Eating update. Garden Cafe, the Taiwanese restaurant in the little strip mall at 37th and Payne is gone. That’s the bad news. But a wonderful Thai place opened in the same spot two weeks ago, and after my first meal there last night I have to say this is very good news indeed.
It’s called Map of Thailand . The remodeled space is lovely- handpainted images of branches and birds on white walls, modern lighting, and a decorative half wall hiding the kitchen door. Lined up along the top are big glass jars filled with signature drinks- lemongrass tea, non-alcoholic red and white sangria. Upscale touches (without the accompanying prices) include cloth linens, fresh flowers on every table, and attractive contemporary looking dinnerware. It’s BYOB and I was pleasantly surprised when our server asked if we preferred white or red wine glasses.
But it’s the expertly prepared food that will ultimately earn this spot a devoted following. Our foursome ordered seven dishes- two appetizers, soup, and four entrees- for sharing and each one prompted much oohing and aahing from all. Here’s the play list with comments: Golden Bags- stuffed tofu pouches tied with a bit of seawood and fried to a perfect, greaseless crispness; Thai spring rolls- an unusual filling made with carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage and taro which added a sweet note; Seafood coconut soup, creamy, rich with a brightness from kaffir lime leaf, lemon grass and galanga; spicy basil fried rice with ground chicken; lard nar- wide rice noodles, vegetables, chicken and shrimp in a really intriguing sauce; an outstanding execution of chili duck- half a boneless bird roasted, fried, glazed with spices; and a fine and out of the ordinary Massaman curry featuring roasted peanuts, sweet potatoes and chick peas.
There were no leftovers to take home. And I’m already thinking about what I want to try next time. Thanks to my friends, eating adventurers and dining companions extraordinaire Jb and Kristina, for bringing this great new place to my attention.
3710 Payne Avenue, Cleveland. 216-361-222o
Went to Indian Delight, at 55th and Detroit, Saturday night and the experience fell far short of delightful. Food, service, and atmosphere all left much to be desired. We showed up at 8:30 and the place was virtually empty with only one other table occupied. There was no one to greet us or seat us, and we waited an uncomfortably long time before a server appeared with menus. Although the restaurant was the opposite of busy, extremely slow service was a hallmark of the meal every step of the way. I began to wonder if the guy who was carrying dishes out of the kitchen was also the one cooking them. The pace- it took two hours to get from ordering to paying the bill, and not because we wanted to take our time- gave us ample opportunity to take in the surroundings. The impression was kind of depressing-the walls were beige and mostly bare, the heat insufficient to take the chill off the room, and the silence deafening. Oddly, the table cloth AND the paper placemats were under glass.
There were some interesting appetizers under the heading Bombay Special that I haven’t seen elsewhere. We had some little round hollow puff s of pasty filled with potatoes and onions (tasty but icy cold- not sure if this is how they are meant to be eaten); and samosa chat that was described on the menu as vegetable samosa topped with chick peas and onions, but which turned out to be bits of crumbled samosa mixed with the beans. The lamb biryani was short on meat and had a bitter aftertaste. The chicken korma was okay, nothing special, and basket of assorted naan, which arrived when we were almost done, was a bit greasy.
I know people have said they’ve had delicous food here. And I’m always willing to accept a less than lovely setting in exchange for fine eating. But This place has some serious work to do before I’d return or recommend it. Given the lack of patrons on a Saturday night, I fear the restaurant may not be in business long enough to correct the problems and grow into a destination fro those who love Indian food.
Anyone been here? What do you think?
Just got the following message from the neighborhood merchant’s association about another incarnation of Angie’s, this time on Shaker Square. The soul food restaurant has a long local history and was in the first edition of Cleveland Ethnic Eats .
The owners of Angie’s Soul Cafe, a popular local restaurant with several locations in Cleveland, have launched a new venture at Shaker Square – Zanzibar Soul Fusion. Zanzibar features upscale, contemporary Southern cooking with the same freshness and quality of ingredients that Angie’s has become known for over the years. The now-legendary Angie first concocted her recipes for Clevelanders in the Carnegie Hotel in the late 70′s. Yet in truth, it began earlier than that – with the down home cooking she’d learned while growing up in Santuck (Union), South Carolina. During the intervening years, Angie opened up several restaurant before retiring from the business in 2008. She continues to cook, yet has handed the reigns to second and third generation members of her family, under whose leadership the business continues to evolve and grow. Zanzibar Soul Fusion officially opened several weeks ago next to the Shaker Square Cinemas.
I can’t wait to check it out and post here about what I find. If anybody gets there before me, please share your impressions with the rest of us.
If you have a taste for something out of the ordinary, make a reservation for the Oct. 9 prix fixe dinner at Le Bistro du Beaujolais in Olmsted Falls. Along with a fine French meal from Claudie D’Arras’ kitchen you get accordian player Steve Hegedeos fingering and squeezing-out tangos, polkas, waltzes, and Hungarian cseras, this last a dance I’ve never heard of before. And speaking of dancing, if Mother Nature cooperates you don’t just have to tap your foot or nod your head because there will be dancing under the moon on the patio. It has the makings of a memorable night.
The October issue of Saveur Magazine has a great article written by Jane and Michael Stern about the pleasures of eating around northeast Ohio. Here’s a teaser:
“…a road trip from the shores of Lake Erie around Cleveland south to Rubber City (a k a Akron) and Canton is, in our opinion, one of the finest a food lover can take in all of America.”
What prompts this high praise from these writers are the traditional ethnic dishes served at mom and pops throughout the region. In fact, based on the places named, I’d be willing to wager that they used my book as their guide (although they don’t mention it). The pair give big shout outs to the West Side Market (the subject of my next book), Balaton, Perla Homemade Delights, State Meats, Little Polish Diner, Babushka’s Kitchen, and Al’s Corner Diner.
None of this will come as a surprise for those of you who read this blog. But it’s nice to see this part of our culinary community in the national spotlight and getting some well deserved compliments. Take a look at the article. Find more details in Cleveland Ethnic Eats. Then get out there and enjoy what the region has to offer.
Sérgío´s Summer CARNAVAL!
Saturday – July 17, 2010
Doors open @ 8:00 PM
PARTY UNTIL 1:00 AM
at Sérgío´s SARAVÁ BAR
It’s hot, it’s sexy…It’s a taste of BRASIL!
Let yourself escape as you savor the nightlife of the streets of Bahia: taste delectable street food like Churasco, and Acarajé while sipping the best tropical cocktails to the pulsating music of Salvador.
Marcus Santos, master percussionist from Bahia will lead a Bateria Drum Line with Tati Souza and beautiful Samba dancers and keep you going through the night!
- Bahian Street food stands throughout the restaurant
- Tropical Drink Specials
- SAMBA JOIA, traditional Carnaval percussion line
- DJ FELIX keeps you going between sets
$15 Cover charge, 21 and over
CASH ONLY FOR DOOR, FOOD, AND BAR
Don’t miss the Party!
No reservations accepted…just show up!
|Sérgío´s SARAVÁ BAR
on SUNDAY, JULY 18th
The Best Brazilian singer from Boston!
LAID BACK SOUNDS OF GREAT BOSSA NOVA
with MOISES BORGES AND KENNY DAVIS
on the patio from 5-9
It’s taken seven years for the Duong family to turn the massive old manufacturing facilty on 38th and Superior into the Asiantown Center . There’s still work going on inside this two story urban mall and many empty spaces waiting for tenants, but the place is already destination-worthy.
The public spaces are gorgeous- renovated and redesigned with a kind of gritty elegance infused with Asian aesthetic, and decorated with orignal pieces of art. And a 20,00 square foot grocery store, stocking products from China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philipines- replacing the Asia Food Market on St. Clair which closed in April-is now open for business. There’s live fish, fresh meat and produce, bbqed pork and whole roasted ducks, and an in-house bakery, plus an in-store cafe.
After my guided tour yesterday courtesy of Alexandre Duong and his sister Angela, I polished off a wonderful Vietnamese lunch of rice paper rolls and a cold chicken and rice noodle salad, and headed home with a container of shrimp noodle soup and savory meat and bean paste filled buns for supper.
This Friday night, June 4, is a great time to check it out. Asiantown Center is hosting an art festival from 7-11 PM with works by local talent on display, live music, and good things to eat.
The project began because the Duongs needed a larger space for the market, but quickly grew into something much bigger. They had a vision of the possible, hung in during the recession and have brought something exciting to the city and the neighborhood. This family venture is the kind of development and the spirit Cleveland needs, and they deserve our praise and support.
The geo-political world is all about borders and boundaries. It’s always a question of what belongs to whom, where territory begins and ends, and which group holds the power over it.
The food world is different. It is a natural, living and generally friendly forum for exchange, integration, blending, melding and mingling. That’s what I love about it. And the result of all this culinary camaraderie is usually something good to eat.
I had a hands-on encounter with that just the other day at the West Side Market. Arriving hungry, I headed to Maha’s for a falafel. This Middle Eastern staple, made from ground and seasoned chickpeas that are formed into patties and fried, are served in a pita bread pouch stuffed with fresh and pickled vegetables. And sauce. Sauce is key. There’s a sesame based tahini version, or the red stuff that adds heat to the mix. The young woman behind the counter always asks if you want mild or hot when you place your order. Those that go for some burn get a liberal squeeze of Rooster sauce, so-called because the bird is the brand’s logo. The Thai equivalent of ketchup, its proper name is sricacha and the intense red juice is made from chile paste and vinegar. The marriage of Middle Eastern and Thai seems like a truly American mix and makes for a really tasty sandwich.
What other tasty cross-cultural dishes are worth a shout-out?
An article about Turkish food in London’s Telegraph got me hungry for the stuffed eggplant and chicken adana at Anatolia. Click below to read, then head over to the Cleveland Heights restuarant to dine Istanbul style.
Made my first visit to Bac, the new self-described Asian American bistro in Tremont. It was a very unsatisfying experience. The mostly Vietnamese menu was disappointing both in the selection and execution of the four dishes tried. Far better examples of this cusine can be found elsewhere around town for less money.
The traditional coconut milk crepe was bland. A green papaya salad had fresh flavor and an appealing crunch, but was soupy with dressing. It was served on a plate and every time I tried to fork up a bite, a little flood washed over the edge and onto the table. My banh mi sandwich was the worst offender. There was more bread than anything else: the roast pork was in short supply, the slice of ham no different that what I’d get at the grocery store, and no sign of the sauasage and pate the menu promised. My companion’s cold noodle salad was tasteless, even with the entire container of sauce that came with it poured on and contained few vegetables. He ordered it with tofu and the fried cubes were tough and rubbery.
I know a lot of time, care and effort went into putting this place together and designing the menu. But it didn’t show in what came out of the kitchen last week. The food still needs some serious attention. And I’m surprised that what was supposed to be a major remodel appears to be primarily a paint job- the space seems little changed from what was there before when it was La Tortilla Feliz.
Anyone been there? Had a positive experience? Hearing from you night give me a reason to give this place another try. Without that, I doubt I’ll go back to Bac.