Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fun Playing with Chowder+

Well, I'm a day late, but hopefully not a dollar short. Bloggers Kathy Carano and Tom Noe have already posted about the fabulous dinner we enjoyed at Chef Louis Prpich's Cuyahoga Falls restaurant Chowder House Cafe. Chef Prpich hosted our table full of bloggers last Tuesday for a nine-course tasting of some very impressive, fun-to-play-with food.

I hadn't realized the significance of the restaurant's name when Tom set up this dinner. I adore fresh fish and seafood of every type, but I generally despair at tasting any truly fabulous specimens here in Northeast Ohio and never walk into any restuarant with that expection. Until last Tuesday.

Chef Prpich has over 20 years in the restaurant business and opened the modestly sized Chowder House as a way to pursue his life long passion for cooking while maintaining a family life. I learned Tuesday that he knows food - he knows freshness, he knows what tastes good, he knows how to coax great flavors and textures out of a kitchen limited in space and equipment, and he and his staff seem to have great fun delivering it. My kinda place.

To begin, we were offered a choice of one of three soups served daily at the restaurant. 

Lobster Bisque

Bob, who as my lighting director was permitted to join us, opted for this silken soup, featuring lobster, cream and sherry. I tasted it and almost regretted my soup choice, for a moment. But only for a moment.


Chef’s Prpich's signature New England style clam chowder, as his menu says,  "contains lots of tender clams and no potatoes." But more than that, it has a perfect balance of flavors and textures and a fresh black pepper kick that had both me and Chubby Cook blogger Scott Groth wiping our bowls with the bread you can see a bit of at the right of the photo.


Dayboat Scallops, Ahi Tuna, and, amazingly, Lake Walleye were sliced paper thin, seasoned with salt and pepper, sprinkled with olive oil and Meyer lemon juice, and served with a warm arugula salad with garlic and olive oil. This is the kind of fish I expect to get in Florida, not in Cuyahoga Falls. And not only was the product pristine - Chef Prpich's preparation sang with light, clean flavors that perfectly complemented the delicate meat. One taste and I was completely in Chef Prpich's power.

Portobello Strudel

Yes, there had to be mushrooms. These were poached in Cabernet and garlic, then wrapped in a locally sourced phyllo dough (Athens Foods), which made for an incredibly tender eating experience. Provolone cheese was added before the pastry was baked and the strudel was served with a rich demi-glace. I did love this dish enough to, ahem, work through the mushrooms; I confess to enjoying this dish way more than a mushroom-hater should.

Baked Oysters

Chincoteaque Oysters topped with spinach, bacon, manchego cheese and sherry cream were baked to creamy deliciousness. The oysters retained their briny character, but were enhanced by the rich toppings into a lip-smacking dish. Had five more courses not been on the menu, I would have cleaned the shells (as Bob did).  I was amazed that such fabulous fish and seafood could be obtained in Cleveland, and very impressed with Chef Prpich for both obtaining great products, and his imaginative and tasty preparations. 


This was the only course that did not sing in perfect harmony for me. I seldom choose crab cakes because I can usually tell packaged crab from fresh, and none of the packaged products taste good to me (processing and chemicals - it's either that or freezing and sometimes chemicals, and neither is kind to fresh crab meat). I have never been able to give a stellar review to any crabcake I've had in this part of the world, and Chef Prpich confirmed that his crab is a packaged product (albeit a good one from a quality supplier). Packaged crab notwithstanding - if you like crabcakes and if you've ever liked a crabcake you've had in Northeast Ohio - you will love this one. Chef Prpich uses no fillers or extenders of any kind - his crabcake is 100% crab meat (plus coating of course). The small kitchen has no deep fryer, so the crab cakes are sauteed to crispy perfection and served with a lovely roasted corn (frozen in-house from summer's best, including Szalay's) with Adam's Reserve white cheddar and tangy jalapeno vinaigrette. 

Wild Caught Black Tip Shark

Spicy-rubbed fish with a Caribbean flair met a julienned medley of bok choy, scallions and red pepper, and was finished with ponzu fish sauce. Had I not been nearly full by now, I would have happily devoured every morsel on this plate. Chef Prpich explained that his fish and seafood are all sourced with reference to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch website to determine which fish and seafood products meet high sustainability standards. Cooked to a perfect medium - neither the shark nor the preparation were anything  I am used to seeing around here, and kudos to Chef Prpich for bringing it to our table. Similar dishes, varying depending on ingredient availability, are always on the menu at the Chowder House, usually as specials. The flavors were simply delicious, and worthy of an excursion outside of your comfort zone.


Not one, not two, but three types of house made sausage formed the foundation of this dish: chicken, spicy Italian (pork) and a second pork sausage containing whatever seasoning met the Chef's fancy at stuffing time. Instead of using duck meat in the dish, Chef learned through trial and error that chicken is more comfortable to local diners. But Chef Prpich works the traditional duck into the dish in a non-traditional way - can you say duck fat? Lots of tasty duck fat, used to confit the meats and added again towards the end of the assembly process. Oh, and the dish contains some cannelloni beans, vegetables and a crunchy panko bread crumb topping. But you come for the sausage and stay for the duck fat. Nontraditional, yes - fabulous eats, even more yes.

Monkfish Wrapped in Prosciutto Simmered in House Grown Stewed Tomatoes

The stewed tomatoes are an appetizer staple at Chowder House for as many months of the year as possible. Summer garden tomatoes canned by Chef Prpich (or served fresh in season) are slow stewed with garlic and butter and finished with a drizzle of fresh cream. It tasted like summer. On a plate. In the middle of January. Honestly, I was so full by this dish that I couldn't eat much - but oh for a bite of those tomatoes. And the monkfish with prosciutto offered lovely flavors with not a hint of any off note.

Vanilla Creme Brulee

Vanilla scented Creme Brulee with a side of cocoa whipped cream and a cayenne and chocolate tuille managed to revive our ravaged appetites - though unlike Kathy, I could not finish mine. But I made a dent!

A light and satisfying end to a rich dinner, with a sweet crunchy top and eggy pudding below, punctuated by the unusual tuille. 

Chowder House is open Monday thru Friday for lunch and dinner and Saturday for dinner only. On Sunday, brunch is served from 10 am - 2 pm. No credit cards are accepted, but checks are welcome, as is cash. Reservations are recommended (call (330) 794-7102). A beer license will be in place any day, with a wine license to follow very shortly.

Our table of 6 bloggers (and lighting director) had great fun exploring Chef Prpich's fish and seafood laden cuisine. I look forward to returning for more fun playing with fresh, local and sustainably sourced cuisine prepared with flair. Thank you Chef Prpich for treating us.

The Chowder House on Urbanspoon


  1. Looking forward to scheduling a trip out there! Thanks for sharing your review. I was sorry to miss it.

  2. Looks like a really nice meal. Not so sure monkfish or shark are listed positively on many sustainable seafood lists, but along those lines it seems the more we learn the more we don't really know about how much of what's left. Regardless, I'd eat those baked oysters.

  3. @The CFT: When Chef Prpich first mentioned shark, we specifically asked how that fit in with sustainability. He explained that the Black Tip is indeed on the "good" list. I believe that the monkfish is also from a sustainable operation, but don't remember a specific discussion about it.

  4. Thanks for the response. All that stuff is murky to me. Makes me question giving up blufin tuna.