When LeBron James left Cleveland, my sister was distraught. “But you have Michael Symon,” I exclaimed. Who needs LeBron? Of course that is my distorted view of the world. Celebrity chefs will always trump celebrity athletes.
When we plan a visit to see my sister and her family in Cleveland, there is no question that we will dine at Lola Bistro, owned by Iron Chef Michael Symon. Symon is my favorite Iron Chef, personality-wise. He has a wonderfully infectious laugh and seems like a genuinely nice guy. I had lunch at his B-Spot burger place in Cleveland last year and absolutely loved it, so this time I want to try his upscale establishment.
Michael Symon loves pork. In fact he is referred to as the “King of all Pork” in an episode of “Dinner Impossible” on the Food Network which aired a few years ago. It was actually filmed at my sister’s synagogue. Symon was challenged with creating a kosher-for-Passover meal. Leaving out the pork was what made this Dinner Impossible for him. (Here’s a link to Michael cooking brisket from the episode.)
Before we arrive at the restaurant, I decide that since I am in Michael Symon territory I’m going to go whole hog. We begin our meal with a charcuterie. This is not something that appeals to me but we are with my 12 year old nephew who is “starving” and its a quick and easy way to pacify him until our entrees arrive. I sample a small piece of prosciutto. Let the pigging out begin.
I share butternut squash soup with my sister. It’s topped with pancetta. I like the crunchy texture, although I don’t find the soup itself to be very flavorful.
My entree is smoked pork chop with chilies, cheesy polenta, and barbeque onions. The combination of the smoky pork with the rich polenta is excellent. It would have been perfect with a bit more onion, but I have no real complaints. It’s a solid dish and one which I would happily order again.
I end the meal with more pork…a dessert made of brioche French toast, maple-bacon ice cream, and caramelized apple. Maple-bacon ice cream is as I imagine it to be, salty and sweet all at once. I am not blown away but at the same time I feel as if nothing else would have satisfactorily completed my meal.
My niece and nephew enjoy rib eye and hanger steak, which are both tender and flavorful.
The fish dishes are not quite so winning. The scallops and the pan roasted trout with potatoes and leeks are both over-salted.
Our service at Lola is a bit off. It takes a while for a server to show up and even longer for her to ask about our drink order. She forgets to bring my husband’s salad. These aren’t fatal flaws but they contribute to our having a less than stellar experience. I do have to give points for the drink menu, presented to us on an I-Pad. Way cool!
While I wish I could rave about my dinner at Lola, I just can’t ignore the fact that some of the dishes at our table weren’t terrific and the service lacked finesse.
Somehow, this does not dampen my affection for the Iron Chef from Cleveland. I am still a fan. Cleveland may be struggling in sports, but it definitely has star power in the food arena with Michael Symon. Next trip to Cleveland…back to B-Spot!