Friday, January 27, 2012

SOHO Only So-So

Time to select the winner of the two general admission tickets to the Great Big Home and Garden selected lucky #8...Dave from Live to Cook at Home! Congratulations, and I hope that you are looking forward to checking out the show. Email me to claim your prize, and please include your contact information and selected day of attendance. Your name will be held at the door on the day that you select, so go check out what's going on at the Expo. Thank you to all that entered, and to the Expo for providing passes to myself and one reader.

So, SOHO Kitchen & Bar has been on my "To Dine" list since first hearing about it last fall. The concept of Southern cuisine appealed to me, and I was a fan of the owner/chef Nolan Konkoski from his days at Tartine. We spend a lot of time in Ohio City, and I thought that this would be a great addition to West 25th Street. SOHO opened while I was recovering from surgery, so we only just had the chance to check them out last weekend.Aside from a very tiny entryway, I immediately liked the look and feel of the restaurant and bar area. Soft lighting, sleek wooden booths, and muted warm colors helped set the tone of our meal. I do have to note that it was very loud in the main dining area, and some adjustments could be made to help with this. Their cocktail list is inventive, and our friend dining with us enjoyed one of the concoctions- Savannah. She said it was "dangerous", as in you can hardly taste the alcohol and it was deliciously good. I stuck with wine, and "R" tried the Carpetbagger- SOHO signature ale.

We took our time ordering, and started with the Crawfish and Crab Fritters- spicy slaw, lemon, and green onion aioli ($9).I knew from other online reviews not to expect a traditional "fritter", and that the dish was really more of a crab cake. That is just what arrived. It did include sizable chunks of crawfish and crab, the slaw added a refreshing crunch, and the subtle heat of the sauces that were drizzled on the plate accented the flavors of the fritters. I wasn't blown away, but it was a good start to the meal. We also sampled our friend's Jalapeno Hush Puppies ($5.50). They were a little dense and dry, and didn't pack the punch of jalapeno that I was expecting, but the sauce that was served with it was light and refreshing.

For our main course, I ordered the Shrimp and Grits with poached prawns, Anson Miller grits, asparagus, peppers, and wild mushrooms ($17).I read some other reviews of this dish before dining at SOHO, and guests had enjoyed it so I wanted to try it. Unfortunately, I did not care for this preparation and left most of it behind. The shrimp were large and cooked well, which I appreciated. But the overall flavor of the dish was off for me, and I decided that it was the red pepper puree that was drizzled on top of it. It just did not work with the rest of the flavors of the dish, in my opinion, and it dominated the plate. Also, I couldn't help but compare it to the shrimp and grits at Washington Place Bistro, and WPB just blows theirs out of the water.

"R" ordered the Dixie Cheese Steak sandwich ($12) with brisket, collards, beer-cheese fondue, and hot sauce. Our friend had the Fried Green Tomato BLT. Both were served with the house-made BBQ chips, and on the same hearty roll. They each felt that the bread outweighed the proportion of sandwich contents, and that both sandwiches were a little underwhelming on flavor. We also ordered the Deviled Eggs ($5.50) to accompany our main courses.They were a fine deviled egg, but nothing special stood out to me in this preparation.

So, we left feeling a little disappointed in our first experience at SOHO. Certainly nothing was "bad", but some subtle tweaks could help take the quality and flavor of the dishes to the next level. However, the service was great. The server and hostess both paid attention to us, and were attentive and helpful. I asked a few questions about components of dishes, and they were always quick to answer and share. I also appreciate that each section of the menu is priced the same. So, if you order a Starter it is always $9, a Supper $17, and so on. They are still a very young restaurant, so I'm certain that they'll flush out any "bugs" and will continue to be a great addition to a booming Cleveland neighborhood.

SOHO Kitchen & Bar
1889 West 25th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113


Bite Buff said...

Excuse the camera phone photos, my camera was dead that night!

Anonymous said...

Just like there are blogs about restaurants, there ought to be blogs evaluating food blogs. Your time may be better spent teaching yourself how to boil water, honing your knife skills and refining your palate.

Bite Buff said...

To each their own, and you don't have to read my blog if you don't trust my opinions. I simply share my own personal experiences and tastes. I've dined at SOHO three times, and at best the dishes were only slightly above average in flavor and execution. This is how I feel about what I have had, but happy if you disagree and enjoy the place.