Work continues to bring the NYC foodie to Cleveland, and each time he’s in town, he sets out to experience a bit more of our city. I give him a lot of credit, not only for actually getting out to explore Cleveland and showing a lot of interest in our town, but recognizing that culinary greatness is taking place here each day. Here are his thoughts from his latest visit:
Over the past two weeks I was in your city for 3 evenings. Here’s where and what I ate.
1. Fire Food and Drink: I went with my colleague and I think we had a fairly decent meal. I started with the braised beef ravioli with wilted spinach. Nice starter, and perhaps a bit small. Decent mix of flavors and fairly light, especially for beef ravioli. Very enjoyable way to begin, and would’ve liked more. I followed with the crispy Hudson Valley duck legs. Whereas the beef ravioli may have been a little small and light, I found the duck to be very (too) plentiful. It seemed autumnal on the menu (gnocchi, apples, squash) and that was correct. Frankly, it came off as Thanksgiving dinner with dark meat and sweet potatoes. The duck certainly wasn’t crispy, just sort of oily and falling off the bone. It wasn’t bad at all, but it was big and not very subtle (again, like Thanksgiving).
The room was nice and cozy; the wine was decent (though now I’ve forgotten what I had). My colleague seemed to enjoy her ribeye, and didn’t offer me a bite! I hadn’t put two and two together to figure out that the “Fire” was that everything is cooked in a tandoor. Cute idea, and it’s nice you can watch them cooking.
All in all, I’d go there again, but I wouldn’t be tempted to pass up something like Lola for it.
2. Flying Fig: Of the places I went on this trip, this place was most up my alley. Unlike Fire (too much), this place threatens to give you too little. I ordered the three savory small, which consisted of gnocchi, arugula and beef salad and a soft cheese. All three were enjoyable, but literally so small it was just a taste. That’s not too problematic with the gnocchi and soft cheese because they packed a punch, but a bigger salad then about a dozen leaves and two pieces of beef would’ve been good. I tend to have a small appetite, so that was fine, but they certainly didn’t add up to a full-sized entree as promised. All three of the small plates were quite nicely done though, with attention given to all three.
I really liked the room, too, which surprised me. The pictures on the site make it look like a neighborhood pub and average restaurant. But it was really cozy and pleasant, and the bar staff was somewhat friendly. Strangely though, I was waiting for them to offer me dessert or coffee, and instead got the bill plunked down. Well, I guess I’ll be on my way then. I also could feel the small community of Cleveland though when I recognized that one of the servers had worked at Lucky’s when I went there — I’ve been to about 8 restaurants in Cleveland and there was someone who had worked at two! Made me feel like a regular.
3. Moxie: On my last trip, I was getting in late and staying on the east side, so I decided to forego another trip to downtown or the west side and eat near my hotel. So I ended up at Moxie. You warned me it was kind of lame, and lame it was. Not bad, but just an independent, upscale version of other suburban restaurants.
They had a largish cheese selection and offer five for $12.50. As I wasn’t starved and it was late, I asked if they could sell them individually (I didn’t want a whole plate). No, was the answer. I decided to skip the appetizer. Just to seal my own lame fate, I ordered the chicken. It was pretty dull, admittedly — very large white meat chicken breast, cooked in an fairly oily sauce. Fine and all, but nothing to write Cleveland about. I had it with a passable glass of wine, and wondered whether I would’ve preferred to go downtown. Well, at least I wasn’t driving for 30 minutes on a full stomach and glass of wine.
Of the above, I sort of got the feeling that only Flying Fig was genuinely good, but that’s an unrepresentative sample. Moxie is the kind of food a hotel serves in NYC, and it wouldn’t survive as an independent restaurant very long without something else to sell it. Fire – that may be able to make it, but hard to say.