It's official. I have now eaten at all of Michael Symon's full-sized restaurants in the Cleveland area. While there are still two eateries left bearing his name, I don't see myself getting to either downtown Cleveland and Progressive Field or Detroit anytime soon. I started the journey at Lolita, moved on to Lola, have had several stints at B Spot, and finally over the weekend had a chance to enjoy brunch at Bar Symon out in Avon Lake. Of course, this was a journey of a thousand days, so don't think I did something insane like try and hit all four in one weekend. Even if I could afford to do so, my taste buds would be on sensory overload by the third spot.
Bar Symon was located at 32858 Walker Road, Avon Lake, OH 44012 and can be reached at 440-933-5652. Because Bar Symon was located at the end of a retail outlet center, parking was ample and in front of the restaurant. Also note that the strip mall was located back away from the street, so it was difficult to spot hiding behind the stores lining the actual street.
My best piece of advice for finding the storefront? Look for the flying pig:
Upon closer inspection of the front door, the hours of operation were clearly listed:
What isn't listed on the door were the brunch hours, or 10 AM to 2 PM on Sundays. I'm not sure if Bar Symon added brunch after opening or if the current brunch offering was only temporary, but I've been hearing good reviews about their brunch for a while now. Once inside, I was actually surprised at how dim the restaurant was, even in the middle of the day. Granted, it wasn't pleasant and sunny outside, but it was dark enough that most of my flash-less photos needed some serious doctoring before posting.
The brunch menu came on a single piece of heavy-duty paper. The front side was the brunch menu and the rear side contained the wine and beer selections. Instead of trying to get the entire brunch menu into one shot, I broke it up into the top, middle, and bottom:
Soon after arriving and being seated, complimentary fried donut holes appeared at our table:
These are complimentary for every guest attending brunch at Bar Symon. I think they serve as a sort of amuse bouche to whet the appetite for the impending meal. While the dough itself was only slightly sweet, the cinnamon and sugar coating that encased the fried dough added a lovely sweetness and a tiny textural crunch when eaten. Underneath each donut hole was a pool of lovely chocolate sauce.
While everything looked really good on the menu, the one item that I had been very eager to try was the biscuits and sausage gravy. Having read about them originally on my friend Nancy's blog, her pictures along with the descriptions I've heard on the Cleveland Food and Wine Forum made this brunch item the raison d'etre for me today. Ordering my eggs "sunnyside up" (my favorite), after only a few minutes, our meals arrived at the table:
First up, the eggs:
While the eggs were nicely seasoned (a nice change for once), the barest bit of white around each of the yolks was still a bit undercooked. Other than that, the eggs were tender and delicious. Had I ordered or received a bit of toast with my meal, I probably would've eaten the egg yolks with the toast points. That not being the case today, my fellow dining companion Diane squealed with glee as she watched me eat all of the white around each egg yolk before popping the entire yolk, unbroken, into my mouth. She wondered if I always ate my eggs that way and other than when I have something to smother the yolks over, I agreed that it was. Old habits die hard, I guess.
Here was a shot of the cheddar cheese, bacon, and scallion biscuits:
I tried these on their own and they were quite delicious. Michael Symon seems to find a way to sneak pork into everything he does and in this case, I certainly won't object. By themselves, they had a lovely balance of flavors and were tender and flaky. I imagine that smeared with just a little freshly softened butter, these would be heaven on a plate.
While the biscuits were good on their own, they belonged to the third element on the plate, the sausage gravy:
While certainly a homemade version of sausage gravy, Bar Symon's lost some of the sweetness that a milk gravy should have. To my palate, it didn't have a traditional balance of sweet and spice from the milk sugars and the spice from the sausage. Don't get me wrong, the gravy wasn't bad. It was just different from what I was expecting. Combining a bite of biscuit and a generous lathering of gravy on my fork, I took a bite of the combination and discovered that sometimes there can be too many flavors going on. In my mind, the sum of the whole was less than the combination of the parts. Technically I think this dish was executed well, but I began losing flavors when eating the biscuits with the gravy.
My friend Diane decided to order the Eggs Benedict and gave me a small bite of hers for me to try:
Between the crispy English muffin, the slice of moderately salted ham and the nicely poached egg on top, this was a nice bite. The next time I return for brunch at Bar Symon, I may just have to go with this dish instead it was so nice. My other dining companion gave me a bite of his entree, the stuffed French Toast, too. It was tasty, but what surprised both him and myself was the very reserved level of sweetness in his dish. It could be due to the use of reduced balsamic vinegar drizzled over the plate; either way, both of us missed a certain level of sweetness that most French Toast normally has.
Because we arrived later in the brunch service, we actually managed to close out the service by the time we were done. Chef Matt Harlan came out to say hello to our small party and started talking about some of the upcoming specials. The topic quickly turned to seafood and he admitted that he had been surprised that the fresh oysters that he had acquired recently hadn't been selling very well on the dinner menu. After describing their preparation to us, he went back to the kitchen and returned with a complimentary oyster for each of us.
Here was a shot of my oyster:
Fresh and cold, each oyster was dotted with just a bit of wasabi and a drop of sriracha. Having never had this combination before, I was surprised at how well all of the flavors worked together. You could actually taste the flavor of the oyster, the sharpness of the wasabi and then the lingering of the chili and garlic from the sriracha. Had I not already eaten a full meal and the fact that the restaurant was now closed for brunch, I might have ordered a full dozen just based on that flavor combination alone.
I'm glad I finally had a chance to complete the Michael Symon "set" of Cleveland-based restaurants today. While some aspects of today's brunch seemed to fall in the "miss" category, others were squarely dead on. Perhaps my experience today speaks more to the blow-you-away flavors I've experienced at Symon's other eateries than to a sub-par meal at Bar Symon. Either way, I recommend the restaurant and I know that I intend to return again for brunch and for a proper dinner meal as well.