For our second evening out in Cleveland, I decided to take my friend Chris to another favorite of mine, Light Bistro. I have written once before about Light Bistro and thought that after the upscale-ness of Lola Bistro, Light would be that nice blend of excellent food, more laid back service, and certainly a more approachable price point. I have had a handful of meals at Light and have always walked away a happy diner.
We were fortunate to get a parking spot on the street just down from the restaurant and walked in through the front door promptly at 6:30 PM. We were warmly greeted and shown to our table by the large front window, fortuitous for me since my camera phone doesn't have a flash on it (nor did I want to use the flash even if it had it). We were handed menus (which appear in my previous post on Light) and soon thereafter, a small bag of fresh hot bread and butter arrived at our table:
Inside was a mixture of regular French style bread and a Parmesan cheese crusted bread. Here was a shot of my bread slathered liberally with some of the nicely softened butter:
The bread was wonderfully fresh and warm and the butter almost instantly melted into the tight crumb. The crust had a nice chew to it and the bread had a slight tang to it, indicative that a starter had been used.
One of the aspects of dining at Light that I really appreciate is the division of the menu into smaller tapas style plates as well as larger entrées. Depending on who you are dining with and the table's preferences, you could make up your entire meal on small plates alone or a mixture of small and large plates. Tonight Chris and I decided to share two of the tapas plates and then we each got our own entrée.
First up was a platter of bacon-wrapped dates:
These porky nuggets had been stuffed with almonds and Valderon cheese. Valderon cheese is actually a blue-veined cheese and thus, had quite a strong flavor. While these were delicious, the problem was that between the bacon and the blue cheese, the sweetness and flavor of the dates were almost entirely lost. The almonds lent nearly no flavor and in fact, if it weren't for the occasional crunch of the nut, I might have thought that they were left out entirely.
Our second tapas was from the more modern section of the menu, the creamy polenta with braised oxtail:
The polenta was definitely creamy and the braised oxtails were completely tender. Topped with a little bit of Ricotta Salata (salted Ricotta), to me this was a nice blending of flavors. Texturally it probably could've used some contrast as everything was a tad on the soft side. Chris felt that the polenta added nothing to the dish and could've easily been left off. I disagree in that the polenta added just a touch of sweetness to balance the savoriness of both the beef and the cheese.
For my main course, I decided to stray from the entrée section and ordered the Kobe beef burger with pommes frites instead:
I normally don't go all agog when I see a Kobe beef burger on a menu (which seems to be all the trend nowadays), but when I saw that it was topped with a mushroom duxelle, truffled creme fraiche, arugula, and Fontina cheese, that just sounded too good to pass up. I ordered my burger medium; here was a shot of the interior of my bisected burger:
This was a bit closer to medium rare than medium, but I was happy to eat it anyway. The bun had been nicely grilled and stood up well to the onslaught of juice that came from this patty. The burger was seasoned properly and tasted "beefy." I could taste the Fontina and the earthiness from the truffled creme fraiche, but the arugula didn't do a whole lot for me. As for the mushroom duxelle, I wasn't exactly sure where it existed on the burger. Looking at my photograph, it appears that it may be between the arugula and the slice of cheese, but I certainly didn't get any mushroom flavor when I took a bite. Which was sad because I love the flavor of duxelle. At $16 for this burger, I don't think what I received was worth the price. Next time, if I'm in the mood for a burger, I'll stick with the "regular" beef burger at only $12.
The pommes frites that came with the burger were quite good though. The potato sticks were crispy on the outside and just a little bit creamy on the inside. I think my preference would be for a thicker cut of potato, but these were just fine and served as a nice foil to the burger. By this point Chris had finished his entrée and had begun stealing fries from my plate. He wasn't sure why I hadn't sent my burger back to be cooked to the correct temperature, but honestly, it didn't bother me that much. In the worst case, they would refire the burger and fries and I'd be sitting there for ten more minutes watching him eat.
Overall I think that I enjoyed my experience at Light Bistro tonight more than Chris did. The food was better than average, but not outstanding. I didn't bother to ask if Chef Matt Mattlage was running the pass tonight, but honestly it shouldn't matter. I still think that Light Bistro is a great place to eat, even if they had a somewhat off night tonight. Considering that an off night at Light Bistro is comparable to a great night at some other restaurants at which I've eaten, I'm not too concerned. I would suggest that if you happen to be in the Ohio City area just west of downtown Cleveland that you give this eatery a try; I think you'll be happy with the entire experience.