Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hook and Hoof

Hook and Hoof in Downtown Willoughby became our dinner destination when Mr. H and I found ourselves headed out to Willoughby Brewing Co. to finally get my hands on their famous Nut Smasher Imperial Stout (yes, it lived up to the hype). I'm not overly familiar with the area, so I knew that I needed to head to Twitter and ask Jen of Why CLE? for a restaurant recommendation.

She didn't steer me wrong, and we ended up with a reservation at the Chef's Counter, with great views of the action happening in the kitchen!
This "New American" kitchen is also known for their craft cocktails, and they did not disappoint.
A lot of the menu sounded right up our alley, so we had to start with splitting a couple of small plates. Including the Cold Smoked Salmon ($14) with roasted garlic horseradish crema, rye crostini, chow chow and citrus oil. A fancy "bagel and lox" that was light and full of great flavor and textures!
We also shared the Bone Marrow and Arugula Salad ($14) that came out with two huge bones and wonderful grilled bread.
Mr. H went with the Double Bone-in Elk Chop ($32) with rosemary polenta (to die for texture and flavor), cider roasted root vegetables, and chow chow. Because how often do you see elk on a menu?
I ordered the Pan-seared Mahi Mahi ($27) with butternut squash and mushroom risotto and a pomegranate-apple gastrique. Another winner.
Really, this meal was delicious and beautiful from start to finish, and we loved our seats at the Chef's Counter. It's a small place, so I'd suggest making a reservation. We don't find ourselves in Willoughby too often, but this spot will be on our re-visit list!

Hook and Hoof
4125 Erie Street
Willoughby, OH 44094
(440) 571-5312

Friday, November 9, 2018


Michaelangelo's is an iconic restaurant in Cleveland's Little Italy. It's been touted as one of the best in the area, the chef left to open the popular Luca (2013) and Luca West (2017), and I've always wanted to go. Other than a work dinner with a pre-set menu once, I had never been.

Mr. H and I were looking for a date night spot last week, and I had a craving for pasta. BINGO!

I am absolutely in love with the cozy bar area. I could curl up in one of the huge leather chairs with a glass of wine in front of that fireplace for hours. But, we settled in for our meal in one of the two main dining rooms. It's classic fine dining Italian.

We ordered the Grilled Portabella Mushroom, Herb Polenta and Drunken Goat Cheese Sauce ($12) from the hot appetizers section of the menu. The flavor of the mushroom itself was outstanding, but it was very small and not the focus of the dish as the name implied. The goat cheese sauce was not as flavorful as I would have liked, and the whole dish arrived at barely room temperature. I did let our server know (no apology or even acknowledgement that it wasn't right!). So, overall, we weren't off to a great start.
I was drawn to several of the pasta dishes, but couldn't resist ordering their famous Sacchetti al Tartufo ($17/$28) with a Ricotta and Black Truffle Stuffed Pasta, Tartufata, and Black Truffle Cream Sauce. I've had this dish at Luca several times, and it is always outstanding. This version didn't disappoint.
But, Mr. H ordered the Scalloppine of Veal Tenderloin with Prosciutto, Sage, Sauteed Spinach, Vermentino Reduction and a Herb Risotto Cake ($36), and was disappointed in the texture of the veal itself and the breading. The herb risotto cake was also very bland and dry. The reduction had nice flavor, but really that was the only redeeming factor of this dish. For that price point, no thank you.

Service continued to be only average throughout the meal.

I've certainly heard that it "isn't the same" or "isn't as good" since Chef Luca Sema left, but what are your thoughts? I felt let down.

2198 Murray Hill Road
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 721-0300

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Astoria Market and Cafe

It's been quite a while since Astoria Cafe and Market opened, but Mr. H and I finally made it there recently.
Its Mediterranean flair is reflected not only on the menu, but also in the small market---focused on olives...
...cheese and meats, dried pastas and beans, sauces... and more. It's not a huge selection, but you can grab a few items for a meal and pick up wine to-go.
But in the center of the market, there is a large area of open cafe seating.

We shared the Calamari Frito ($13) with Spanish Calamari Fried Crisp in Peanut Oil, served with Mediterranean Olive Salad and Honey-Harissa Glaze. The glaze and olive salad made it a unique, and tasty (bit spicy), version, and the portion was generous enough for sharing.
We also shared the Baked Brie en Croute Belletoile ($14) with Triple Cream Brie Topped with Fig Jam and Fresh Thyme and wrapped in Phyllo and finished with Honey and Crushed Pistachios. You can never go wrong with baked brie! I loved the crushed pistachios with it.
Then we shared two small plates for the next course. Sea Scallops ($16) with Seared Maine Diver Sea Scallops with a Saute of Shallots, Pancetta, Honey, Thyme and Apple Cider and served over Creamy White Cheddar Polenta. The polenta and crispy bacon were a great pairing with the scallops!
We also split the Lamb T-bone ($15) with a Grilled 4 oz. Ohio Domestic Loin Chop with Italian Salsa Verde, Sweet Balsamic Glaze and Truffle-Mascarpone Fingerling Potatoes. The meat was seasoned and cooked perfectly, and I enjoyed the salsa verde with it. The potatoes were a tad under-cooked at times, but the flavor was good.
While we really enjoyed the food, and it's a great menu for sharing a bunch of smaller bites, the atmosphere wasn't what I had hoped. It was bright and loud, with a lot of foot traffic past our table. The service seemed a bit unorganized and hurried, but maybe it was just an off night. I'd like to give brunch a try.

There is a small parking lot down the side street next to the cafe, in case you can't find street parking in front. The menu isn't very family-friendly, in my opinion.

If you've been, what are your thoughts beyond the quality of the food?

Astoria Market and Cafe
5417 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 266-0834