tree country bistro

A couple years ago, my one coworker introduced me to Korean food and all that I was missing. On a business trip to LA, she took a few of us to Woo Lae Oak where I didn’t even bother to examine the menu, rather trust her to order and know she wouldn’t steer us wrong. And she didn’t. I’ve had Korean since, not at a restaurant per se, but rather her house (although it was definitely restaurant quality). I’m told there are several viable options for good Korean in Cleveland, and last month on behalf of Metromix, we visited one such place. And while I still have much to learn when it comes to Korean food, I think this spot just might even impress my colleague.

Tree Country Bistro in Cleveland Heights is a Korean restaurant. And Japanese. And if you’re craving Thai, well, they’ve got that country covered, too. Sitting in the former Que Tal space, Tree Country is nestled among many Asian eateries on Coventry and neighboring streets. At first, I thought for sure this was a bad idea considering its stiff competition from Pacific East and Mint alone. But after our visit, I was convinced Tree Country could hold its own.

The full review is here, but here are a couple excerpt from our meal:

Food: If you are looking for endless options, this is the restaurant for you. Tree Country features more than 165 items on its menu—from sushi and noodles to rice, curry and everything in between.

Sushi alone consists of 75-plus rolls including sashimi and specialty rolls, like the B-52, snow mountain and alligator. We sampled the fashion maki (BBQ eel, cream cheese, avocado, cucumber and tobiko). This neatly constructed roll, complete with a decorative bird assembled out of a carrot, was simply wonderful.

Under Thai specialties, expect to find the usual suspects: a variety of curries, pad Thai and an impressive selection of fried rice (pineapple, basil and mango to name a few). An order of the country pad Thai, a spicier version of its traditional counterpart, was surprisingly quite good. This dish easily holds its own compared to neighboring versions within a stone’s throw. In fact, Tree Country’s version packs more heat than a similar dish found a block over.

To round out the order, we tried the popular Korean dish Okdol Bi Bim Bab, with assorted vegetables and beef (or chicken) over rice topped with a sunnyside-up egg served in a sizzling hot stone pot.

This piping hot dish, which remains sizzling long past the last bite, was easily the standout favorite of the meal. The meat was plentiful and wonderfully seasoned, and when mixed with the egg yolk, rice and veggies, creates a wonderful texture and delicious layers of flavor. To kick this dish up a notch, try mixing in the spicy-sweet chili-bean paste that’s served alongside the pot. The only suggestion we might offer the chef would be to cut back on the rice and increase the vegetables. Other than that, this is a must-try dish.

If you can manage a few more bites, dessert options include tropical fruit on ice, fried bananas, Thai custard, fried ice cream and Thai custard with sweet sticky rice. We tried a few bites of the fried banana, which is wrapped like a spring roll with chocolate sauce and honey drizzled on top. It’s a good dessert, but not worth holding off on the main attractions.

Décor: The somewhat small space is clean and contemporary with warm tones and a few Asian influences scattered throughout. Plastic green bamboo, which the restaurant can do without, separates diners from passers-by on Coventry.

7 Comments

  1. Nancy
    Posted April 2, 2009 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Just got some interesting to-go items from an Asian stand at the West Side Market, which inspired me to wonder if there are any Korean restaurants in Cleveland. (I literally asked this question days ago.)

    So thank you for the timing of this piece! You read my mind. I’ll have to check it out!

    ***Gold stars for you!***

  2. Cara
    Posted April 2, 2009 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I really liked this place, except for how slow they seemed to be with our service. We waited 30 minutes between finishing our food and being asked if we wanted the check. That has been the single thing keeping me from going back.

    Hopefully you had better luck in this department.

    They do have a great selection. I’ll have to give them a try again. The kimchee and seafood stew was fantastic.

  3. Kelly and José
    Posted April 2, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    We’ve been meaning to try this place nearly every time we go to a matinee at Cedar Lee (which is quite often) but somehow get thrown off course and loose focus.

    Thank you for the reminder :)

    -Kelly

  4. rockandroller
    Posted April 2, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    If you’re downtown, Seoul Hot Pot has the best Korean food! A Korean friend turned me onto it last year and now I’m a regular. It is not fancy/pretty inside, it’s one of those great hole in the wall places. It’s around 40th and Payne.

  5. Steve
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    It’s a shame you didn’t get to Park’s or Soot Bull Jeep when in L.A. Woo Lae Oak is virtually the PF Changs of Korean food.

  6. michelle v
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    RockandRoller – I have heard from several, including my husband, that Seoul Hot Pot is good. In fact, he said calling it a hole in the wall might even be a step up!

    Steve – that comment made me laugh! I’m sure they would agree with you and probably only brought us there b/c it was our first time and it was a safe choice, etc. At any rate, we saw David Spade so it wasn’t all bad!

  7. Eric
    Posted October 3, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Whenever you find your way to Tree Country, you will, no doubt, be surprised by what you have been missing!

    The food is excellent and the menu is surprisingly broad and diverse.

    ENJOY ENJOY ENJOY

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