Saturday, August 31, 2013

Eating my way through Cleveland

I have exciting news: I'll be moving to Cleveland!! The date is not set yet, but tentatively, it will be in the middle of October. Luckily, I've heard that Cleveland is becoming a foody town. I got to see this for myself last weekend when I was there to look for a place to live.

As soon as I arrived on Saturday afternoon, I headed to downtown and the East 4th St. area. This is a cute area, a couple of blocks long, but lined with many restaurants and bars. You've got everything from more casual bars to upscale places. I was getting cold in the chilly northern nights (compared to Atlanta!), so I got really happy when I saw a Vietnamese restaurant called Saigon. I was craving pho anyway, and it sounded even more appropriate for the cold night. Yet, something I cannot resist when I see it on the menu is lotus root and shrimp salad. I got that first, and then I got the pho with rare beef. The salad really surprised me when it arrived. The lotus leaf wasn't shaved into matchsticks - which has been the case with all the other lotus root salad's I've had. Instead, it was cut into offset cylinders that resembled penne pasta. The other thing different from the classical version was the absence of fried crackers. I'm used to placing pieces of salad on the crackers and eating them. The crackers add a nice crunch, but the salad at Saigon was still great. It had the same flavors that I'm used to. Eventually, I also warmed up to the strange shape of the lotus root. It was whimsical and interesting, and it was easier to pick up with chopsticks. But I had to pack up most of the salad to go, and enjoy the pho. I'm not a pho specialist, but I really enjoyed the one at Saigon. The broth was flavorful and the beef was thin. My only complaint is that it didn't come with basil, but that's a minor thing.

The next day I checked out another popular area: Cedar Fairmount. It's the intersection of Cedar and Fairmount streets, on the east side of the city, where the suburbs start. The area has several restaurants and local hang out spots. I went to one of those - Nighttown - which is also known for its amazing brunch menu. The Dublin Layer, which is a lobster and mushroom dish, has been featured on Food Network. That's actually the reason I went to Nighttown. But as I was deciding what to have, I saw the people on the table next to me receiving theirs. It's probably really delicious, but it looked simply like a stew to me. So I got the lobster eggs Benedict instead. I'm so so happy that I got it! It had huge chunks of delicious lobster, and also Canadian bacon in between the eggs and English muffin. The Hollandaise was really good, too, with a tangy flavor. And while I was enjoying the delicious food, I was also sipping on a great Bloody Mary. I think it had more vodka than mix ;) But it was perfectly spicy and flavored :)

Later that day, I met up with a friend in Cleveland, and we went to Sushi Rock, which was close to where I was staying. I ordered the Golden Dragon roll (sorry, no picture :( ). It had shrimp tempura, tuna, salmon, crab and avocado inside, and thinly sliced mango on the outside. It was topped with red roe. The roe and mango did make it look like a golden dragon :P I admit I was nervous about having sushi in Ohio, a state that is not next to the ocean, but I was pleasantly surprised. The fish was fresh and tasty. And I actually loved the combination of crispy shrimp tempura and raw salmon and tuna. After dinner, my friend and I decided to get ice cream at Mitchell's. I've read that it's a good ice cream place with interesting flavors, but I never expected to be blown away. The have a pretty long flavor list, each one sounding amazing. I somehow settled on the S'mores ice cream (roasted marshmallow ice cream with graham crackers and chocolate pieces) and lemon and black raspberry frozen yogurt. I really liked the roasted marshmallow ice cream, but it was waaayyy surpassed by the frozen yogurt. I mean, WOW! It is probably in the top 10 (maybe 5) things I've ever had! The balance of tart and sweet is so good. I can't even describe it. But I loved it so much, I went to Mitchell's the next day to get more. I didn't even try any other flavor. If you know me, you'll know that I'm the "always try something new" person. So it's a huge thing to have the same thing twice. And by the way, it was after a large dinner that made me stuffed.

So the dinner in question was at The Melt Bar and Grill. Again, it's been featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on Food Network. When I went there, they had a pig roast special that included chipotle pulled pork, fried sweet potatoes, and corn on the cob. I love both sweet potatoes and corn, so having them in one dish was too irresistible. Overall, I wasn't that impressed by the meal. I guess I expected more of a grilled cheese sandwich, with lots of cheese and maybe some meat, but I got the opposite. And I couldn't even taste the sweet potatoes. On the bright side, the charred corn was amazing :) So I ate half of the huge sandwich and the corn, had a 21st Amendment Watermelon Ale and went to get some more lemon raspberry ice cream :)

Based on my short experience with dining in Cleveland, I can't wait to move there! Is it October yet?