Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Downtown Cool

Take 5 Rhythm and Jazz Tapas Lounge is black, white and cool. Those three words describe the clientele, the decor, and the atmosphere. It opened this February downtown in the Warehouse District to serve a sophisticated (and grown-up) multicultural crowd looking for top shelf  food, drink and live music.  The last place to do this was the original Club Isabella, which had its heyday in 1990's and closed its doors back in 2007.
   Partners and childhood pals Claude Carson and Brian Gresham, who also operate Opus Restaurant in Shaker Heights and Harvard Wine and Grill,  revived the tired old space on West Superior Avenue that once was House of Cues and then Prime Rib Steakhouse. The makeover is impressive and includes a stage for the local, regional, and national performers, a long gorgeous bar featuring gold leaf under glass, seating at white cloth covered tables for 96, a raised area for larger groups and those wanting a chefs table experience, and a private VIP room.
  The kitchen, in contrast, has some limitations in terms of size and equipment. That fact combined with the tapas concept, and the club-like nature of the venue shaped Executive Chef Jeremy Rolen's menu. Everything on it is meant for grazing and sharing. You can order a few dishes to start the evening, more when the band takes a break, and one last bite to go with the night's final round."Small plates means everyone can try lots of different things," Rolen says, "get a real sense of what the chef is all about. They also let you take your time, and have a leisurely meal while you socialize and enjoy the show." Take 5 is one of four new spots featured in our May issue that are emphasizing small plates. One problem I've often encountered with this style of dining is that tables aren't big enough to accommodate the spread. They've tackled that issue head on here and come up with a truly elegant solution:  the serving pieces come in various shapes and sizes that fit together like the parts of a puzzle.

Jaco Pastorius' Naan Pizza
   The offerings, named after famous jazz artists, run the gamut from upscale bar food and familiar fine dining favorites-- shrimp cocktail, beef sliders, and  crisp fried wings-- to those aimed at foodies looking for something different-- Cajun chicken rolls, vegetarian bruschetta with lentil spread and feta, lobster tempura, and scallops with grilled pineapple and avocado emulsion. I had the excellent Ella Fitzgerald (she is my all time favorite singer): four scampi served on a bed of grilled romaine with basil aioli.
   Good sounds as well as good eats are part of the mix. Among the musical groups scheduled for May (Thursdays through Sundays) are jazz vocalist Sherena Wynn, the Laura Varcho Quartet, and pianist Skip Gibson.
  I'm glad Gresham and Carson have decided to invest in Cleveland and contribute to our downtown entertainment scene.

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