Thursday, February 9, 2012

Snapshots – Americana Food Tour: Land of Chef Jonathon Sawyer

In downtown Cleveland, one chef reigns supreme. His name is Jonathon Sawyer and while passing through Ohio, we dropped in at two of his more popular places: Greehouse Tavern and NoodleCat.

The latter is an homage to Manhattan's East Village ramen noodle houses. However, the bland, oily broth and locally-made gummy noodles left much to be desired. We did love the miso-dressed bok choi salad mixed with tatsoi leaves. The mini "buns" or sliders were all a mistake. After one bite, we instantly regretted it. We ordered all and were, unfortunately, impressed by none.

Ruth Reichl recommended Greenhouse Tavern after a transcendent evening filled with foie gras and clams. She described her favorite dish there, which consists of Manila clams steamed in white wine, shallots, and garlic. But, Sawyer one ups the classic dish by finishing it with melted foie gras and butter! It's a bourgeois play on surf n' turf. But, to our dismay, when we ordered the clams, there wasn't even a hint of foie! The wild mushroom risotto was equally disappointing. It showed up to our table runny, bland, and overcooked. The one redeeming part of the meal: the roasted chicken. 

Rather than roasting it whole, the kitchen serves it baked inside a pastry shell. It's a gluttonous play on chicken pot pie. Whole sprigs of rosemary rest beneath the tender chicken and waft out an intense aroma when the top is cracked wide open. The chicken was fragrant, juicy and large enough to share. (Which was great news since everything else we ordered that night – the risotto, the clams, the bread board – were all very disappointing.)

The next morning, I wrote Ruth a quick email. I mentioned that Greenhouse Tavern's decor was beautiful – dark wood, high ceiling, large communal tables, great bar/bistro feel. But, the food... oh, the food... I told her that it must be nice to eat out like Ruth Reichl. Because I couldn't help but think that when she visited Greenhouse Tavern, the server was wise enough to alert the kitchen. Seeing that it really was Ruth Reichl, in the flesh, they instantly knew to throw in more foie! more butter! Which, probably made it taste more delectable. But, alas, we weren't so lucky. Maybe one day, I'll taste the clams of Ruth's dreams. Unfortunately, that night in Cleveland wasn't it. 

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