For fall break Kent and I went to Cleveland solely to eat. First and foremost, we wanted to eat at Micheal Symon's Lolita. Our expectations were high, and after rereading Micheal Ruhlman's write up of Symon in "The Soul of a Chef," I was ready to visit a place I'd only read about in a book before.*
I believe that a truly incredible restaurant experience should expose you to something new and inspiring. You might also say it should be innovative. Of course Revolver delivered that with the pawpaw creme brulee. And when I went to Lolita tonight, there was also a revelation, in the form of Bone Marrow.
The first thing to remember when going to a restaurant, is that you must know how to order correctly. For me, ordering correctly involves being slightly daring, but also knowing what fits my mood. Luckily, I ordered well. I was torn between two appetizers: the fried chicken livers with oyster mushrooms and polenta, or the bone marrow with grilled baguette.
Usually in these situations, it is wise to defer to the server. As a former server, I know that I was always honest with guests, and that I developed a good palate because of the exposure to new dishes I had at the restaurants I worked at. My server, who was impeccable by the way, was ecstatic about the bone marrow when I asked. Sure, I've had sauces infused with bone marrow. It's a classic French technique, one that Julia Child herself was proud of. But to have it served straight, when it's known mostly for it's gelatinous qualities, intrigued me.
In this particular presentation my server explained to me, the bone marrow was served in the bone, split. The marrow is to be eaten "like tapanade" but without the olives. So, I ordered it.
Another part of ordering well, is rationalizing against the dishes you don't order. I began stacking up the cons list for the chicken livers. First, one of the only decent dishes Easy Street restaurant back home in Bowling Green makes is fried chicken livers. I order it all the time, so I supposed I could forgo livers this time. Plus, I need to make chicken livers for Amanda soon to make up for the chicken feet disappointment.
The bone marrow was delightful. Marrow is incredibly rich and really fatty. It's also sort of sludgy and gray. Like I told Kent, the secret of a good chef is finding a way to make pure unadulterated fat palatable. Think pork belly, think duck confit, absorbing impossible amounts of fat as it poaches. Or now, think of bone marrow.
It arrived at the table as promised, an eight inch long bone, split in half. The marrow was sprinkled lightly with a salsa verde: a mixture of poblano chilis, green onions, cilantro, and tomatillos. The result was a dish that was carnal, and as barbaric as digging marrow from the bone can be, but also refined, by digging it out with a demitasse spoon. The salsa verde, with its bright acids balanced and rounded the richness of the marrow, and the baguette, scored with black grill marks, and which was slavered with olive oil and rubbed down with garlic, lent a spicy smokiness to the dish as well. As a garnish, slices of sweet pickled onion further played with the slight spiciness of the salsa verde. It was bone sucking good.
* "The Soul of a Chef" is the best place to read about old school Symon. This was back before Lola, Symon's first restaurant, moved downtown, and Lolita took its place. So, technically they're not the same restauarant, but Lolita today is closer to the Lola that Rhulman writes about.