Like the perfect couple, Paul Minnillo and Matt Mytro bring out the best in each other. The two chefs discovered they have great chemistry in the kitchen when Paul hired the younger guy last fall to fill the exec chef spot at Flour, his 9-month-old Moreland Hills restaurant. Evidence for what a good match-up this has proven to be is on the plates they’re sending out. Since the pair started cooking up a storm together, the hours have been extended to include lunch service, and I finally got there last week to sample some of what the new midday winter menu has to offer. If you’re short of time and don’t intend to read all the following paragraphs, let me give you the nutshell summary: Hurry up and go! The food’s marvelous.
The gray day was considerably brighter after the cara cara citrus salad arrived at the table. The mix of juicy red tinged slices of orange, slivers of white fennel and bright green pea tendrils dressed in a smoked tomato vinaigrette tasted as good as it looked. Same with a small skillet of sweet, meaty chorizo-stuffed dates wrapped in pancetta and surrounded by a smooth, thick roasted red pepper sauce. I loved the dried olives that dotted the chop salad and the choice of Moody blue, a delicate, lightly smoked cheese.
Manila clams and mussels are cooked in the pizza oven, and something wonderful happens to the shellfish in there. They come floating in a parmesan broth with bits of sausage and pickled fennel. It's really an outstanding dish, served with flat bread to soak up all the liquid. Another excellent and season-hearty dish is the Calabrian stew, made with Italian sausage, perfectly tender white beans, parsnips and braised pork shoulder. A paste made from Calabrian chiles, a small spicy pepper from the region, gives a slight and welcome bit of kick.
And then there are the paninis: warm sandwiches that are elevated to something extra special because of what goes into them. Pickled red onions interact deliciously with Minnillo’s sausage and smoked mozzarella. Italian mustard is a nice touch with the housemade mortadella.
But the version that truly had me sighing with pleasure was one made with shredded short ribs. They’re slow simmered, Mytro told me, in chocolate milk (really). He explained that the sugars caramelize as it tenderizes the meat. The result is ridiculously good. Then they tuck it between slices of toasted bread with pancetta, a fried egg and arugula. Bites. Of. Bliss.
I'm happy to report that for those unlikely to visit the restaurant during the day, a number of these items also make an appearance on the dinner menu. But some, like the paninis are lunch-only options. My advice: Take a sick day. It's not a lie. Because no doubt you'll leave Flour feeling much better than when you arrived.
photos by Lisa Minnillo