When I first heard John Kolar's name mentioned on the old Cleveland Plain Dealer's Food and Wine forum several years ago, it was being associated with a new venture out in Medina, Ohio, called Thyme - the Restaurant (warning: gratuitous use of Flash). I knew the eatery was an upscale kind of place, but unfortunately, I don't get out to Medina all that often (which is a shame, really, since there are so many great places to eat there). Happily, as I collected my camera bag and walked out to my car after work last Friday, for some reason, it seemed time to finally check out Thyme.
Reservations are a mixed bag with me. When it is just me going out for a meal that I intend to review here on the blog, I tend to eschew reservations if I think I can get away with just showing up unannounced. This ensures complete anonymity and impartiality. However, if I think I might have difficulty getting a table (Friday night at 7 PM qualifies), I will go ahead and make a reservation, sometimes under a different name. Knowing that the chef or general manager often checks the reservation books before dinner service starts, my last minute decision at 6:30 PM on a Friday night to eat at this time made this last point moot since unless the person answering the phone knew me by name, it wouldn't have changed my experience.
Thyme was located about a thirty minute drive from Montrose at 716 North Court Street, Medina, OH 44256 and can be reached at 330-764-4114. When I saw the street sign for the restaurant,
I pulled into the moderately crowded parking lot. Having been around in the mid 70s to early 80s, I immediately recognized that the building was a converted and modified Red Barn restaurant. The entrance to the restaurant was actually facing the parking lot:
Once inside, I marveled at the re-purposed space. Through the main doors to the left was a small bar area. The rest of the inside space was devoted to tables, which while cozy, didn't give you the feeling that you were sitting on top of your neighbor. During better weather, a covered patio was also available. Lighting was pretty dim, but fortunately the hostess sat me at a table with a small, but bright incandescent lamp pointed straight down onto my table. She left me to look through the menu:
After taking my order, my server promptly returned with several items for me. First up was a basket of herbed focaccia and a ramekin of softened butter:
The focaccia was fresh and delicious. I didn't bother to ask if the focaccia was house made, but it didn't particularly matter since it was so tasty. The softened butter had a slight sweetness to it and while it matched the slight saltiness of the bread, wasn't required to elevate the flavor of the bread.
The kitchen also sent out a small starter, an amuse bouche, to get my meal off on the right foot:
This was a warm potato and leek soup that had been drizzled with just a touch of chive oil. I raised the glass to my mouth, tipped it back, and drank the entire contents in one gulp. While nothing fancy, it was seasoned properly and the flavor had a pronounced potato and leek essence to it. The chive oil added a small amount of spiciness, but nothing overwhelming. This was definitely a nice way to start the meal.
Always a sucker for gnocchi, especially homemade gnocchi, after seeing that an appetizer-sized portion was available on the menu, I decided to start my dinner adventure with a pasta course:
This was Porcini Gnocchi with Sauteed Spinach, Mushrooms, Porcini Cream Sauce, and a Balsamic Vinegar drizzle. The texture of the gnocchi were ethereally light, occupying that wonderful spot between having a satisfying chew versus dissolving in the mouth. On some of the less coated pieces, I could taste the potato, another great indicator of being freshly made. The mushroom flavor was quite pronounced and while the fattiness from the cream sauce coated my tongue, the acid from the vinegar helped to cut through it. My only complaint was that when I finished the pasta, I was about to reach for a slice of the focaccia to mop up the remaining sauce when one of the food runners swooped in and removed the plate before I had a chance to do so.
Interestingly, my gnocchi had shown up mere minutes after placing my order. In between my appetizer and my entree, however, the wait was a bit longer. It probably only seemed excessive because the gnocchi had come out so quickly. Soon enough, my server returned with my main course, the Double Cut Grilled Pork Chop with Poblano and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese, Asparagus, and Smoked Onion BBQ Sauce:
I had asked for the pork to be cooked to a "medium" temperature and it was. The pork was flavorful, juicy, and seasoned properly. While some of the asparagus spears were a bit thin and wispy, overall they were grilled and seasoned nicely. The smoke flavor in the BBQ sauce was nicely present, but not overwhelming. The pork was nicely complemented by the sauce. However, the big winner on this plate was the poblano and bacon macaroni and cheese. Nice and crusty on top and creamy everywhere else, this was an incredibly delicious version of this American staple. The pasta -- straight up macaroni noodles -- was perfectly cooked and wasn't mushy in the least. While I know that most anything is better with bacon, the addition of the roasted poblano added a subtle sweet and spicy element that really worked.
Having nearly cleaned my plate before indicating that I was finished, my server asked if I was interested in seeing the dessert menu. I figured that since I had already experienced such great success with the regular menu, the desserts must be on par. Right? Here was a shot of the dessert menu:
When I looked at the menu and realized that Thyme only had four desserts, two of which were pretty routine -- namely the creme brulee and molten chocolate cake -- I was actually a bit disappointed. Coming to grips that my choice would be between a cheesecake and a pumpkin mousse, I figured that the Toffee Cheesecake with Candied Almonds, Bruleed Banana, and Toffee Sauce would be the more interesting of the two.
As I've mentioned before, when I anticipate eating something sweet, I will often pair it with something bitter, like espresso or coffee, which was exactly what I did tonight:
The espresso was properly brewed, with full crema floating on top of the murky, bitter liquid sitting below the surface. While I appreciated the raw sugar cube, I skipped it and went straight for the twist of lemon.
Fortunately, only a few moments after my espresso arrived, my dessert made its way to the table:
While the plate definitely gets props for verticality and use of multi-textured components, sadly, this plate could've done with a color outside of the "brown" family -- a sprig of mint would've done wonders to break up the monotone theme. The toffee sauce was pleasant and tasted like, well, toffee. The bruleed banana was nicely caramelized. The candied almonds added a nice textural element.
The toffee cheesecake had its good and bad points. While not overly sweet, it was also a bit "vanilla." I didn't get a whole lot of toffee flavor in the cheesecake and honestly, it needed something to counterbalance the sweetness of the dessert -- perhaps sour cream would have helped. Maybe if the caramel on the banana had been cooked a bit darker, the inherent bitterness would have contrasted better with the sweetness. It just needed ... something. Don't get me wrong, gentle reader, it wasn't a bad tasting dessert. It was just kind of unremarkable considering the level of food I had enjoyed until that point.
The check with tip and gratuity came to just under $50 tonight. Was it worth it? Yes, I think it was. Given that the only non-stellar part of my meal was the dessert (and by non-stellar, I don't mean bad), I would definitely return for another meal at Thyme - the Restaurant. I don't know that Medina has any other restaurants within city limits that are executing food at this high of a level. If you live in Medina and want a wonderful dining experience, definitely check out Thyme. If you live outside of Medina, I still think it is worth the trip.
Hopefully the desserts will attain the same level as the rest of the food in the future.