review: zinc bistro bar bakery

These are the posts I don’t look forward to sharing. But you can’t like everything and you opt to come here because you want my honest opinion – no matter what. So here goes it.

I went to Zinc a few weeks ago on behalf of Metromix. I had heard prior to my visit that the service was shaky, but a good mix of pros and cons on the food. Well, I have to say that our service was spot on (though we did have a our toddler with us which meant we dined like blue hairs!). But even as the restaurant drew a bigger crowd, our service was still well above average.

The food on the other hand, not so much. I can already hear the excuses: ‘they are still new, give ’em time’. Or, ‘no restaurant is perfect upon opening’. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it 100 times. If you are open for business and charging full prices, then your food and everything else you present should be to the level that you’d like your customers to experience.

Now I will be honest and say that my folks were with us and they genuinely seemed pleased with their dinners. It was Jamie and myself who weren’t too happy. It wasn’t that our food was bad. Nothing we sampled was in poor taste (except the scallops, and even my dad who eats everything passed on those). It’s just that with such stiff competition around the corner (and throughout the city), you better be great. Because we have lots of choices about where to spend our money and our free time. And based on our visit, there was nothing that excited me and would make me want to come back (though I would be curious to grab a coffee and croissant one morning).

Here’s part of the review or you can read the full piece here:

Decades ago a once vibrant and bustling department store stood proudly on Euclid Avenue until it closed its doors in 1961 due to downtown’s declining retail scene. While retail may not be as prominent within downtown Cleveland as it once was in the days of the Taylor & Sons department store, the culinary scene is and continues to thrive and grow, as is evident with Zinc Bistro Bar and Bakery—the newest tenant in the renovated former retail turned office space in the Gateway and East Fourth area on Euclid.

Food: Focusing on French classics and offering Cleveland’s only raw bar, chef-owner Tom Quick, formerly with Epiq Bistro and Piccolo Mondo, hopes to be a vital player in the ever-growing food scene and popularity of E. 4th.

His menu focuses on traditional French dishes, including cassoulet, duck a l ‘orange, escargot, crepes and coq au vin. On our visit, we started off with a half dozen west coast oysters (per our server’s urging) and onion soup, then moved onto the braised short rib ravioli app, bacon and egg salad, coquilles saint-jacques (scallops with crispy cauliflower in brown butter), and the braised short rib entrée.

There is little to this dinner that wowed us. Don’t misunderstand. Everything was, in fact, enjoyable. But with such stiff competition right around the corner, and with the continued success of L’Albatros, we expected great—not borderline good and in some cases, just OK. Aside from one dish, nothing we sampled left a lasting impression.

That impressionable dish in question was the short rib ravioli. Our suggestion, order the larger appetizer portion and enjoy this as a meal. It was beautifully presented and cooked perfectly, with plum mushrooms and a pea purée.

We can only assume the chef has a thing for short ribs, because the short rib entrée was our other favorite dish, with creamed spinach and perfectly soft root vegetables that melt in your mouth. The wine that the short ribs were braised in came through in every bite. Our only complaint with this dish was that the meat was not as tender as we would have liked. Short ribs should not require a knife, and these ones did.

As for our other dishes, the scallops were completely oversalted and inedible (though the cauliflower was perfectly crunchy and seasoned beautifully—we would have been happy with a plate of this alone). The oysters didn’t impress us as much as we were led to believe (not to mention several bits of shell atop some of the oysters), and aside from the extra thick and crispy bacon, the bacon and egg salad contained all the right ingredients, but fell short on flavor.

Décor: This formal French bistro space is big, though they do a nice job of making it not feel as big as it really it. There’s an upstairs mezzanine, large bar area upon entering, wide booth and smaller tables just past the bar, followed by another dining room that can also be used for private parties. We feel the most sought-after section of this restaurant will prove to be the 30-seat patio and bar. This will surely draw a lot of attention and become a popular destination for the after-work crowd.

Bottom line: Recognizing Zinc is still in its infancy, our hope is that the food can only improve. In the meantime, enjoy the patio and the delightful drinks and what we believe will be a nice bakery for morning snacks and your daily caffeine intake.

9 Comments

  1. Posted August 4, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    I hate it when a restaurant doesn’t live up to expectations. I want so badly for new places to do well, but you’re right – with so many amazing places around CLE, you better bring your A-game from day 1.

  2. Posted August 4, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I was one who raved about my first meal at Zinc to you. My second visit for dinner? Horrible — in both service a food. Even to our table, I gushed about the tartare I ate on my prior visit. My friend too my advice — yet his dish didn’t even LOOK like what I ordered. Inconsistency is a HUGE problem here.

    Everything else I tried on my second visit was “meh.” And another thing? They have 4-5 beers listed on their menu since open that they’ve never had stocked.

  3. Posted August 4, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Sorry for the spelling errors. Damn iPhone. :)

  4. rockandroller
    Posted August 5, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I’ve been waiting to try zinc til more reviews and comments come in, and what I’ve heard hasn’t been that good. I’ve heard very bad things about the service (2.5 hours for a weekday lunch!) and additional “meh” for the food. It’s really too bad, as we could really use some good French downtown – nobody I know will go all the way to Univ Circle for lunch, and it’s really far for me from home for dinner.

  5. Posted August 5, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Because it’s in that area, I’ll probably going to give it a whirl one time or another if all the other places are booked.

    ohhhhhhhh, foodieschmoodie.

  6. Posted August 5, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    I agree- Zinc has tough competition, and needs to make an impression!

    Overall, I would recommend Zinc for lunch- sit on the cheerful patio (less bustle than East 4th if you want to relax) and order the chicken salad croissant- it’s delish.

    The service I experienced was friendly during my recent visit, but definitely shaky and inconsistent (we had a confused host and multiple waiters).

  7. Wendy
    Posted August 5, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Stay tuned – they have a brand new GM. I think we’ll see some changes for the better there real soon.

  8. rockandroller
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Um, yes, I’ve worked in dozens of restaurants and have been on staff at 2 new restaurants when they opened.

  9. Pat
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    “Nothing we sampled was in poor taste (except the scallops, and even my dad who eats everything passed on those).”

    This sentence makes me wonder why scallops are in bad taste? They seem like an otherwise perfectly respectable food to me.