Friday, July 9, 2010

Flying High At The Flying Fig

I've been wanting to try Karen Small's Ohio City-based restaurant, Flying Fig, for quite some time. I have read many positive reviews of the food and given that my out-of-town guests wanted something uniquely Cleveland, I figured after our fantastic meal at Chinato, a visit to her restaurant might just be the perfect cherry to top off that metaphorical sundae.

Flying Fig was located at 2523 Market Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44113 and can be reached at 216-241-4243. They have an on-line presence which contains directions, menus, specials, and lists their hours of operation. While there was no parking directly on Market Avenue, there were plenty of spots to park located on the street only a block away.

Walking up to the front of the restaurant, I snapped this photograph of the main window:

Even though Mike and I had shown up for our reservation a half-hour early, the host inside was more than happy to seat us right away. Fortunately it wasn't too busy and we had our choice of an inside or outside table. Commenting on how nice of an evening it was, both Mike and I agreed to sit outside at one of the sidewalk tables. This would also bode well for my photography since the inside of the restaurant was fairly dark.

We were left to peruse the single page menu:

While most of the menu items looked vaguely familiar to what was available on the on-line version, what I didn't realize until later was that tonight was the debut of the Ohio Pork Trio entrée.

Along with our menu came tonight's bread service:

Here was a shot of my bread plate:

While I wouldn't call this a European style artisan bread, it was quite tasty and was fresh and delicious. A quick check with our server revealed that it was made in-house as I had suspected. We ended up going through two plates of bread between Mike and I since it was so good and we were quite hungry.

To maximize our flavor experience tonight, Mike and I decided to split two appetizers and then each order our own entrée. While there were many tempting items to try from the appetizer portion of the menu, when I saw cornmeal crusted chicken livers, I was sold:

Here was a shot of my portion:

Served up with candied bacon, scallion and citrus salad dressed in a maple and mustard vinaigrette and dotted with fresh chevre, the flavors in this appetizer really sang in my mouth. The crunchy coating played nicely with the creaminess of the livers and the goat cheese. The candied bacon added a bit of sweet and salt and the acidic vinaigrette helped to cut through the fattiness of the dish. The only thing I didn't care for was the fact that the chicken livers were cooked completely through. I would've preferred mine a bit more on the medium side as they were a little dried out and a little bit mealy.

For Mike's appetizer, he decided to go with the Tempura Battered Green Beans:

Served with both a soy-ponzu and caramelized chili pineapple sauce, this was a large plate of food on which to nibble. Here was a shot of my portion of tempura beans:

While the soy-ponzu sauce may have been the more traditional of the two sauces, I have to admit that the caramelized chili pineapple dipping sauce was heavenly. It essentially hit sweet, salty, sour, and spicy notes, all at the same time. The green beans were nicely battered and fried and while Mike thought they were perfectly fried, I thought they were just a touch greasy. However, the didn't taste greasy in the mouth. And paired with the pineapple sauce, I was quite taken with this dish. In fact, after we ran out of beans, I started dipping my bread into the sauce.

As I mentioned earlier, the Ohio Pork Trio was a brand new dish debuting at tonight's dinner service. Of course, I didn't know that until after I had ordered it, but I'm glad I made that choice. Here was a shot of my entrée tonight:

First I'll talk about the non-pork items on the plate and then move my way around to each of the pork preparations. Besides the trio of pork, the plate also contained a cheddar chive spoon bread and sautéed kale. Both items were a nice touch and while distinctly different from the pork items, helped to tie the entire plate together. The kale had been spiced with a bit of pepperocino (red pepper flakes) which gave each bite a bit of spicy kick. The spoon bread was quite moist and the flavor of the cheddar cheese came through quite easily.

The first preparation of pork was the tenderloin:

I tasted the sauce by itself and it tasted of apples, which would make sense because apples and pork have an affinity for each other. The menu had said that the tenderloin was rhubarb glazed and while I didn't get a distinct flavor of rhubarb, there was a hint of sourness to the outside of the pork. I had ordered the pork to be cooked medium and that was exactly how it arrived. Overall, this was a delicious component of the dish.

Next up was the pork belly:

Served with what tasted to me like a tamarind based sauce, the pork belly was certainly cooked long enough for all of the connective tissue to break down. While this pork component was good, it wasn't great. The meat was just a tad dry and while the sauce helped, it couldn't make up that much ground. The spice rub that had been used on the crispy exterior added a lovely depth of flavor and savoriness to the dish.

The final pork component of the plate was the Root Beer-Chili Glazed Ribs:

Not sure what to expect from a "root beer" sauce, I tried a bit of the sauce on the plate first. Outstanding! The root beer flavor was there, but just barely. The chili heat was nicely balanced with the sweet and the salt. I bit into a rib to discover nearly fall-of-the-bone meat which was enhanced, but not overpowered, by the sauce. I was concerned with using my hands to eat this part of the meal since the rest of the plate was definitely knife and fork. However, my server confirmed my choice when she checked in on us and told me that I absolutely should be eating them with my hands. I am not normally a rib person, but I can tell you that I could've eaten an entire rack of these ribs, especially paired with the root beer chili sauce.

After finishing our entrées, I was entirely too full to think about ordering a dessert, but apparently Mike was lured in by the fresh seasonal berries on a shortcake with organic, barely sweetened whipped cream:

While I don't normally include pictures of items I don't try myself, Mike did allow me to have a taste and I have to say it was as lovely and refreshing as I figured it would be. Composed of a trio of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, the only component Mike didn't find particularly inspiring was the shortcake. He felt it was too close to something he would find at Bob Evans. Having worked at Bob Evans during high school as a line cook, I can assure you that on this point, we disagreed.

I am so happy to have finally had a chance to try out this marvelous little eatery on Cleveland's near west side in Ohio City. Both Mike and I had a great dinner and even though Mike isn't really into the whole locally sourced food scene, I am glad to see that I have another option when I want to dine out at a restaurant whose chef understands the need to offer local and sustainable menu items. The fact that the food was prepared well and tasted fantastic just makes me want to return soon and return often. I highly recommend you check out Flying Fig restaurant and if you can swing it, dine al fresco on the sidewalk. On a cool summer evening, it's the only way to dine.

Flying Fig on Urbanspoon


shep said...

it was, indeed, an awesome meal. i would absolutely return to the flying fig!

as an aside - i wouldn't say that i'm "not into the locally sourced food scene" - i grow an edible landscape ;) it's hard to get more local than that :)

Tino said...

@shep: Sorry, that didn't come across exactly how I meant it. What I meant was that you aren't necessarily picking local restaurants because of their commitment to using locally sourced products and produce.

That you grow a lot of your own food does show your commitment to using local (as in your back yard) produce.

shep said...

i wasn't offended :) i just like to give you a hard time :)

Bite Buff said...

Love the green beans!

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