Finally! We took advantage of the good deals to be had during Cleveland Restaurant Week, and headed out with a couple friends to Lola, Michael Symon’s flagship on E 4th. It’s certainly been hyped enough, being on the leading edge of Cleveland’s revitalized dining scene, but we wanted to find out if it was deserving of all that publicity.
We went on a Monday evening, and it still filled up pretty quickly, so regardless of when you want to go out, reservations are strongly recommended. We were seated in a nice little round four-person booth, out of the way of the main thoroughfare. Cozy and dark (not good for pictures!), though with a full house, the noise level did creep up pretty high, to the point where it was occasionally difficult to hear across the table. Befitting of the buzz surrounding it, there was a literal buzz of energy the entire time, so if you’re looking to eat in silence, Lola’s probably not the place.
Now for the important stuff. S started with a caramelized cauliflower soup “bottomed” with bacon and golden raisins (they actually put the add-ins in the bowl first, then topped with the soup at the table). Rich and creamy, it would make a cauliflower lover out of the most ardent hater. I tried the beef cheek periogi, with mushrooms and horseradish creme fraiche. Ridiculously tender, and the flavor is a little more pronounced than your usual cut of beef. Really, really good.
For our entrees, S opted for the sea scallops with potato, leeks, raisins (and she’s not usually a raisin girl), and country ham. When scallops are done right, they’re almost creamy. The ones I make at home usually end up a little overdone; these were perfect. Also a nice touch of sweet and salty with the ham and raisins.
I tried the hanger steak, topped with pickle sauce, chilies, and served with Lola fries (kind of a shoestring fry with rosemary). The steak was juicy and tender, and the pickles contributed a nice zing. I don’t think I’ve ever had pickled peppers and onions on my steaks, but it worked well.
And finally, for dessert, we sampled both the triple chocolate bread pudding (with white chocolate ice cream and a cherry sauce) and a maple pecan creme brulee (complete with maple bacon pig-shaped cookie). The desserts speak for themselves.
The verdict: Lola gets six stars out of seven. No bones about it – Lola’s not the place to be if you’re looking for a quiet, cheap date. It is a bit pricy (regular entrees range from $24-39), which is why the Restaurant Week specials were such a good deal. As long as you know what to expect, you’ll be fine. Aside from that, the service was friendly and knowledgeable (always a plus), and the food was outstanding, though portion sizes were a bit smaller than what we typically see (in fairness, it’s probably closer to what we should be eating as opposed to the oversized, overstuffed plates that are so common). I’d say the praise is well-deserved.