Crop Bistro And Bar
 Cleveland, Ohio         Date of Visit: 10/05/12

It has been a while since we have met our well-heeled and Southern fellow food enthusiasts but the place has been on the book for a while and we finally got our schedules together and headed to Crop Bistro and Bar in the shadow of the West Side Market Tower. After an unscheduled tour of downtown thanks to the construction on the Carnegie Bridge (its amazing how far you have to drive until your GPS figures out that a U-turn is not going to cut it and plots another route) we found parking just behind the restaurant and headed inside.


The New Fashioned Has A Nice Kick

It is much snazzier inside than I had expected. Apparently a bank at one point, the interior is old world, historic and refinished bank. Intricate workmanship from floor to ceiling with loads of marble. The marble is very nice but it also creates an exceptionally loud space. We couldn’t really hear each other at the host station and expected to spend a couple of hours shouting across a table but once we were seated the din was much less problematic.

Awards from wine spectator had me considering a glass of vino but I saw the bar offered a Maker’s New Fashioned. After the stellar Old Fashioned from Hodges I was curious. Over all, Hodges was superior but Crop’s added an interesting touch. Sugar and bitters are muddled with citrus and cherries and topped with ice and Makers Mark. The difference at Crop is the cherries are cured with chipotle pepper giving the drink a light almost cinnamony warmth and the cherries, when chewed, a nice kick. Our server was professional and efficient, no more or less than expected.


Weirdo Popcorn Was Alright, Would Try Truffle or Buffalo Next Time

Looked More Interesting Than They Actually Were


Cherry Bombs Look Like Onions, Don't They?

No Onion In Sight But Stupendous Tomato And Sausage Concoction


We started with three appetizers. I guess before we get into this I should mention that the menus at Crop are more inventive and original than most in the area. Not everything worked out, actually there were teeny to medium problems with every dish we ordered, but just looking at the menu gets you excited if you are a more adventurous diner. We started with popcorn, deviled eggs and cherry bombs.

The popcorn comes in three varieties, truffle, Buffalo or balsamic. We went with the balsamic. I don’t know what I expected this to be but it wasn’t what we got. I suppose I expected soggy and vinegary popcorn. It was soggier than I would have preferred but in addition to the vinegar there several other savory flavors, peppers, onions, arugula, sun dried tomatoes and basil which created an interesting amalgam of flavors. Weird, interesting, I would probably try one of the others if I were to return. The eggs were deviled with the addition of chile and were set on a couple of sauces, one of which appeared to be beet based. They were okay. The little piece of crispy prosciutto was nice. There wasn’t enough chile or ham or sauce or anything else to set them higher on the ladder than grandmas. Both interesting enough I was glad we ordered them even though neither really paid off. Especially when we got to the cherry bombs, which paid off with a bang. Okay, get this. Good sized plum tomatoes, topped and cored. Into the void go chorizo sausage and jack cheese. Sound good. It is. Oh Wait. Not Done. Wrap the whole thing in wonton wrapper and drop it in the bubbling grease til crispy and on some some fresh creamed corn and…BOOM. All I can say is Steph doesn’t like tomatoes or any kind of sausage. She really liked these.


Disappointing Duck

Great Lamb...But Where Was It...Lots Of Sauce Though

Entrees arrived next. Duck, lamb, cod and pork. The duck breast was served with a white bean ragout and apples. The beans tasted pretty good, the duck just didn’t and I am still having difficulty placing why. It didn’t have the fundamental richness of duck, not enough fat had been rendered out of the skin, something about the seasoning just didn’t fit, I guess if you put a bunch of stuff together it would explain why it was easily my least favorite of the night. The lamb was better but suffered from a tragic flaw. Beautifully cooked, sitting on Israeli couscous, topped with grilled figs and coated with a fig demiglace it was so headed in the right direction, but the sauce. There was so much sweet demi on the plate that you had to scrape it off of the lamb or roll the pasta balls out of it to get a taste of what was underneath. It made for a nice pairing, there was just so much of one that it literally obliterated the others.

A little better still was the cod. The fish was magnificent, fresh, flaky, devoid of fishiness. Topped with some Linguiça sausage and joined by potatoes, corn, shrimp broth and little neck clams, this one was so close. It was just missing a little something. Maybe salt, acid, texture, it was good, just shy of really good. The pork was Really Good. So good in fact that the egregious error in seasoning was easily over looked. A chop crusted in cornmeal is a good start. Add cheese grits, wilted greens and an orange chorizo gravy and it was exquisite. There was so much salt from somewhere, most likely the crust, it approached inedible but didn’t quite make the line. Everything else was so delicious and the crunch from the salty crust there was no stopping. So close. I will be stealing some version of this plate.

Great Fish; Good Dish

Too Salty But Exultant Besides

As is our custom we shared four desserts for the four of us. Again the creativity and reach of the menu truly shows through the list of dessert options. The least successful was Blondie’s Elvis. Blond brownie, honey bacon cream cheese, grilled banana, peanut butter caramel and a strip of bacon. Sounds delightful, and to some degree it was. Each component held promise but again a lack of balance created a significant problem. At first I thought it might be the bacon but it wasn’t the salt smoky meat it was just the smoke. However they are incorporating baconicity into the cream cheese resulted in something akin to licking a drop of liquid smoke which continued to intensify bite by bite. The three remaining desserts held no such defect.

Holy Smoke! Elvis' Hunk a Hunk a Burning Dessert

A Picture Of Fall With A Sweet Umbrella

Holé Molé! Chocolate And Spice Play Well Together Here

Inventive And Delicious Smokin' Hot Date

The Caramel Apple Waffle was a fall spiced waffle, cider baked apples, brown butter caramel and maple custard, all tucked under a sugar cage. The mission of Crop focuses on fresh local ingredients and this bowl was Fall plus sweet. Really well done. To some of our surprises we got one called Holé Molé. Flourless dark chocolate cake, a molé ganache, mole ice cream and what was supposed to be blackberry coulis but ended up being blackberries. The chocolate was nicely intense and buoyed by the warm heat of the molé components. The cool temperature and reinforcing spice of the ice cream brought everything together in a complex and satisfying dessert. My favorite was the Smokin’ Hot Date. Warm date cake, sherry-cranberry chutney, smoky candied pecans and smoked ginger ice cream. Not sure how I was going to feel about this one but I was won over by each components’ contribution to the dish. Here the smoke supported instead of taking over, varied textures and temperatures and an overall unique combination finished our meal in a tasty and robust manner. I expect we will be back, the menu changes as the availability of ingredients change and who knows what they will put together next, and how good it will be. Were issues a matter of concept or one night's execution? Only one way to find out and there is enough awesome to warrant further exploration.




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