SOHO
 Cleveland, Ohio         Date of Visit: 09/14/13         
http://www.sohocleveland.com/

We donít get to see our Southern l'ami as frequently as we used to so it was fun to get out for a night. After considering some options they decided to try an attempt at a taste of home at the Cleveland spot SOHO, short for Southern Hospitality. Our compadres said the interior of the place was nearly an exact replica of a restaurant/bar in New Orleans. As is our bent we ordered and ordered and ate and ate. To start we went with four appetizers, lamb belly, oysters Rockefeller, house made pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes.
 



 


 
 
Interesting Adult Beveys
 

As we were waiting for those to arrive, we indulged in some adult beverages. They have a rangy Southern beer selection, loads of rum and some house cocktails. The two cocktails we tried were the New Orleans and the Savannah.

The first was rye whiskey with absinthe, orange bitters and pickled cherries. It was mostly rye and I was looking forward to gnoshing on the pickled cherry but someone snatched my glass before I extracted it from the ice. The Savannah was a tea infused vodka with cane sugar lemonade and hibiscus syrup. This is something I could definitely see sitting on a porch swing in the spring or fall (only crazy people go outside in the summer down there) and listening to southern accents debate the world as we know it.

The service was quick and efficient, it was close to the all hands of deck model from Cowell & Hubbard where one person might be assigned a section but no one walked by the kitchen window or a table without running food or clearing tables. They didnít quite have the whole hospitality thing to a southern level but they were pretty dern close.
 

 

The oysters were not bad, they were buttered and topped with Parmesan bread crumbs and wilted watercress but really needed a kick of garlic which just never showed. A healthy scoop of the house made pimento cheese dip arrived with a pile of fresh BBQ chips. There was much more bell pepper in the dip than I had seen previously, not necessarily a bad thing. Hints of onion, some cheeses, a splash of hot sauce, I still wonder how this stuff hasnít migrated north in familiarity. Oysters, okay. Pale orangey cheese mix, pretty good. The next two upped the ante.
 

 


Oysters Were More Ohio Than Gulf
 


Only See This In The South
 

 

But before we get there, though, there was something I had almost forgotten to add. We didn't order it, it was a gift. Biscuits. Pretty good biscuits. Biscuits with a little side dish. Biscuits with rosemary butter and fresh apple/berry jam. This was a delicious study of baking done in a medium of super savory compound butter and sweet tangy fruit. It's a good thing these were gratis or we would have been ordering more of them. These might have been my favorite part of the whole event.
 


Good Biscuits...
 


Were Paired With Great Spreads
 

A low and slow braised lamb belly brought to mind something like tender/fall apart lamb bacon. The only issue I had with the dish was nearly all lambiness had succumbed to the cooking process. It tasted nothing of lamb, not even an iota of that light but deep delicious gaminess that makes lamb what it is. That said it was much like a super-duper pork belly, rich and redolent with meat-tastic flavor. Add the braised collard greens, toasted sesame seeds and a warm but sweet apricot bbq sauce and you have something memorable. My fav of the four were the fried green tomaters (sic). Immature tomatoes, corny batter, greaseÖall classic. With the demise of Phil the Fire there arenít many places where you might find an acceptable version. SOHO steps it up southern style with a load of sweet corn, some cheese curd and a pool of okra remoulade. Scrumptious.
 
 


Tasted Awesome...Just Not Much Like Lamb
 


So Seldom Do You Find Tasty Versions Of These 'Round Here
 

 
  We were faring pretty well with the apps and dinner wouldnít be much different. There was some debate regarding which of the their fried chicken dishes we should opt for, we ended up with the morning but I think we would have agreed afterward that eveniní style might have been better. The morniní were rosemary studded waffles, boneless fried chicken and a bourbon spiked maple syrup. I donít know when Iíve had southern style fried chicken sans bones and these bits of bird were lacking some of the juiciness and depth of flavor that the structural component brings. The rosemary waffles were fine but mash with bourbon gravy (seems they have an obsession with bourbon and fried chicken together (Yeaaah Them!) plus stewed collards would have been more successful.
 
 

Was Alright, If Boring
 

Other Two Versions Would Probably Have Worked Out Better
 

The crispy catfish poíboy wasnít described as authentic at our table, with more of a flour based crust instead of cornmeal and a more complicated dressing of hot pepper remoulade and green tomato chow-chow, which is a vegetable laden pickled relish instead of the simple mayo. It was pretty tasty. My shrimp and grits was one of the lightest versions I have encountered. Butter heavy without any evidence of spice from the Old Bay or other spice laden seasoning. The shrimp were done very well, just through leaving them soft and tender. The grits were cheesy smooth and the asparagus and peppers worked well in the dish, I would have preferred just a light warm depth to cut through the fattiness of the butter. A little more Andouille might have gotten them there.
 


It's Kinda Like a Po'Boy
 

Rich But Needed Something To Balance That Richness
 

My favorite, much to my surprise were Stephís ravioli. She decided on the pasta pockets from the defunct online menu. Tonight the new option was Hoppin Johnís ravioli stuffed with rice and beans, served with a cauliflower puree, roasted peppers, mustard greens, crispy black eyed peas and a smoked corn broth. Vegetarian awesome. Loads of veg were mixed with a nice layer of smoke and a light spice that kept the dish interesting with each bite. Steph added a side of the smoke gouda mac which was spectacularly less interesting, no smoke, little cheese a little crumb on top, it really needed somethingÖanything to bring that sense of comfort.
 


Hoppin' Johns Ravioli Were Wild Rangy-Flavored Delicious
 

The Mac And Cheese Wasn't
 

There were three desserts so we ordered the lot and found a lower percentage of success in the sweet finishers. The first was a bourbon pecan pie (okay, maybe they have an obsession with bourbon in general) which suffered from way too long in the oven, literally charcoaled around the outside. The banana pudding arrived in a canning jar and lacked banana save for a couple of nuggets in the custard, sometimes trying to elevate a classic looses too much in the translation.
 


Were They Actually Trying To Burn The Crust Like That?
 

Cries Out For Nanner
 

Better than the first two were the beignets. Small round nuggets of fried bread, if you havenít had them but have had zeppole (Italian version of doughnuts) the texture is similar with way more chew than you would find on the average raised or cake doughnut. The nugs were dusted with powdered sugar and served with a little cup of chicory caramel. The sauce was much more chicory bitter than it was sweet caramel which really evened out the doughnuts and shower of sugar over the top. We would have been better off with the doughnuts alone.

There were some really nice options at SOHO and the service was quick and efficient. There were also some much less successful options. Most places serving southern comfort up here are less effective than SOHO but I was hoping for just a little more in taste and consistency.
 


Chewy & Lightly Sweetened Beignets
 

And Sharp Chicory Caramel
 

 

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  B B B+ A D B  
        Biscuits & Others Burned Pie    
 
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