Monday, November 4, 2013

Fine French

To those wary to welcome Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute — chef and restaurateur Brandon Chrostowski's Shaker Square restaurant staffed almost entirely by formerly incarcerated men and women — into Cleveland's fine restaurant fold, let us say: The only incident we witnessed at its grand opening Friday was a spilled water pitcher. It was, otherwise, a success.

The French restaurant welcomed more than 180 guests for its opening night, according to the host, who checked our coats and sat us at an intimate two-top clothed in simple white linens and topped with a glowing tea light. The dining room was filled with patrons at 9 p.m., who talked over booming jazz music and marveled at the room's painted murals and comforting fireplace. By nearly 11:30 p.m., the space was still packed.

The menu — organized in a traditional French fashion, in which entrees are appetizers and plats are main courses — boasts a variety of mouthwatering options, from Provencal-style artichokes to sauteed scallops, but we started with what Chrostowski has built his reputation on: Wine and cheese.

A Rhone Valley Grenache ($12 per glass) was full and fruity, and paired well with four cheeses ($3 each), whittled down from more than 20 varieties by a server eager to share his new-found knowledge and love of creamy and stinky options. A triple-creme Delice de Bourgogne was a favorite — so gooey and delicate it dissolved on our tongues.

Main courses were less exciting than the cheeses, but still savory. The paupiettes de poisson du jour ($28) — grouper wrapped in thinly sliced potatoes and served over green beans — was simple but filling, while a duck confit and wild mushroom risotto ($23) was rich with a delightful texture.

The star of this show, for us, was not the food. It was the pleasant attitude of the staff, who went out of their way to ensure our comfort throughout the evening, and who excitedly discussed the menu and aided us in our choices. We also weren't rushed to get our check — a novelty for an American restaurant.

To get the story behind Edwins, read my profile on Chrostowski, "Food for Thought," which appeared in the October issue of Cleveland Magazine and can be found on our website. 


Our Appetizer said...

I am so incredibly happy I found your blog. I'm from Cleveland as well and I absolutely love trying new restaurants as well as things to do around Cleveland. I started a blog about ... well basically my life...but I also add in my restaurant reviews with pictures and recommendations. I would appreciate it if you followed me for some inspiration and recommendations.


Dianne Borsenik said...

We had the most delightful experience at Edwins Friday evening. The peppercorn steak was thick and juicy, and dessert...ah, dessert! I had the "Elixir", a magical concoction of vanilla-ginger "soup", jasmine sorbet, and slices of exotic tropical fruits served in a martini glass. I can't wait to go back and try another entrée!

Valerie Maczak said...

Ms. Kramer, I am still smarting over several of your inaccuracies in the previous "Food for Thought" piece, so allow me to air a few grievances about this review.

As a journalist, the first thing they teach you is to confirm the proper spelling and format of your subject's name. The organization is EDWINS, as in Education Wins. This is prominent on everything from the building signage to the menu to the website, and you could have easily corroborated it.

But it's clear your powers of research and observation are lacking. You write that the grouper was served over asparagus. It is, in fact, served over hericot vert, otherwise known as green beans. There is a link to the menu directly in the post if you found your notes to be unreliable.

Facts aside, my personal stance is that your lead-in is intentionally inflammatory and if you had bothered to talk to EDWINS' professional neighbors and the wealthier residents in the immediate area of Shaker Heights, many of them sit on the boards of organizations that were instrumental in helping get EDWINS off the ground, so they were hardly "wary" to welcome them. I know many residents in the surrounding blocks who have donated time and money to the cause and have even volunteered to tutor the students. The other contingent of the Buckeye Shaker neighborhood disproportionately has family members and friends who have been incarcerated, so you would be hard-pressed to get any of them to speak against an organization that is simply trying to offer opportunities to their brethren.

In fact, Brandon Chrostowski has such a strong reputation and the rest of the staff members bring a collective professionalism to the endeavor that Cleveland's culinary greats and local leaders committed to helping the project early on and have lent their support every step of the way.

The only thing I'm wary of at this point is your credibility.

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