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.
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.