headed there soon for their Friday special of slow cooked prime rib. One thing to note is that these guys have started catering for the Dinner in the Dark chefs during their regular monthly events, so that the chefs that are working so hard behind the scenes actually get to eat something that night as well. Overall it was a nice event, and it's always fun to see our city's best chefs gather together for a good cause. If you want to attend a traditional Dinner in the Dark, don't miss the June edition at Flying Fig! There are already only 38 tickets left for this event, so don't wait. Kudos to all of the chefs behind this, and thank you for a great evening.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sushi Winner, Brain is Mush...Happy Monday.

Congratulations to MoniSz4 for winning the two tickets to Naked Sushi in my giveaway! You have until Tuesday to contact me before I select another winner.

I am "backblogged" as Alexa from Cleveland's a Plum recently called it. There have been so many fabulous foodie events that I've been attending, giveaways to host, and of course just some wonderful dining adventures to blog about...but...

Today my brain is fried. I am an event planner by day, and my largest event of the year for the non-profit that I work for was yesterday (huge success!!!). So my brain is mush, and I couldn't do any post justice today. I'll just have to wait until tomorrow. But by then I will have attended another great event ---Dinner in the Dark Special Edition at AMP150. Who is headed there tonight? Last I heard, they have recruited 23 chefs, sold out the originally planned 200 tickets and opened up an additional 100 tickets. Only 60 are left, so go get yours if you haven't already! Only $40 and the funds raised support a very worthy cause. I can't wait!

But now it's off to do some data entry...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Beer Me!

Over the past year, through this little ole' blog, I've had the chance to attend a couple of great beer festivals. Now, I've admitted on here that I am a wine girl through and through...but these more recent beer experiences are really making a difference. When you gather a lot of great brewers and some truly outstanding brews, I'm bound to find some that I like and push myself to try ones that I don't. That's what happened last weekend, yet again.I'm talking about the International Beer Fest at the IX Center. The coordinators generously offered me a media pass, so "R" picked up a ticket and we showed up for Session 3 on Saturday night. It was my first time inside of the IX Center, and boy is it HUGE! I do have to mention that I preferred the dim and sparkling setting of BREWzilla at the Galleria last October as part of Beer Week, but at least at the IX Center you could clearly see the different areas of "the world" and sample beers accordingly.

We wandered around for a bit, starting with Ohio!Then we took a break and chowed down on some grub from StrEAT Mobile Bistro. Yup, several of Cleveland's popular food trucks were present. Awesome addition to the event.After enjoying our food, we headed back out onto the floor for more samples. Several of my "tweeps" had attended on Friday night or Saturday afternoon, and one in particular had raved about Kuhnhenn Creme Brulee Stout.So we located the stand, sampled away, and I declared that I was done. This.was.it. I'm not even a stout lover like "R", but that beer was delicious and I couldn't go back. So we happily ended our tour and headed home. Maybe there is a beer lover deep inside me after all....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Win Tickets to Naked Sushi!

Matt Mytro from Stove Monkeys and Crisp Catering is known for thinking out of the box. I had the pleasure of attending one of his Yumm events last year, with culinary creations using gastronomy and pure playfulness. Well he has a new series, called Naked Sushi...and it's pretty literal.Guests are offered the chance to dine on delicious sushi from Dante of Restaurant Dante and (the soon to be open) Ginko featured on "unique landscape". This "landscape" is beautifully painted models, who just happen to be naked. This ancient Japanese tradition has come to Cleveland, and now it's your turn to check it out.

The next event is taking place on Thursday, May 26th from 7:30-11PM at Liquid and Suite Sixx on West 6th Street in downtown Cleveland. The event will also offer Asian-inspired snacks and signature cocktails. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door, but one lucky reader will get to win a pair of tickets and attend for free!

Just leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite sushi roll or sashimi is, and you'll be entered to win. You can also gain a second entry by tweeting "I want to win tickets from @BiteBuff to Naked Sushi!". Make sure that you leave an additional comment below to let me know that you've tweeted. I will select a winner using random.org on Monday. Don't forget to leave an email address or contact information in your comment so that I can easily get in touch with you. Good luck!

*Thank you to Matt Mytro, who generously offered me the opportunity to give away the two passes to a reader and to attend as a media representative.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pig Roast to Welcome Patio Season!

Washington Place Bistro opened its newly renovated patio last week, and welcomed in the patio (sort of, since it started to rain) season by inviting local media and a handful of bloggers to the restaurant for a traditional pig roast with all the fixin's.

To get to the patio from the parking lot, you are taken through a small walkway that is just bursting with flowers, bushes, and even fresh herbs. I felt like we were being led to something secret. Well the secret is out- they've done a great job with the patio and this will quickly become a summer hot spot in Little Italy!

We settled in with some cocktails before the meal.I really enjoyed the Raspberry Wheat, and the sample of the light summer cocktail that they served was refreshing and I'd order it on my own. After giving us some time to chat, owner Scott Kuhn welcomed the group and gave us some highlights of the changes that they've made since opening last fall. Then he introduced us to the infamous Farmer Lee Jones, who talked to us about his Veggie U program and their big fundraising event coming up in July (more on this later, because he very generously provided each of the guests with a ticket to the event). I can't wait to tell you more about this wonderful program.

Then it was time for the roast!It included a whole pig with two different types of BBQ sauce, slaw, some of the best baked beans that I've ever had, cornbread, deviled eggs, and more. It was all delicious!

A big thank you to Washington Place Bistro, Cleveland Foodie, and Farmer Lee Jones for inviting us to christen the patio and hear about what the restaurant and Veggie U program have coming up this summer season. It sure put me in the patio mood!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Band Aid Bash Ticket Giveaway!

MedWish is about to host their biggest fundraiser of the year next Saturday, May 21st from 7-11PM...the Band Aid Bash! And one lucky Bite Buff reader is going to get the chance to attend...

MedWish recovers and recycles donated medical supplies from area healthcare providers, and then these life-saving supplies are made available to those providing medical care in developing countries all over the world. In 2010, MedWish saved 450 tons of medical surplus from being sent to local landfills, supplying 201 shipments to 54 countries. It also boasts to have one of the largest volunteer programs, with over 2,000 people assisting with the sorting of supplies in the MedWish warehouse each year. But one night a year, they take a break from doing good in the community and transform their industrial warehouse into a swanky nightclub with amazing food and auction prizes!

This year, the food is coming from Spice of Life Catering (one of my favorites, as you know) and they will highlight international fare. This includes dishes from the Caribbean, Africa, South America, and the Middle East. You also don't want to miss the chance to bid on auction packages from Spice of Life, fire food and drink, L'Albatros, Emerging Chefs and much more!

Have I tickled your taste buds enough yet? Interested in attending this fantastic event? Just leave me a comment on this post expressing your interest to win, and tell me what your favorite local non-profit is. I'll select a winner using random.org on Tuesday. Please note that only one ticket is included in this giveaway. Good luck!

A big thank you goes out to MedWish for inviting me to attend as a media representative, and then agreeing to let me give away my pass to a reader when I couldn't attend because of a work conflict. My packed schedule this month is someone's good fortune!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Apples to Apples, Burrito to Burrito

We stumbled upon a new (to us) brunch location recently that I wanted to share. Did you know that South Side in Tremont offers a Sunday brunch? Well we certainly didn't until we were dining there one evening, and when our bill came there was a small advertisement for their brunch at the bottom of the check. Being the brunch-lovers that we are, of course we headed back there a few weeks later to check it out.

Now I have mixed feeling as I write this post, because if you follow me on Twitter then you know that "R" and I had a disappointing meal there the other night. The food was off--- components were missing and all three things that we ordered just didn't measure up to what we've experienced in the past. Not that SS has ever really wowed me or been a Tremont favorite, but at least the food has been consistently decent in the past and we do like the atmosphere and outdoor seating. And the mussels, Mmmm the mussels. But, I digress. So even though our most recent experience left me disappointed and swearing that we wouldn't be back for a while, I still feel compelled to write this post about our brunch.

I was happy to see a lot of appetizing options on their brunch menu, including Chicken & Waffles, Crab Cake Benedict Florentine, Enchiladas and Eggs, and Pecan Crusted French Toast. Their menu rivaled one of our favorites- the Tremont Tap House. Now, how did they stack up? Not too shabby in my opinion.

"R" ordered the Pigs in a Blanket with deep fried pancake batter sausage links served with cinnamon butter, syrup, two eggs, and hash browns ($9). From the bite that I stole, the flavors and textures were well-balanced. This dish did inspire us to try our own version tailgating this fall. I zoned in on the Breakfast Burrito with eggs, chorizo, veggies, Tex-Mex sauce, shredded cheese, salsa, and sour cream ($7). It reminded me of one of our favorite dishes at the Tap House, so I wanted to give it a try. I even added a side of hollandaise sauce so that I could compare apples to apples. Truth be told, it was a good breakfast burrito and I enjoyed my meal...but my heart still lies with the Tap House's version.At South Side, I felt like we got a lot of "bang for our buck" with the brunch entrees prices at $9 and $7. We were seated on the enclosed patio with lots of sunlight pouring in, and brunch hit the spot that day. So just in case you didn't realize that this popular Tremont bar also serves brunch...well, now you know!

South Side
2207 West 11th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 937-2288

Sunday, May 8, 2011

XYZ Tavern- First Impression

Randy and Linda Kelley's newest venture, XYZ Tavern, has been open in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood for a couple of months now and it continues to please most of its patrons. The duo is also behind Ohio City's ABC Tavern, which some will claim that XYZ will never measure up to. It's a matter of opinion, and I enjoyed my first experience at XYZ.

I headed there after work one Wednesday to meet up with three friends. We settled into a table and ordered drinks before perusing the menu. With dozens of craft beers, loads of bourbon and whiskey options, and a few other cocktails there is something for everyone.

Thanks to the Twitterverse, I had heard that the Broccoli Tempura was quite good and it reminded me of Flying Fig's tempura green beans that I love so much. So that menu item was a must, and I also ordered the fish taco special.The broccoli was a hit, with its sweet and spicy sauces and light batter. I would order this again for sure, and "R" even enjoyed the pieces that I brought home with me.

The fish taco was a little disappointing. As you can see below, the taco was large and loosely folded. There were so many ingredients in there that there was no way I could try and pick it up to eat it like a standard taco. So I ended up using my knife and fork. While the components were fresh and the fish prepared and seasoned well, eating it with utensil just lost some of the experience of a taco. A couple of smaller tacos instead of one giant taco would have been more appreciated and appropriate.Overall, we liked the atmosphere and food/drink menu and we'll be back for more. It also looked like garage doors will open up for some outside seating once the warmer weather settles in. Now that's my kind of restaurant!
XYZ Tavern
6419 Detroit Road
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 651-5520

*Note: "R" went there several weeks later, and wasn't too thrilled with what he ordered. Looks like it is time for Round #2 to see for myself!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Prosperity Social Club Reminder

Prosperity Social Club is nestled along Starkweather Avenue in the Tremont neighborhood on the south side of Lincoln Park. All stone and wood on the exterior, it is just one of those places that invites you into their dark, cozy comfort and you can easily settle in for some brews and a bite to eat. We've dined there several times, and each dish has been solid and dependable but without ever really "wowing" you. It is just homestyle comfort American food, some of them with a twist.

"R" and I popped in for a quick dinner and a couple of beers the other night, and sadly we were two of the only three people there that evening. I realize that it was early in the week, but Tremont is a busy dining area and I expected more traffic for this restaurant. Hence why I am writing this post.

We dined on Sausage Tortilla Nachos with andouille, cheddar sauce, black bean salsa, house fried tortilla chips, and cilantro-lime crema ($9.5).While they weren't quite as good as Reddstone's Macho Nachos, these were fresh and tasty with plenty of toppings that lasted through all of the chips. This is a rare occurrence, and one that I appreciated.

Then we each had one of their happy hour menu items (very reasonably priced with several options). I had a dozen mussels for just $3 (not good, very "fishy"), and "R" had the bratwurst sandwich for $4.5. He enjoyed the sandwich, and it was gone in seconds. With happy hour drink specials as well, our bill was pretty cheap for what we got and we left full and satisfied.

But, we didn't participate in my favorite part of Prosperity...the board games! A large stack of games are just waiting to be used in the back of the restaurant, including some of my childhood favorites like Chutes and Ladders and Connect 4. So go hang out, have a beer, grab some grub, and enjoy a board game with friends!

Prosperity Social Club
1109 Starkweather Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 937-1938

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Winner, Winner, Beer for Dinner!

Drum roll please....congratulations to Stacy (comment #15) for winning the two general admission tickets in my International Beer Fest giveaway! Stacy, please email me or leave your email address in a comment below to claim your prize. If I don't hear from her by Thursday, then I will select a new winner.

For those of you that still want to attend, the organizers have also offered me a discount code for my readers. Save $4 by using the promo code "BLOG" when you purchase your general admission tickets at http://www.ixbeerfest.com/.

So who is attending? Because I'll be there checking it out and sampling beers! I think we are going to go to the Saturday evening session. Cheers!