Wednesday, February 6, 2013

New Chef at Nighttown

Nighttown, the jazz mecca of Cleveland Heights, has always been known for offering cool music and a warm, cozy vibe. It has a well deserved reputation as a great place to hang out. But what it has not been known for is the food. Until now. Recently appointed executive chef Nathan Sansone is updating the menu, bringing his own style and lots of new ideas to the table.

I ate my way through a 7-course tasting that gave me a sense of what this Kendall College of Culinary Arts grad and Colorado transplant can do. There was a round "cake of salmon mousse  with mint gremolata, diced tomato relish and whipped lemon cream; ahi tuna with northern white beans, baby arugula and beurre rouge; and a filet mignon with mushrooms, gnocchi and rosemary cream.All were very nicely done- properly cooked, well seasoned, and attractively plated. I'd be happy for the opportunity to order any of them but none are currently available on a regular basis. Neither is the foie gras mushroom french toast with apple slices and berry gastrique, a rich and clever preparation that balanced sweet and savory elements and one I'd like to eat again (and again).

Happily two other preparations are part of the current line-up: an irresistible lobster pot pie is a grand puff pastry creation that features broccoli, fennel, and chunks of lobster meat in a creamy bisque; and a hearty braised Kurobuta pork shank served with caramelized brussel sprouts, oyster mushrooms and butternut squash.I finished off my very fine meal (and you can too) with a chocolate bread pudding that arrives with caramel sauce and whipped cream.

Some other contemporary additions to the nightly offerings include duck confit and roasted corn empanadas; eggplant "cannolli" stuffed with white bean puree topped with red pepper marinara and sided with 5-onion polenta; and  fish tacos with pico de gallo and avocado aioli.  In a nod to the restaurants loyal following some longtime favorites, such as Dublin Lawyer, bangers & mash, and veal meatloaf remain.

Sansone impressed me and Nighttown owner Brendan Ring was wise to quickly promote him from sous to king of the kitchen. I'm eager to watch what the Sansone does in his continuing efforts to make this beloved institution a culinary contender on the local dining scene. Sansone knows the bar is high but is excited to take on the challenge and to become part of the community of Cleveland chefs.

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