Literally on the heels of our weekend of fun catering for our Mensa friends, Mensan friend Robert hosted a watch party as he appeared on the nationally televised quiz show Jeopardy on Monday, September 27. We assembled at the bar of Pepper Pike's Restaurant Europa Cleveland, 30519 Pinetree Road Pepper Pike Ohio 44124, 216.591.1273. I had heard about this restaurant's Ceviche Bar and chilled Siberian vodka room, so I was glad Robert had selected it.
Our evening began with appetizers, which I believe were comped to Robert by the house.
Potato Pancakes (Latkes), Smoked Salmon, Sour Cream
Shrimp Cocktail with Vodka Cocktail Sauce
Let me stop right here. This shrimp was positively delicious. Though certainly a frozen product - there was not a trace of off smell or taste (or chemicals), just lovely sweet shrimp meat that paired nicely with the horseradish-infused cocktail sauce.
The smoked salmon likewise tasted fresh and clean, with a bit of salmon gusto that I really enjoyed.
The potato pancakes were dense and chewy - not as crunchy as I might like them, but wonderfully satisfying and not at all greasy. Topped with a bit of salmon and sour cream - a perfect pre-dinner bite.
Beef Filled Potato Pancake
At least I think that is what this was. A sort of inside-out latke - meat in the middle instead of on top - this morsel was crispy and again not greasy, with seasoned meat to round it out. Nicely done.
Stuffed Latke Cross Section
I'll show you the appetizer we ordered next, even though it wasn't actually served until after our entrees. I really wanted to sample a Ceviche, especially after tasting the pristine shrimp and tasty salmon. (Ceviche is raw fish “cooked” through the process of marinating in citrus.) And what type of Ceviche could be more "Cleveland" than this:
PERCH Ceviche * Onion, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, mango. Juice of lemon, lime and orange.
The oversized martini glass was stuffed to bursting with these lovely nuggets of perchy goodness! I especially enjoyed the combination of the unexpected flavors - the mango, cilantro and jalapeno, together with three different citrus juices. And for the third time, a fish/seafood product passed both the smell and taste tests for freshness and chemistry. I am completely sold on Restaurant Europa.
Bob's entree was served with tasty mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables (which clearly came from a food service bag, though they were not the frozen type) and sour cream.
My taste was moist and delicious - a little different from the way my mom (or my husband) would make it, but that's ok. I can't even explain how it was different - seasonings, cooking technique - but we enjoyed it very much.
Russian Ravioli: Beef Dumplings with Mushroom Sauce
My entree was the only thing I tasted all evening that I could make a negative comment about. There was something dusty and dry about the texture of these "deep fried" dumplings that I couldn't put my finger on. Fortunately, the ceviche and the mushroom sauce (yes, you read that correctly; I actually selected the mushroom sauce and it was delicious, thank you) added lots of moisture to the party. And the insides of the dumplings were very moist - it was just the outside that was dry.
The beef filling inside the dumpling was just a little different from both of the beef fillings I had already tasted. Though I don't know if I'd order this dish again, I'm not sorry that I tried it (I'd suggest trying the boiled version if this intrigues you).
The price points at Europa are incredibly reasonable for the quality and quantity served. The generous portion of Ceviche was $5.50 and our entrees were each $10.99. So playing with European food at Europa is not only fun on your palate, but easy on your wallet. The website boasts of live music six nights a week beginning at 6pm (except Monday, which was the night we visited). The bar tenders worked very hard to please our large group, even when liquors ran out or weren't available, and the alcohol selections included some Russian beers, Eastern European wines, and unusual vodkas. Note that the restaurant is not open for lunch, just dinner beginning at 4pm all seven days. We had fun playing with the food and drinks at Restaurant Europa, and we didn't even get to the chilled vodka room this time!