Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lola Bistro in Downtown Cleveland

My Fiancée and I decided to dine at Lola last night to support Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week.   This was actually our first time ever going to Lola, and now we have eaten at every Michael Symon Restaurant in Cleveland!
Food---Being Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week, we decided to take advantage of the three course prix fixe menu.  We each picked an appetizerentrée and dessert for only $30 a person.  My Fiancée picked the Watercress & Endive Salad, Beef Hanger Steak, and the Cranberry Chocolate Bavarian.  I picked the Pork Belly Salad, Scallops, and the Lemon Panna Cotta.

Before receiving our first course, a plate of warm, freshly sliced bread was brought to the table.  It was served with an amazing creamy sweet butter.   I love starting a meal with a few slices of quality bread and butter.
After just a few minutes our first course arrived at the table.  My pork belly salad came with a butternut squash puree, julienne apples, blood orange, jalapeños, cilantro, and ginger.  The richness of the puree, tartness of the apples, and the heat from the peppers all complimented each other wonderfully.  The pork belly itself was out of this world.  The crispy exterior had a smokey flavor to it, while the inside simply melted in your mouth.  This was probably the most flavorful pork belly I have ever eaten. 
My fiancée's Watercress and Endive salad came with apples, cherries, goat cheese, and marcona almonds.  The salad had a very light dressing on it which paired well with the tartness of the apples and the freshness of the watercress.  The almonds also added a nice crunch to the plate.  One small complaint my fiancee had was that the dish was a touch too salty. 
My entrée was the Seared Scallops that came with a parsnip puree, cauliflower, julienne apples, pine nuts, and raisins.  The scallops themselves had a very crispy sear on the outside, and a soft and perfectly cooked interior.  The parsnip puree had a little kick to it which paired well with the apples.  I would never think to put apples with scallops, but it worked extremely well!  The flavors in this dish were outstanding, my only gripe was that I wish this entrée would have included one or two more scallops.
My Fiancée's entrée was the Hanger Steak.  It came topped with a combination of pickled red and green chilies and fresh parsley.   The steak was juicy, tender, and perfectly seasoned with salt and pepper.  The pickling of the chilies mellowed out some of the heat, but it was still present and added a nice heat to the dish.  I was lucky enough to eat about 1/4 of her dish and I loved the heat from the chilies with the steak.   I would order this again for myself next time off of the regular menu which is served with Lola Fries.  
For the dessert course there were only two choices so we got one of each. The Lemon Panna Cotta was prepared with syrup soaked orange slices, and came with two small madeleine.  The madeleine (cookies) were excellent and reminded me of my grandma's baking!  The panna cotta was strong in terms of the lemon flavoring.  I really enjoyed this dessert, but the best dessert was yet to come! 
The Cranberry Chocolate Bavarian came with a cranberry chutney, a cranberry and orange sorbet, and candied coriander. We both loved each and every aspect of this dish.  The rich creamy Bavarian had little peppercorns on top which added a little kick to the plate.  The sorbet was excellent, as was the cranberry chutney.  If you ever see this on the menu you should order it! 
Overall the food from start to finish was excellent.  Flavors were creative, plating was  pleasing to the eye, and there wasn't a bite left on either of our plates at the end of the night.   Food wise I'd give Lola a 4.75/5.

Drinks---The first thing you'll notice when you walk in is that behind the bar is a wall full of 
wine.  You'll also find that their drink menu is on an iPad.  I thought this was a very fun and savvy way to present the drink menu.  When I looked at their options for wine, I quickly realized they had an amazing selection.  I'm sure the wine lover would appreciate their list.      
The craftbeer lover will also be pretty happy at Lola.  The picture below shows that they have taken the time to break down the beers based on style.  Of course I clicked on the hoppy button.  There were only 4 options under the hoppy beers.  I ordered a Dogfish Head 90min IPA, but the waiter came back and said they were out.  I then went with the Goose Island IPA. (Check out my Craftbeer Review Site.) I was happy to see they offered between 4-8 options for each category, but still wished they had even a little more variety.  Also, they did not have any draftbeer options.    
With a wine list that would rival most any Cleveland restaurant, and a nice selection of cocktails and craftbeers, drinks wise I give Lola a 4.25/5.

Atmosphere and Service5/5.

Overall---I'm so glad we finally made it to Lola for a meal.  The food and service were excellent and the drink list was also good.  Michael Symon's vision is clearly reflected in the restaurant and in the kitchen at Lola.  You'll see us back at Lola again hopefully very soon. 4.75/5

Lola on Urbanspoon

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