Thursday, September 18, 2014

Giovanni's- A Chef's Tasting

This post is going to take you on a tour of the menu at Giovanni's Ristorante. That was Chef Zach Ladner's intention when he reached out to me several weeks ago. He wanted to bring me in to experience a little bit of everything that Giovanni's has to offer.

When we arrived, I knew to look for minimal signage on the corporate building off of Chagrin Boulevard in Beachwood. The sign could be easy to miss.
You can get into the restaurant two ways...a more direct route through an entrance on the right-hand side of the building, or from the front of the building (as we did).
Once we entered the actual restaurant, I admired the gorgeous wine cellar wall, made with glass and separating the main dining room from a smaller private room. The bar area looked sleek and modern, and overall it wasn't quite what I had expected. In a good way.
It certainly feels high-end in the main dining room, but without feeling stuffy or outdated, despite the restaurant's long history. Renovations several years back made sure of this.

I had no clue what "R" and I were getting ourselves into when Zach invited us in for a tasting of the menu. We hadn't discussed it much, and I had left it in Zach's hands. We were shocked when presented with a very lengthy tasting menu upon our arrival.
10 courses! Oh my, how would we ever try it all? Thanks to expert pacing, and smaller portion sizes, we managed. It was just so darn good that we couldn't stop. We almost licked our plates clean on a few courses. It ended up being one of the most memorable meals of my life.

The meal started off on a high note with the Chilled Cuttlefish Salad with squid ink romesco, almond, lemon, and parsley.
Light, herbaceous, with a hint of citrus, it was a great start.

Our second course was equally as delicious and impressive; an Ohio Raised Beef Tartar with bone marrow, radish, crispy egg yolk, pesto, mustard seed, and garlic toast.
Pause for some egg yolk porn...
The bone marrow was topped with this wonderful tartar, and a highly skilled fried egg yolk concoction. I broke through the crispy shell and released this gooey, fantastic yolk. It was served with garlic Parmesan toasts, that made a perfect vehicle for the tartar and buttery marrow.

Our third course brought House-made Ricotta Gnudi with shaved black winter truffle, parmigiano, and brown butter.
These dense gnudi were so decadent and rich with flavor. I wouldn't want more than 4-6 of them, so this was a perfect portion size.

Fourth course was a Horseradish Crusted Alaskan Halibut with peas, fava beans, lollipop kale, and a sweet corn veloute.
The horseradish was mild enough to not dominate the fish, and it was perfectly cooked. I could have had just a bowl of that corn veloute, but I'm a sucker for anything with Ohio sweet corn this time of year.

Our fifth course arrived, bringing us the Chef's favorite...Porchetta of Gaspor Farms Milk-fed Porcelet with polenta, sausage, fennel, grapes, mustard, and natural jus.
It was very flavorful, and the pork was moist and tender, but the thin crispy skin was a tad too crispy for our personal taste. It was the only course that I didn't care to finish completely, and probably the only one that I wouldn't order on my own.

Next up was a Milk-fed Amish Veal Cheek "Pot Au Feu" with potato, mushroom, carrot, tomato, brussels, and gremolata.
All of the food that evening was beautifully presented, but some of my favorites were the rustic wooden board of the tartar and the small clay pot with this course. As we opened the top, a rush of wonderful smells hit our noses. "R" wasn't in love with the texture of the veal cheek, but I didn't mind it. It does crumble in your mouth, but it was so tender that a fork barely needed to touch it.

Our last savory course of the evening was an Elysian Fields Lamb Loin with onion ash, potato charcoal, romanesco, endive, and lamb shank jus.
The chef's creativity and skill set really stood out with this dish. The "onion ash" was something that we've never seen before, and we were peppering him with questions when he stopped by later in the meal.

Then, we headed into the last three courses...all dessert. Mr. Sweet Tooth, "R", was in heaven. The cool thing about Giovanni's pastry chef? She's not only talented and creative, but she's the wife of Executive Chef Zach.

Chef Alyssa wowed us right away with her "Milk and Cereal" dessert, a play on classic Fruit Loops, featuring kaffir lime anglaise and crispy meringue. The crispy meringue were a variety of brightly colored loops, and you literally felt like you were eating an adult version of the classic kids' cereal. Unfortunately, the lighting was poor and it didn't photograph well.

The second dessert, and ninth course, was a Blueberry Polenta Cake with lemon curd, blueberry, and sweet corn ice cream.
The sweet corn ice cream paired so well with it.

All good meals end with chocolate, right? Our final course of the evening did just that. We had Mint and Chocolate, with 72% araguani cremeux, fresh mint gelato, devils food cherry, crispy mousse, and maldon sea salt.
Completely stuffed at this point, we felt like we had had it all. I left the meal feeling like we truly got to see exactly what the chefs have up their sleeves, and had experienced such a well-rounded meal. Highlights for me were the Cuttlefish Salad, Beef Tartar, Halibut, and Lamb Loin. This tasting menu was representative of current items, favorite specials, and just some plain fun in the kitchen. 

Service was also impeccable, and certainly lived up to the reputation that Giovanni's has been known for. Our server in particular, Reem, was knowledgeable, passionate, attentive without being intrusive, and she let her sense of humor peek through at times. Exactly how fine-dining service should be. But it wasn't just Reem, and it wasn't because we were there for a special Chef's Tasting. I carefully observed the entire staff as they attended to the dining room and interacted with the diners and each other. You can't find this level of service just anywhere. 

Many of our dishes were finished at the table. As sauces were poured, covers removed, truffles shaved, cheese were involved in the process, and watching the dish come to life in front of you. 

The restaurant has done away with their suit jacket requirement, but you'll still receive one of the best fine-dining and high-quality service experiences here. All in the comfort of a warm and inviting dining room, and an abundance of fantastic menu options. This isn't your average Italian restaurant, and we left with such a lasting impression of the food and staff. We are already plotting a return visit. It was that good. 

Have you been to Giovanni's before? Whether you had or not, what was your impression of the restaurant? I hope that this post encourages you to check out this gem of a restaurant. 

25550 Chagrin Boulevard
Ste. 44122
Cleveland, OH 44122

Disclosure: I was invited to the restaurant for a private Chef's Tasting. All food was complimentary, and we paid for alcohol and tip. I was not asked to blog about the meal, but chose to share this experience with you. All opinions stated are 100% my own. 


Crystal @EatDrinkCLE said...

What a feast! I'm totally drooling reading about it. I've been to Giovanni's and love love love it. One of the best!