What’s better than one trip to a Michael Symon restaurant in a week? How about a trip to each Michael Symon restaurant in Cleveland!? After a little bit of discussion (ok a little bit of whining until I got what I wanted), I convinced a couple of my colleagues that it would be worthwhile to drive the 25 minutes from the suburbs into town to dine at Lolita.
Located in what I’m told is the up-and-coming Tremont neighborhood, Lolita
could best be described as the yang to Lola’s yin. Where Lola is slacks and a button up shirt, Lolita
is jeans and a t-shirt. It was a little bit bright, a little bit louder, and a little bit less intimate; none of which is a bad thing by any means. We’d called ahead on the drive in to see if there were any tables, and were informed that there were not until later, but that there was some bar seating. On arrival, we found four seats next to each other, at the corner of the bar. Saddling up to the bar, we were ready to eat.
Taking a look at the menu, we were overwhelmed by the amount of delicious looking food. So we decided to start by focusing simply on starters. The first thing we selected was the lamb keftedes. Then, after a little bit of debating over the cured meats, we settled on the roasted bone marrow, figuring it is not something you can get everywhere. We put in our appetizer order and returned out attention to the entrée menu. This ended up being a little of an ordeal. All four of us finally selected an option off the menu, and then asked the bartender his recommendation. After basically five minutes of talking us through the menu, describing with enthusiasm the delicious options, we once again selected our entrees. That’s when he reminded us of the specials… In the end, after 15 good minutes, and changing our collective minds a half dozen times, we settled on our final items and quickly placed our orders to prevent changing our mind again.
At this time we were finally able to settle into conversation, made easier by sitting at the corner of the bar. We enjoyed drinks and conversation for about 10 minutes prior to the appetizers arriving. Once they did, we quickly quieted down and dove in. The Lamb Keftedes can best be described as delicious lamb meatballs, served with lemon, mint, yogurt and cucumber. The meat was very tender and juicy. This was followed up by the Roasted Bone Marrow which was served with a salsa verde and a little bit of scallion. For the first bite, I simply scraped the marrow out of the bone, put it on a crostini and enjoyed the delicious flavor, what could easily be described as a meat butter. For the second bite I added one of the pickled onions which had a sweet taste and really balanced out the whole meal.
This was definitely the way to kick-start a meal, and had us all excited about the entrees which arrived not too long after we finished the appetizers. For the main courses, Charles had finally decided on the fish special, a Wild Caught Canadian Walleye. Georgy had decided on the house-made Pappdelle with beef cheeks, crème fraische, and killbuck valley mushrooms. Rene had selected the Gnocchi with Pork Ragu (all homemade), tomato and parmesan. And I had selected the Duck Prociutto Pizza with egg, parmesan and rosemary. It was at this point that I realized the biggest advantage to dining with others; the opportunity to try multiple dishes. After the pictures, we passed the plates around so each person could get a few bites off each of the plates.
The pappardelle was the first thing I tried. Honestly, there is nothing like homemade pasta. It just has a fresh, light flavor that can’t be matched. Add to it amazingly tender and wonderfully cooked beef cheeks and you have a delicious dinner. Next, I tried the walleye. At first, Charles wondered if I would be ok with fish, being that I’m from Seattle. I assured him that as long as it was a local wild caught, I would be up for it, and it absolutely would. The fish was perfectly cooked ,nice and flaky and tender while still full of flavor. It had some greens with it which I thought actually took away from the taste of the delicious fish. That left the gnocchi. The first thing that hit me was the lightness of the gnocchi; far lighter than any I’ve ever cooked or tried. The pork ragu was definitely good and very flavorful. Had I not ordered the pizza, this would have been my choice, and I absolutely would not have been disappointed.
Finally, after eating everyone else’s food I dove into mine. My first thought was, I won the food lottery. The flavors of the pizza were like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. The egg added a great flavor to the pizza, but it was the cracker crust and the salty prosciutto that really set it apart. I don’t really know how to describe duck prosciutto other than to say if you take your regular pork prosciutto and multiply the deliciousness by 10, then you get duck prosciutto. It was one of those meals where I thought “I’m stuffed, but if another appeared in front of me, I would finish it”. Then the next day I thought I wish I had that pizza for breakfast. Just an incredible combination of flavors.
After the meal that left everyone completely satisfied, we decided to take a look at the dessert menu. This ended up being a mistake in that as soon as you look at the menu, you can’t help but order something. I decided I would give the warm toffee pudding a try, while Rene went for the Lemon Pound Cake (made with Olive Oil instead of butter) and Charles did the vanilla gelato. The toffee pudding could best be described as dangerous; meaning as long as it was in front of you, it was impossible to stop eating. Just delicious and flavorful. The lemon pound cake was good, but you definitely missed the butter. And the gelato was flavorful, but it was no Fainting Goat. In fact, it had a little more of an ice cream flavor than a gelato flavor.
At the end of the meal, we were all completely satisfied. The meal was absolutely delicious, and it was without a doubt worth the trip into Cleveland. When the bill came we were all shocked to see that the grand total was a paltry $150 for all four of us! Up to this point I didn’t think it was possible to get food of that quality for that price. In the end, my colleagues were actually glad that I talked them into making the trip to Lolita. The food was delicious, and the atmosphere perfectly lent itself to the type of evening that we were looking for. From my perspective, the appetizers absolutely blew away the previous evening at Lola, but the entrée and the dessert were a little less, leading to an overall balanced score. And , we learned two important lessons when eating at Lolita
; go there often because the menu is ever evolving, and if you go on a Tuesday, get there before 6 to enjoy the suckling pig roast.
Final Verdict – 4.5 stars