March 2007 Issue
March's Featured Restaurant
Until recently, Cleveland's East Fourth Street was a kitschy reminder of a time gone by, paved with crumbling bricks and supporting low-rent retail stores. In the last few years, though, clubs such as Pickwick & Frolic and the House of Blues have brought new life to the street.
Now a dining luminary has joined the burgeoning entertainment scene: Lola Bistro, the latest iteration of chef Michael Symon's popular eatery, previously located in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood (Symon's Lolita now occupies that space).
The restaurant was designed by Liz Symon, Michael's wife, in conjunction with architect Rick Lalli and interior designer Chris Schramm. Its large bar area, backed by a glass-fronted wine wall, gives the impression that Lola is the place to see and be seen. Light glows from underneath the marble bar-top, and high-backed beige bar chairs feature a vinyl so plush it could be mistaken for pigskin. The dining room is warmed by a red wall faux-painted to resemble leather, and a range of gold and espresso-brown hues. "The history of the space lends itself to a supper club from the 1940s," says Liz.
Michael Symon serves upscale food that features playful Cleveland references such as foie gras sausage and beef cheek pierogi. He works hard to find local and regional purveyors of high-quality meat and produce, and the results are menu items such as the appetizer-sized charcuterie (sausage) of the day - on this occasion made of smoked venison and juniper berries, served with pickled onions and house-made toasted brioche. EntrÃ©es include a braised lamb shank with smoked eggplant, red and yellow peppers, and Lake Erie goat cheese, flavored with coriander seeds and flat-leaf parsley. The strip steak is served with a blue cheese fondue and drizzled with Lola's signature steak sauce. The steak is accompanied by a humble martini shaker filled with rosemary french fries; it's hard not to grin while enjoying the indulgence.
Symon, who for a long time threatened never to expand from his smaller quarters in Tremont, now enjoys the opportunities his new location affords. In the kitchen that opens to the dining room, the chefs now have room to be creative. They have installed a curing room for meat as well as a smoker, and Symon - who never much liked cooking pastry - has been able to install a proper pastry chef.
Lola Bistro and Wine Bar, 2058 E. 4th St., Cleveland, 216/621-5652. Mon.-Thur. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4 p.m.-10 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4 p.m.-midnight; Sun. 4-9 p.m. Entrees $22-$34. AX, MC, V 3