Lolita
 Cleveland, Ohio         Date of Visit: 07/07/13         
http://lolitarestaurant.com/ 

I am a long and unabashed Michael Symon fan. He certainly doesnít need any adulation from me, he gets it from everywhere, mostly places more revered than I, cause he is that good. My mom has been enjoying The Chew, she thinks Mario and I might be distantly related. We do share some peculiarities in foot wear (inside joke, sorry). We have long been talking about getting back to Tremont to try Lolita, we had not been there since it had been under the Lola moniker which has moved to bigger and fancier digs downtown. Momís birthday seemed like a great time to have her meet the Chef (on the plate at least) and to see what has going on at the old location.
 



 


 
 
Great Bread And Good Oil
 

The streets are a mess but it actually made finding a parking space easier than it typically is in the area. The building is familiar from its previous title as are the tattooed and serious but fun staff. We were delivered some bread which was much like torn baguette with some peppered olive oil. Not bad, the oil wasnít anywhere near as fruity as the stuff from Cowell and Hubbard but the bread was great.

Then we over-orderedÖsurprise, surprise, surprise. Three apps, two entrees plus a side and three desserts. Some were better than others by opinion but in a continuation of all things Cleveland Iron ChefyÖits all good.

First, our appetizers and then Momís. Steph ordered the roasted dates which were served with almonds, bacon, chili and parsley covered in a beautifully tangy sauce. I ordered the crispy pig tails and ears. Thin strips of super crispy fried ear were laying atop about five pieces of tail with pickled chili, cilantro and a fennel onion agrodolche.
 

 


Roasted Dates With Almond And Bacon
 


And Coated With A Light Citrusy Awesome
 

 


How Do You Not At Least Try Crispy Pig Ears & Tails
 


To No Surprise They Turn Out To Be Delicious
 

 

The sweet and sour aromatics paired stupendously with the crunchy ears which would shame any chicharones I have ever tried. The tail was new for me, segmented bone running through the middle, with the chili and the crispness of the exterior they seem much like a porky, porky fatty, chicken wing. Weirdly extravagant.

Now Moms. For years I have heard her talk about the fried chicken livers from a defunct restaurant I donít think I have ever been to, 21st Century. Every time she has seen it on a menu she waxes philosophically, orders them and seems to find them a pale representation of her memory. Today the extra crispy body filters are served atop soft polenta and with mushroom and bacon. It was rewarding to watch her take a bite, close her eyes and disappear for a little while. She then proclaimed they were better than she remembered from 21st Century. Behold, the power of food, cheese or otherwise.
 

 


We Went For Mom's Birthday
 


She Got A Present From The Chef On This Plate
 

 
 

Prior to the entrees we were delivered the ďbigĒ board of toast, cured meats and accoutrement. Two of the seven meats are from La Quercia, the Prosciutto and the Sopressata, both very nice. Everything else is cured in house from a gorgeously smooth chicken liver pate, to a nearly varnished duck breast and one given a quick swipe of ghost chili adding a light but memorable kick. Pickled onion and oyster mushrooms, a cherry and apricot mostarda, the whole thing is a mix it yourself wonderland of possibilities. How do you go wrong?
 

 

The Big Board Is...Well...Big
 

Only Two Offerings Are Not Made In House
 

I Liked The Pate, We All Loved The Mousse
 

Bright And Varied Additions Make For Do It Yourself Fun
 

Mom didnít think she could manage a whole entre so she just ordered the fried Brussels sprouts with capers, anchovy, walnut and some definite bacony essence. Stupid good. Steph went with her second vegetarian friendly dish from Symon with a Risotto Primavera just loaded with beautiful spring veggies, meyer lemon and grana padano cheese with an egg yolk cradled in the center. The short grains of rice were almost aggressively al dente, the yolk added some fatty heft and the lemon just boosted everything to scrumptious. The vegetables were what really made the bowl. Fresh sweet peas, asparagus, on and on and on. Rice plus spring. I ordered duck confit which was served with a romesco sauce, kumquats, almonds and grilled onions. The duck was succulent and just fell away with a gently prodding from the fork. Super rich the pepper from the sauce, the tartness of the fruit and the bite of the onion fought a valiant battle to keep the dish balanced. It arrived with a side of roasted asparagus with agrumato. I have heard of the process previously but have never tried it. As I understand it, olives are pressed with fresh citrus resulting in a flavor unique from infused oils. I donít know if it is all that unique but put it on any green vegetable and maybe most other things and I am in.
 


Sprouts On A Pedestal Or Maybe A Bender Or Both
 

Agrumato Was Made For Asparagus
 

Spring Is In Every Bit Of A Gorgeous Risotto
 

Rich & Succulent Duck Supported By Thoughtful Sides
 

I was stuffed. We all were, best I could tell. When the dessert menu hit the table I groaned. Steph said, look, three desserts and three of us, I would be doing some more groaning. The dark chocolate flourless cake and strawberry-rhubarb trifle were easy to choose, the chilled option actually included a choice and we went with the gelato over the sorbet, todays was blueberry lychee. The gelato was the chilly essence of both berries with some dairy to round it out. Nice. The flourless cake reeked of chocolate, dark and serious chocolate. It appeared to glisten when it hit the table and delivered the same glossy punch on the chocolate seeking taste buds. Add the dark chocolate ganache and red wine cherry compote and you have chocolate spectacular. Steph and Mom listed this as their favorite dessert.
 


You Can Just See How Good It Was
 

Chocolate Glistens With Serious Flavor & Richness
 

But The Trifle Was My Favorite
 

Every Molecule Meant To Bring Happiness
 

I preferred the last, the strawberry-rhubarb trifle. Whoever put this concoction together had a genius moment of inspiration. Okay, whatís the big deal about a fruit and technically vegetable layered with some cake and cream stuff? Words wonít quite do it but Iíll try. The simple cake is actually a pink peppercorn angel food which while not exactly a pepper adds just the slightest hint of the bite you would expect. Add one lightly tart and another more tart plant present, a white chocolate pastry cream and some bitter orange liquor. No taste bud goes unassaulted by this sweet and not, light and heavy, tangy and smooth, take your pick, one jelly jar filled with delicious contradictions. The trend continues. I have yet to order something from the chefís restaurants, prepared by his staffs that hasnít minimally satisfied and more often than not excelled. I hope as his empire grows he is able to maintain what got him there. So far so good, okay great.
 

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