March marks five years since Light Bistro opened for business. It just doesn’t seem like that long since I attended the friends and family launch night and wrote my glowing review of the place six months later. The Ohio City restaurant has survived the tough economy, developed a loyal following, and earned a spot on the list of best places to eat in C-town. To celebrate, chef/owner Matt Mathlage and partner Eric Dietrich have some special events planned for next week. If you’ve never been here or haven’t visited in a while, this is the perfect time to discover- and rediscover- the particular pleasures of this spot.
There’s an open to the public drop-in party on Thursday March 8 from 5-9 PM with free tapas and drink specials in the Carroll Court room. A five course wine dinner is scheduled for the same evening, starting at 7. Greg Graziano will be on hand to pour and talk, showcasing what he makes at Graziano Winery in Mendocino, California, and sharing his family’s story. When I spoke with chef Mathlage last week he was still developing the dishes they’ll be serving, but told me that he’s been testing a preparation made with wild boar and another that involves duck and red rooibos tea. The cost is $55 person plus tax and gratuity and reservations are required (216-771-7130).
A “Best Of ” tasting menu will also be in place from March 8 through Sunday, March 10. It too features five courses for $55 that reprise some of the chef’s personal favorites and Light’s most popular items, among them Crab and Shrimp Cake with honeydew curry sauce and yellow pepper ceviche, and Cuba libre braised pork belly with pineapple carpaccio and spicy cous cous, two dishes that I praised back in 2007. Those who opt for this anniversary trip down memory lane will also be treated to the house pickled shrimp, another thing I loved from my first bite.
Mathlage calls his style Progressive American, with an emphasis on fresh local and seasonal ingredients. In the past I described what he does as adventurous, audacious, and out-there, showing some playfulness in presentation, and offering a break from the standard appetizer to entree dinner progression. All that is still true (though he does have pizza, burgers, paninis, and regular sized mains). His tapas, appetizers and bar menu are full of interesting options like crispy clams with fried olives, lamb meatballs with tomato mint sauce, truffle frites, and honey ham and cheddar croquettes. He continues to offer quail as he did from the beginning- the current version is southern fried- and his wonderful grilled flatbread with arugula and Lake Erie goat cheese is a fixture. The last time I had it, I was sitting on the sidewalk patio with a good friend. It was a warm starry night. We were drinking mojitos and catching up. We're still a few months away from dining outside, but happily I don't have to wait to go back for more good food and drink.