Thursday, November 18, 2004

As all of you know, from Genevieve's blog, last night was our 6 year anniversary of getting together (we celebrate both this and our wedding anniversary). So, for this special occasion, we decided to check out a restaurant we've been wanting to try for awhile. Arguably, one of the best restaurants in Cleveland, if not the best. The home of Cleveland's culinary prize, Michael Symon.

Lola Bistro

Though only mere seconds walking distance from our house, we'd somehow managed never to go there before. We were scared away by the potential high prices (though, all in all, they were only a miniscule amount pricier than any other fancy restaurant), the long wait for a reservations (also proved to be not-so-true) and the lack of any veggie options for Genevieve. But, I just don't think either of us would have felt right about leaving Cleveland without stopping in there.

Well, finally heading in, we started our meal out with:
Genevieve: crispy wild mushrooms with butternut squash grits
Patrick: Slow roasted beets with apples and buttermilk blue cheese

Now, I am not a big fan of beets. But I *am* a huge fan of blue cheese and apples and...to be honest, I was willing to give them another shot. I think it's that I really *want* to like beets. They look beautiful, cooked right, they have great "mouth feel" and they're readily available most of the time at the West Side Market. But, something about them never sat right with me. That said, these were probably the best beets I've tasted and the whole dish was excellent. It's still not making me run out and get them, but at least I know what they can taste like, at the height of good preparation. Those who like beets to begin with would be in heaven.

Next up, entrees:
Genevieve: chef's whim (sauteed spaghetti squash and mushrooms with baby asparagus a balsamic glaze. "it was melt in your mouth good")
Patrick: Fish & Chips (Perch, spicy slaw and sweet potato chips)

First up, let me explain what the whole "Chef's Whim" thing is. You see, as I mentioned before, Lola does not have any vegetarian options for main entrees. Basically, as a veggie, you get two choices: their famous mac & cheese - without the chicken, or the chef's whim, which is exactly that...whatever veggie option the chef wants to make at the time. I thought this gave the whole dish a brilliant, personal touch. You weren't getting what everyone else got, you were getting something special, just for you. Plus, it was deliscious. Couldn't go wrong.

And, yes, I paid $20.00 for perch, cole slaw, and chips. I know it sounds silly, or even stupid. But, I grew up on perch. I looove perch. A good perch sandwich is simply awesome. So, when I found out that, at this "fancy restaurant", I could *get* this most lowly of fishes, I was on it. Yes, I skipped over the five spice duck and other culinary delights for something so blue collar, so Cleveland, it intrigued the hell outta me ;) That said, this *was* the best perch I'd even had. Deep fried in a well-spiced batter, this wasn't Sokolowski's fare (which *is* also some damn good fish, might I add), served with a creamy sauce, this was *gourmet perch*. Well prepared and well served, it was all that I'd hoped it'd be. Next time ....walleye ;)

We finished our meal off with:
Genevieve: chocolate covered "pretzel" with vanilla bean ice cream
Patrick: Banana Cream pie

Both were excellent. My banana cream pie was a while freggin pie! A small one, but nonetheless, much more than the thin slice my stomach was ready for. I am sad to say that, as good as it was, I just couldn't finish it.

A couple final notes about Lola:
Lola was one the originators of Tremont's "fancy casual", or whatever you want to call it, restaurant scene. As such, they were much more comfortable and laid back than even some of the newer places, like Sage (which had an incredibly stuffy atmosphere, though good food). We never felt snubbed, or like the poor relations, even if there was a huge table of suits right next to us. Maybe it was the lack of Foi Gras on the menu, but it was just really relaxed and fun.
It was also nice to see Mr. Symon slinging food in the kitchen. In another Tremont restaurant we'd been to, the "star chef" had moved out onto the floor, expediting food and rubbing shoulders with the clientele, which is, of course, great if you want to meet a local "celebrity", but it was refreshing to see someone who had been on Food Network, whose been featured in most any Culinary mags, back there still sweating it out, doing what make him famous. Cooking.

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