Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sanctum Sanctuary

Sanctuary, the new restaurant and wine bar that opened this week on the ground floor of the Doubletree Cleveland Beachwood location, represents a shift in direction for national hotel chain restaurants. Rather than lackluster, no-name, by-necessity-only places designed to fill bellies after a day on the road, this hotel has managed to snag a new concept by the Driftwood Restaurant Group (headed by Chris Hodgson and Scott Kuhn). It's part of a growing trend in adding local flair to otherwise carbon-copied lodging. It's a great way to show visitors a little something about the city with barely having to leave their rooms.

The soft opening, held this Monday, Oct. 6, attracted a fairly large crowd. And while it showed that there are still a few kinks to work out (a few overlooked details like beverage service and a plodding pace), the restaurant lived up to its name fairly well, with serene gray-green walls (inspired by carpets in India), sparkling lighting, mounted driftwood art and distinct dining areas that allow the ability to cozy in or see and be seen.

As with most of Hodgson's culinary creations, the food at Sanctuary was approachable and rooted in nostalgia. For instance, we were met with Hanky Panky appetizers, a decades-old staple made with sausage and cheese on toast. This one used chorizo with an added a touch of fig jam to keep it modern. Fresh ginger, bourbon, honey, lemon juice and a touch of St. Germaine liqueur made up the signature cocktail, the Beehive, reminiscent of the '60s if only for its name and bourbon base. The next course was a blue crab hushpuppy topped with cucumber and "Old Bay'onnaise."

Blue Crab Hushpuppy: Crunchy outside, creamy inside
In general, the food was tasty but not overly inventive, which may actually be an advantage for road-weary travelers looking to settle stomachs without sacrificing atmosphere. Our next few courses rated above average: a wedge salad with pickled red onion and white French dressing, a crisp (but slightly cold) sea scallop over butternut squash and caramelized apple risotto and my personal favorite, hangar steak with chimichurri, garlic-herb fries and malt vinegar aioli.


Any restaurant in Beachwood will face stiff competition from its neighbors, but Sanctuary's location (in the former Capers nightclub space) and built-in clientele should give it an edge. Cheers to traveling local-style.

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