I had lunch last Friday at a private, one time only pop-up along with my husband Barney and the Taxel Image Group crew. We were at Ace Fixtures on E. 61st Street and our hosts were Scott Kim and Michael Lyons. The occasion was a thank you for super-effort my husband and his team put into making photographs for Accent, the University Circle restaurant the pair are opening sometime in September, now up on the newly launched website.
It was also a chance for the Kim, who owns SASA Japanese Bistro on Shaker Square, and Lyons to continue experimenting with the Robata Grill and the Josper Oven. These two pieces of equipment will be the focal point of Accent’s kitchen and menu. They burn special low smoke hardwood charcoal, can be used indoors and get up to 1000 degrees. This intense high-heat dramatically changes the cooking process and the two chefs admit they are still learning about its potential…and problems. “This is our fourth practice run,” Mike told me. “The first time we crashed and burned, literally.” “We didn’t really understand the incredible power we had at our fingertips,” Scott adds.
We were the first “outsiders” to get a look at the three tiered grill and the ceramic lined oven, and to taste what they can do. It was quite a feast (with a sound track provided by guys at work and the hum of a motorized forklift). There were grilled Korean short ribs, steaks, mackerel fillets, green and yellow squash slices (plus an amazing sauce made with grilled tomatoes and red onions); roasted fingerlings, Brussels sprouts, corn brushed with a cilantro butter, chicken flavored with a spicy Asian bbq sauce, and Portobello mushroom caps stuffed with lamb (they’ve perfected a vegan version of this dish using tofu). The speed at which all this cooked was astonishing. But even more astounding was the texture and taste: vegetables browned and caramelized without being soft, watery or over cooked; meats, poultry and fish were lush, displaying that appealing combination of moist and juicy flesh beneath a crispy seared exterior.
These are the kinds of things they’ll be serving at Accent so my experience- without the warehouse ambiance- can be yours, soon. Scott believes Accent will be the first, and only restaurant in the country to have both the Robata Grill and Josper Oven. From my initial encounter I’d say they provide a powerful motivation to give this new place a try when it opens. Factor in the talents of Kim and Lyons, the fantastic location in the emerging Uptown development, and –based on the architects’’ renderings that I’ve seen- the fabulous setting this promises to be one of the most exciting places in Cleveland to eat.
photos by Barney Taxel