Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Veggie-Vegan Project: Deagan's Kitchen & Bar

For the fourth installment of The Veggie-Vegan Project, I turned to a friend and fellow food blogger, Jill, who through the Meetup group she managed, Cleveland Eats, taught me about this month's dining hotspot, Deagan's Kitchen & Bar. It turned out that Deagan's offered a daily specials menu and on Wednesdays, not only could you order from their regular menu, but also from a specially prepared list of both vegetarian and vegan based dishes. While I was originally supposed to join the Cleveland Eats group when they originally went back in February, unforeseen personal circumstances kept me from that night.

So, to rectify the situation, this past Wednesday, myself, Eric, Paul, and Edsel descended upon Deagan's around 6:30 PM to sample some of the veggie-vegan treats off the menu. Deagan's was located at 14810 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood, OH 44107 and can be reached at 216-767-5775. They have a website as well. There was a street-side entrance and a rear entrance behind the building where additional parking was located. I happened to park in a parking lot across the street from Deagan's and walked the five minutes to discover the front entrance:

Deagan's Kitchen & Bar in Lakewood, Ohio
Once inside, my eyes quickly adjusted to the dim lighting of the bar area. It turned out that the hostess stand was at the opposite end of the restaurant and as I started walking in that direction, the hostess must have spotted me entering the restaurant from Detroit because she began walking towards me. After requesting a table for four, she sat me at a nice out of the way table by the window in the front of the restaurant.

Here were photographs of Deagan's regular dinner menu:

Deagan's Kitchen & Bar Menu Top
Deagan's Kitchen & Bar Menu Middle
Deagan's Kitchen & Bar Menu Bottom
What impressed me about Deagan's regular menu was that even on a regular non-Vegan night, there were still a handful of options from which to choose. The special dining menu for the evening obviously added a few more choices:

Deagan's Kitchen & Bar Daily Specials Menu
After our group fully assembled and received our round of drinks, we decided to start off the evening with some shared items. First up was the Ponzu Marinated Tofu with Soba Noodle Salad:

Ponzu Marinated Tofu
The tofu had been coated with a type of starch before deep frying resulting in the tofu having a nice crispy exterior while still maintaining a soft interior. The ponzu marinade, typically comprised of soy sauce and yuzu (a Japanese citrus) added notes of citrus, salt, and umami. The soba noodle salad had been dressed lightly and the flavors worked quite well together. All in all, this was a really tasty appetizer.

Our second appetizer was off of today's specials menu, the Sundried Tomato Hummos:

Sundried Tomato Hummos
While red in appearance, that was about as close to tomato as this hummos got. That's not to say it tasted bad, but there was almost no discernible acidic bite from the sundried tomatoes. There was, however, an abundance of cumin, which besides the tahini, were the primary flavors. I'm not personally a fan of cumin in hummos, but I know that enough restaurants offer it that way to know that it is not an unusual ingredient. The pita wedges that came with the hummos went from soft and pliable to stiff and a bit stale. I'll give Deagan's the benefit of the doubt and admit that the stale wedges might have been the ones sitting on top exposed to the air. If you are interested in hummos, I would recommend you order this. If you are interested in sundried tomato hummos, I'd say skip it.

Our final appetizer, the House Roasted Nuts, was an immediate hit at our table:

House Roasted Nuts
Finished in fresh rosemary and just a touch of spice (from cayenne pepper, I'm guessing), these were tasty, herbaceous, and spicy, all at the same time. Additionally, at the cost of only $4, this would make a killer bar snack. The dish contained cashews, marcona almonds, walnuts, and pecans which had been toasted to bring out all of the nut oils which made them even more tasty. Unless you have nut sensitivities, this is one appetizer sure to please your palate AND your wallet.

Our starters out of the way, we next moved on to our entree portion of the meal. As with many other modern restaurants, Deagan's offered various sized food options. There were appetizers, small plates, large plates, and sides. Since I had already eaten quite a bit during our appetizers, I decided to go with a small plate and a side for my dinner tonight. For my small plate, I choose the Crisp Eggplant with Ricotta, Arugula, and Stewed Tomatoes:

Crisp Eggplant
This was as tasty to eat as it was to look at. The eggplant had been rolled around the ricotta filling, almost involtini-style. The breading on the eggplant was crispy and not greasy, the filling was cheesy and delicious and the acidity from the stewed tomatoes worked well against the fatty components of the dish. The only item on the plate that didn't really bring its party hat was the arugula. Usually nice and peppery, tonight's version was sort of bland and lifeless. It wasn't a question of freshness, just that this particular batch didn't add anything to the dish.

For my side, I decided on going with the Truffled Cream Corn:

Truffled Cream Corn
Even before this dish was placed on the table, I could pick up the heady aroma of truffle oil. While truffle oil usually makes everything better, in tonight's case, it really couldn't do much for the cream corn itself. While definitely containing cream, the sauce was too thin and instead of coating the corn, in reality it was closer to swimming in it. The corn itself, while I understand that this is March and not August, didn't offer the level of sweetness I've come to expect even in frozen corn kernels. It was also lacking just a tiny bit in the salt department as well. I think, in the end, what hurt this dish the most was that the corn itself, just like the arugula had been, was too flat in flavor.

My dining companion, Edsel, ordered the Potato Gnocchi from the daily specials menu:

Potato Gnocchi
He graciously let me have a bite of his dish and while the gnocchi were tender, they had almost no resistance to them, making them too soft. The flavor of the sauce, however, was quite good, although the peas were a bit on the starchy side. In fact, both Paul and Eric had ordered the Griddled Polenta which came with mushrooms and peas and each of them also noted how starchy the peas were, too. Surely a sign that they were used before being ripe enough.

On the whole, Deagan's had some hits and some misses. All of us agreed that we would come back for another meal, but I don't think this initial impression lived up to the hype that the restaurant had been given by others. The one item that impressed all of us tonight was the variety of vegetarian and vegan options available at a restaurant which definitely serves its fair share of meat-based dishes. The bill was also equally as impressive. The dinner for the four of us with six cocktails/beers and tax came to a very reasonable $90.

Would I recommend Deagan's Kitchen & Bar? Yes, I would. Although some of the ingredients tonight weren't at their peak, the only major food execution error that I saw tonight was the overly creamy cream corn. With the availability of better produce available just around the corner, I'm hoping that the flat tasting and starchy vegetable problem will correct itself soon enough. One thing is for certain, if you are looking for vegetarian and vegan options, you won't be disappointed in your choice selection.

Deagan's Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

5 comments:

Katie said...

"I don't think this initial impression lived up to the hype that the restaurant had been given by others."

-This is exactly how I felt about the food after our intial visit. Plus we had terrible service. Deagan was eager to rectify it when I emailed him about it, though. We haven't made it back - I think we'll try again this summer. But people do seem to love this place.

Tino said...

@Katie: I'm glad that Deagan's was responsive when you contacted them about your less than stellar experience. It's always a good sign when the restaurant makes a good faith effort to try and rectify the situation. Hopefully your return visit will be better than your first.

Ryan said...

What I love most about the place is the willingness of Dan Deagan to talk to his customers. This is my current favorite restaurant because being a craft beer fan, it is very much up my alley. I must agree that those house roasted nuts are awesome! I hope you give them another try. The open-faced pulled pork off of the lunch menu blows me away every time.

daniel said...

Tom,

First, I'd like to thank you for coming in to my restaurant and giving your review. I appreciate your honesty and we try to do our best to fix whatever mistakes we make.

I'm glad you liked the Crisp Eggplant. It's one of my favorite items on the menu and I recommend it to customers often. I agree about the arugula. It doesn't offer anything to the dish except color, which is probably the chef's intention. I always just scoop it off the plate and don't eat it.

The house roasted nuts are also very popular and well received. As is the Ponzu Marinated Tofu. I think the chef does a great job with both items.

Admittedly, I'm not a hummus fan, so I've nver eaten any that we've offered. I will tell the chef your thoughts concerning the lack of flavor from the sundried tomatoes.

I also agree with you about the gnocchi. I tried it last time and thought they were too soft. I told the chef this and hopefully the next time we offer gnocchi, it will be fixed.

I hope you come in again and let us know your thoughts.

Thanks.
Deagan

PS Katie, I still haven't given up on you and Mark ;-)

Tino said...

@daniel: Thank you for taking the time to comment on my review. As my write-up certainly indicates, there was a LOT to like about our experience at Deagan's. But as with most restaurant experiences, there always seem to be a few negatives to balance out the positives, so don't take the few things that I pointed out to be show stoppers.

As I pointed out to @Katie, the fact that you are engaging your customers both in person and on the web is indicative of an owner who is committed to providing patrons with the best experience possible and when the best isn't possible, doing what you can to rectify the situation.

I wish you much success and I know that I hope to return soon.

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