Friday, October 26, 2012

Dining at Dante- Several Times

Dante Boccuzzi's restaurant Dante in Tremont leaves me confused every time that I dine there.

Our first visit, over a year and a half ago, we left feeling underwhelmed. We had tried the appetizer portion of the famous Linguine alla Carbonara with a poached egg and house made pancetta ($9). It was incredibly salty, and neither of us really enjoyed it. I have since had the same dish at his D.C. Pasta Co. restaurant, and it was not too salty. I think the dish can vary depending on the night. We also had the Hong Kong Style Mussels with chile peppers, cilantro, and crab meat ($12). That night, I declared them the "best mussels I've had in Cleveland". Then we moved on to the entrees. I had a gnocchi special with Ohio sweet corn and mushrooms that was simply divine. "R" had a beef dish that is no longer on the menu. It was served with a "potato donut" that was basically a fried potato patty, and a schmear of basil sauce on the bottom of the plate. The entire dish was dry and under seasoned, and "R" rarely complains about food. So, even though a couple of the dishes had been fantastic, we left there puzzled and not in a hurry to return.

It took an entire year before we headed back there. We decided to start with a butter poached prawns appetizer, and an order of our beloved Hong Kong Mussels. The prawns were only okay (no longer on the menu), but the mussels were the real disappointment. They were small and overcooked, very unlike the plump mussels we received a year ago. The wonderful flavors of the broth were muted this time. Previously, we had been fighting to lick the bowl and now we couldn't be bothered to even dip our bread. What happened? For our main course, "R" ordered the curry duck (no longer on the menu) and it was delicious. The duck had a perfect sear on it while still moist, and the curry flavor was great. I was really in the mood for scallops that night, but my gut instinct was to not order the current preparation listed on the menu. I should have listened. The scallops were cooked to perfection, but the flavor combination in the dish just didn't work for me. They were served with small fried potato pancakes, strawberries, and a balsamic sauce. The potato pancakes crumbled when you tried to cut into them, so it became hard to get a good bite of it. Overall, the sweetness of the strawberries and bite of the balsamic just drowned the scallops, and the dish didn't work in my opinion. Again, we left having loved one dish, some were just average, and one was disappointing. When it's all over the map like that, it leaves me confused as to whether or not I truly enjoyed the meal.

Finally, I attended a work dinner there last month where we were presented with a smaller version of the menu to select from. The duck that "R" had previously ordered was one of the main course options, so that's what I went with (it was great!).
I had started with an order of the Crispy Calamari and Shrimp ($14) served with a chile spice mayonnaise. The dipping sauce was the only thing unique about this dish. Otherwise, it was your standard fried calamari and shrimp-- a little too heavy on the batter and kind of dry. However, the dinner ended on a high note. I selected the Artisan Selection of Cheeses from the dessert options. It was one of the best cheese plates that I've had (besides L'Albatros, but they are in their own category). I enjoyed all three cheeses, and the thinly-cut toasted walnut raisin bread that was served with it ($12). "R" and I even headed back there a few weeks later for an after-dinner cheese plate.

So...can you see why I have mixed emotions about this restaurant? Or why it has taken me a year and a half to share my experiences there? Some dishes have been outstanding, some were good but forgettable, and a couple were terrible. Where is the consistency? Is it the fact that he changes the menu so frequently, that the kitchen can't perfect every dish?

Still confused, and still not in a hurry to rush back...

However, the renovated bank space is breathtaking. I'm also looking forward to trying his restaurant Ginko, which is housed below Dante. I've heard that it's the best sushi in Cleveland.

2247 Professor Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113