Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fun Showing Off Cleveland Food - Luxe (and Momocho)

Last weekend, we entertained our Chicago friend, food writer Cynthia Clampitt, on her first ever trip to Cleveland. This also gave us an opportunity to return to a couple of local favorites that we've missed, and to sample Chef Brian Okin's fare at Gordon Square's Luxe Kitchen & Lounge

We began Saturday evening, at Ohio City's Momocho,1835 Fulton Road (216.694.2122). Cynthia's research project involved corn (as will her next book), so we took her to the most corn-centric restaurant we could identify. Alas, I have no photos to share, due to the dark and red-lit room, but I assure you that Chef-Owner Eric Williams (who was off on family duty that night) and his amazing staff are whipping up Nuevo Latino food that is worth a drive from almost anyplace; Cynthia pronounced it her new favorite restaurant (and given that she has about 1,200 to choose from in her hometown, that's pretty high praise).

We began with a trio of the made-to-order guacamoles (which the house kindly comped, after our 9:30pm reservation had slipped into the next hour before we were seated). The table favorite was the honey crisp apple, mango, thai basi, chile serrano, followed closely by the garlic confit, bleu cheese, chile verde version and the mix-in featuring pickled corn, crab, chile, chipotle. Cynthia and I both enjoyed the beer braised short rib tamales, and Bob chose the Waygu Beef Albondigas (meatballs). We also shared a side order of light and tender smoked gouda tamale dumplings. Though we were too sated to even look at the dessert menu, our server treated us to a small ramekin of Momocho's signature dessert, Capirotada: gingersnap, jalapeno bread pudding with burnt sugar and whipped crema. This sweet-spicy-warming-soothing treat is highly recommended. We returned home wondering how we'd ever be hungry for brunch the next morning.

Sunday morning brought us to Luxe, 6605 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland (216-920-0600). We had been wanting to get there since Brian Okin (co-founder of Dinner in the Dark, and former Chef at Verve and Fountain restaurants) took over the kitchen. I had actually given Cynthia about a half dozen options (we're not big Sunday Brunch eaters) and she chose Brian's menu. As luck would again have it, family duties called  Brian away, and we were left in the hands of Brian's able staff. Luxe is the third Cleveland restaurant I know of that lives in a converted bank space (after Dante in Tremont and Crop in Ohio City) and it also contains an interesting assortment of recycled/repurposed/classic decor.

Our repast began with a basket of freshly baked muffins and butter:

Between this basket and our salad plates, we had the opportunity to taste several different muffin flavors, including blueberry, cranberry, cherry, and my favorite, pumpkin. 

The beet salad at the top of the menu intrigued us, so we decided to order one to share. After Cynthia asked if it would be of sufficient size for us to put in the middle and have at (which the server answered in the affirmative), three plates identical to the one above appeared. This Baby Beet Salad included small rounds of pickled radish that I (who normally finds radish too bitter) really enjoyed, arugula, a generous slice of avocado,  and a topping of crunchy nuts and cheese.

Scramble with chorizo, hot peppers, manchego, tomato-cilantro salsa.
We all swooned over our taste of Bob's plate; fresh chorizo (sourced from the West Side Market, we were told) will do that.

Eggs Benny: English Muffin, Smoked Salmon, Poached Eggs, Hollandaise
Knowing that our dinner plans included Lolita and lots of pork, I decided to go to the marine side with brunch. The salmon was assertive without being fishy (in a belly lox kind of way), and the Hollandaise accompanied it well (a more mild salmon might have drowned in the richness). We all loved the fried potatoes that came on each plate, and were surprised to learn that no animal fats were involved in their preparation; they were that tasty. 

With price points between $6 and $16 for entrees (most in the $9-12 range), Luxe offers tasty fun for everyone on Sunday morning. Now all we need to do is drag ourselves back westward to sample Brian's dinner menu! 

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