Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lola - Michael Symon Hype or the Real Deal?

Do you have a restaurant that EVERYONE goes crazy over and you're just like meh, ok? For me, it's always been Lola. I am a huge Michael Symon fan and loved Lola when it was in its original Tremont location, but the few times I had been to the E. 4th location left me underwhelmed. I always felt that there was too much hype and the perfection had been tarnished with the move. The space is gorgeous and the food was always good but something was missing. I never left there wowed. 

A couple weeks back, my friends asked me if I wanted to join them during Restaurant Week. I've been there previously during RW and ended up ordering off the regular menu because the special menu was unappealing. But this time the menu at Lola sounded really good so I decided to give it another shot. Man am I glad I did!
The hot crusty bread and soft butter got me purring as soon as it arrived. It's a huge pet peeve when butter is rock hard and unspreadable. The bread was chewy perfection. We had to control ourselves not to eat another basket.

We split an order of the famous beef cheek pierogies - it's one of my favorites and my friends were eager to them. I really think they are something you should be required to order when dining here. So beefy and delicious, we were talking about how we could eat a dozen each. At $12 for 3, we decided that we should order more wine instead.

We all started with the cauliflower soup. It was a generous bowl served piping hot. I loved the unexpected addition of golden raisins and the crispy bacon and cauliflower florets - yum! No pic of this one because I was too busy devouring it in record time.

One of my friends chose the trout with citrus, olives, and mint with baby bok choy. I'm not a huge trout fan because it's just a little fishy for me but this was a great preparation! The flavors mellowed the fishiness and was a tasty light entree.
Cleveland Restaurants, Iron Chef, Lola
The rest of us ordered the hanger steak. I've been on a quest for a great slab of beef ever since I went to Crop Bistro and couldn't wait to try Lola's steak. I was extremely disappointed when it arrived. Another case of over-done meat and it looked messy. Not at all what one would expect from an Iron Chef establishment. I ordered medium and there was no pink in sight. This time I was not going to accept an overcooked mess so I sent it back. Luckily I had a cone of the rosemary scented Lola fries to keep me busy. I love them being served in a cone because they stay hot - everyone should serve fries like this.
Michael Symon, Lola
I didn't have to wait long at all - only a few minutes - and this arrived:
Michael Symon, Iron Chef, Cleveland
MUCH better! You can see that the steak is cooked properly and even the presentation is much better. While I was shocked to receive the first version of the steak from a restaurant like Lola, I was very happy with the way they promptly took care of it. The waiter and restaurant manager both came by to see if I was happy with the replacement. Cooked properly - it was fantastic! Beefy, tender and juicy it was exactly what I have been craving. 

Next up was dessert. I almost ordered the panna cotta:
dessert, Michael Symon
A blood orange and vanilla bean panna cotta layer was on a thin slab of clove cake and topped with mint and citrus. It was good but didn't knock my socks off. 

But I was swayed with the waiter's description of the Napolean as "almond joy like." It was a very light almond pastry cream layered on top of chocolate pastry with a tiny scoop of coconut sorbet. The real star of this was the wafer thin nut brittle - to die for! It would have benefited from more chocolate punch in the crust and maybe a drizzle on the plate with some more of the nut brittle but it was a great finish. I was super tired from a long day at NASA and the 50th Anniversary John Glenn celebration so I opted for a cup of coffee instead of more wine. It was dark and rich. I liked how the coffee enhanced the flavor of the Napolean. 
I'm so glad I gave Lola another try. After this meal, I'm officially a lover of Lola! While the first steak was terrible, the way the restaurant handled it and the rest of the meal totally made up for it. Once this was fixed, everything was perfect. The decor, service and food were spot on. 

I still prefer the coziness of Lolita ~ it seems like Chef Symon's restaurant for us locals instead of the touristy glamour of Lola. But that being said, I am really looking forward to going back to Lola again. Even if you aren't a food crazed tourist, it's a wonderful restaurant that everyone should try - it's worth the hype. There are so many great dishes on the menu it will be hard to chose. For my follow up visit, the 6 a.m. Special (brioche french toast, maple-bacon ice cream, caramelized apple) is calling my name...


  1. hard to pass up those beef cheek pillows! yum!

  2. I wasn't overly impressed the only time that I've dined at Lola downtown. The food was good, but not outstanding, and I felt that the portions were very small for the price. Maybe it's time for a return visit!

  3. I know exactly what you mean concerning restaurants you may feel are over-hyped. There are two restaurants in Cleveland that everyone seems to love but I just don't care for them...and both are because of the way they serve their food. Therefore, I know it's my preference and has nothing to do with the quality of the grub involved (I'm not listing them here, although it doesn't involve Michael Symon). You can ask me about them in private. :-)

    That said, I'm so glad you got to give Lola's a try and ALSO that you got your steak exchanged for a better one. Sounds like a great experience over all (kudos for the raisins in the soup!!!).

  4. I'm going to seriously never read your posts before lunch anymore. You think I'd have learned my lesson by now! It all sounds delightful. I've been craving Lolita, so let's plan a date soon.

  5. I loved my trip to Lola but was pretty much heartbroken and forever jaded by my New Year's Eve experience at another East 4th favorite that everyone seems to love. I honestly don't know what it would take to get me back in there - but good for you for giving Lola a second chance!

  6. I haven't been to Lola since it was in Tremont! I loved that place - the location was great and it felt intimate. Great memories!! I am dying for those pierogies!!!

  7. I've never been to either one. I appreciate your honesty and willingness to go back. Those rosemary fries sound pretty delicious.


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