three nights on east 4th, mother’s day and eddie vedder

NatalieNight 1 This past Saturday, my family got together to celebrate Mother’s Day – 15 of us – at The Greenhouse Tavern. We sat downstairs, which my mom said made her feel like she was someplace in New York, in the middle of the hustle and bustle, peering into the open kitchen. While I didn’t have quite the same experience as her, sitting downstairs was ideal for us (especially since my family is loud). We (me) even got to play DJ (though I’m sure this drove the staff crazy – especially with Natalie dancing right in the center of their pathway from kitchen to stairs!).  If you have a bigger party, it’s worth checking out the lower level – it was a lot of fun having the area to ourselves.

For dinner, we all did the tasting. For $39, you get to pick anything you’d like from each of the sections. I started with the breakfast radishes, clams and foie gras, roasted tomatoes and Ohio lamb with wild ramps, yogurt lentils, lamb skin, cumin and Fresno chilies. I’d also like to be able to tell you what we drank – but I can’t. All I know is we went through numerous bottles of wine and I believe my brother-in-law created his own vodka tasting. All of which made for a very, very enjoyable night.

As anticipated, my dinner was simply incredible. Truly – this might have been my favorite GHT experience to date. The only dish I wasn’t crazy about was the roasted tomatoes. And I would have liked a little more space between each course, though given we had a few kids with us, this was probably a good thing. I even liked Natalie’s buttered noodles (yes, they have a kids’ menu now!). But the highlight was the lamb (though the clams are right up there). If you like lamb, you need to get to Greenhouse and try this dish. Now. Seriously – he changes the menu often so don’t take any chances on missing it. A few weeks ago while in San Francisco, I ate at Boulevard and ordered the lamb. I love lamb and felt that was the best dish of its kind I’ve ever tried. Well, they only held that title for 3 weeks. Truthfully, that was the most amazing lamb I’ve had and the lentils alone should be its own side.

The tasting at $39 is a great deal. The portions are big  and you get to pick whatever you want. It’s a great way to go.

(check out Amelia Sawyer showing Natalie the kitchen in action – she was mesmerized as she really does like to stare off into the kitchen when we take her out… fingers crossed for her future career)

Night 2 On Mother’s Day itself, Jamie took me to see Pearl Jam. I’ve been a huge PJ fan since I was 15 and have seen them live twice before. I can remember going to the library and borrowing Ten (still believe this is one of the best albums of all time), bringing it home and taping it because I spent all my babysitting money on something else. And I’d ride around in my mom’s station wagon listening to that tape over and over until I literally wore it out.

Clearly I’m not 15 anymore (and thankfully no longer driving around town in that wagon). And while I still consider myself a huge fan, I think my concert days are coming to an end. It really was a great show and the perfect present (though the 2003 show was better); I just don’t think I’m the concert type anymore. But I’m all for the dinners that precede concerts!

Pre show dinner was, you guessed it, back at The Greenhouse Tavern. For as much as I wanted the Ohio lamb dish again, I just wasn’t that hungry. Instead I had the clams, Ohio lamb ravioli and a side of lentils with lemon (not the same lentils as with the lamb – if only). The ravioli are small and only a handful comes per order, so this was the right amount of food. And just like the night before the clams were perfect (I agree with Kate Krader – one of the best dishes of the year, simply a smart pairing that pays off). The lentils and ravioli were just as good.

I clearly cannot get enough of Greenhouse.

Night 3 Last night we took some clients to dinner at Chinato followed by the Cavs game – my first game of the season (lucky me, huh?).

We all have off nights. Chefs have off nights. Athletes have off nights. No one is exempt from this rule. And I think last night was the perfect example of that.

I’m not going to toss in my two cents about the game. I think Clevelanders got an earful today from the sports media across the country to Twitter to the radio. We get it. But I will say this: I don’t think we’re cursed, I still think we’ll win the next two and LeBron will be here next season. But Cleveland teams sure make it hard to love them sometimes, don’t they? And there have been plenty of days when I swear I’m not going to raise my daughter to be a Cleveland fan. But what would be the fun in that?

I’ve been to Chinatoa few times now, but this was the first visit for the three ladies I was with. I will say this – they all loved their meal, from start to finish, and seemed really happy with my restaurant selection. And don’t get me wrong – my meal was good, too (fennel and olive salad, scallop crudo and braised beef). But it wasn’t great – except the crudo – what a fantastic start to the meal. I’ve written a few times about how much I love that fennel salad in particular. But last night it just wasn’t the same. I can’t put my finger on it, but something was off. The selection of braised beef was completely in response to the cold rainy weather. I love anything braised – but felt this dish was just ok. It wasn’t as flavorful or tender as I was hoping for.

Like I said, my meal wasn’t bad by any stretch, it just wasn’t as good as I know it could have been – because I think Chinato is an amazing restaurant and have been wowed there a few times already.  And my fellow diners were quite happy with their meal. Despite the off night, at least to me, it was still the highlight of the evening. The company and conversation were wonderful, service  friendly and honest (I love when servers are truthful about what they like and dislike) and the restaurant’s atmosphere in general is one of my favorites.

6 Comments

  1. Kate
    Posted May 13, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    I went to Chinato twice since it’s open.

    Awesome things: sweet and sour beef tongue w/ eggplant (must try!), tomato/bread soup (although not very bready), mussels appetizer, col buco (awesome sauce and fun noodles)

    Disappointing: artichokes appetizer, fennel salad, tiramisu (a twist on the traditional but not in a good way)

    Still love Chinato but you need to go knowing how to navigate their extensive menu because some items are worlds apart from others. GHT gets better and better every time I go!

  2. Posted May 13, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    We had so much fun at that Pearl Jam concert and I still listen to the CDs we got from Tom L from that show. Sorry that I missed Eddie this time. :(

  3. Michelle V
    Posted May 13, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Christina – that was an awesome show! I still feel bad I made you inhale your dinner :( Hope you’re feeling great!

  4. Posted May 14, 2010 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    I hit a different trifecta this week thanks to some out of town co-workers (who all left very happy and full).

    GHT Tuesday night, also did the 4 course meal. Have you had the 5th quarter yet? AMAZING. It was crispy chicken necks, livers, and pork skin on Tuesday but it changes regularly. I also had the lamb and it was just as good as you described.

    Lola was Wednesday night and it was as good as expected. Highlight was watching some of my co-workers, who don’t stray from meat and potatpes, try the crispy bone marrow. Halibut with morels was a great dish.

    Lunch @ Parallax today which was also top notch. I love their squid salad.

    Finished off the week with the Silver Spoon Awards. TONS of amazing food, my favorites were Bar Cento’s cold potato ramp soup and Fire’s Indian dish. Least favorite, by far, was Chinato. They did a caramelized onion & radicchio lasagna and something about it just did not click at all with my wife and me.

  5. Alan
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    First of all, I’m long overdue for saying how much I enjoy Cleveland Foodie. You do a great job, although sometimes I get the impression you have a hard time smacking down a deserving restaurant or chef.

    Zach Bruell’s Z was one of my all-time favorite restaurants. I enjoyed what he did at Ken Stewarts. We visited Parallax early and often and they had THE best sushi in town until Carmen left and then something changed. Three bad experiences in a row and we stopped going. Other than sushi we were not really fans.

    Our first and only visit to Table 45 revealed one of the most grossly overrated places in town. We and our dinner companions were very disappointed. We will not be going back.

    We haven’t tried Chinato yet but will. Frankly, though, with the competition as good as it is in town (and 20 years ago I could have NEVER imagined typing those words), restaurants need to deliver and deliver big almost every time–especially if you’re a neighbor of Lola and The Greenhouse Tavern.

    I personally like Zach; he’s an interesting and talented guy, no question, but I hope Chinato doesn’t add to the list of ZB disappointments.

  6. Michelle V
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Hi Alan –

    Thanks for the kind words – much appreciated!

    I’m actually not that shy – if I don’t like something or have a bad experience, I’ll share. But in the case with Chinato, I was a bit hesitant, mostly because I can’t say the meal was bad, it wasn’t (and the company really did enjoy), and the two prior visits I really loved. Which is why I felt that meal was off because I’ve had better and experienced some of the exact same dishes and they were much better on previous visits.

    I agree with you on Table 45. While we did like our meal that night, chances are slim to none that I’d go back – I didn’t like the space at all. As for Parallaz, that’s one of my favorites – I’ve yet to be dissapointed. And of course there’s L’Albatros, always delivers IMO.

    Sorry to hear your experiences haven’t always been the same. But you’re right, all restaurants need to deleiver, especially with the overall quality we now have and the greatness we expect each and every time. And with all the wonderful national attention our chefs continue to garner, the bar is set pretty high. Yea for us!