Friday, January 28, 2011

Fun Playing with Happy Hour Food at Chinato

Last Friday evening, we had a date to attend the 7:30pm show at Hilarities Comedy Club on East Fourth Street in downtown Cleveland. Given the timing and location, we determined that we would finally get to sample Chef Zack Bruell's youngest restaurant, Chinato. There, Chef Andy Dombrowski heads a kitchen turning out beautiful Italian food. And at Happy Hour prices, we were prepared to sample as many tastes as we had capacity for! Happy Hour at Chinato runs from 4:30 to 6:30pm, and $5 plates, $3-5 beer, and $5 wine and selected cocktails are offered.

Chinato's Happy Hour menu is available both at the bar and at the booths in the bar area. But be forewarned - reservations may be necessary for those booths, though they were not on this Friday night, which turned out to be the coldest night of the year here in Cleveland. After snuggling into our booth (Bob never did remove his coat - it was cold), we ordered Great Lakes Christmas Ale drafts from the Happy Hour menu, only to learn that they were out (not a surprise this far into January). Since Elliot Ness Amber Lager and Dortmunder Gold Lager  were both on tap, we were fine. Do be aware that the Elliot was priced as a "seasonal" at $5 a pour (the Christmas Ale was listed as the seasonal); whereas Dortmunder can be had for a mere $3 during the hour of happy. No worries for us.

Our wonderful server Matt dropped off some lovely On the Rise bread and Olive Oil (no photo) for dipping:

We ordered five items off of the Happy Hour menu ($5 per plate), and Matt decided to course them for us. Two first, then a final three. 

Artichoke and Supplì (Risotto and Cheese Stuffed Balls with Tomato Sauce)

As Matt explained, the baby artichoke was so tender that everything on the plate was edible. We loved the contrast of the creamy rice filled balls and tomato sauce against the crispy veggie with olive oil and grated cheese.

Crudo Sampler

From left to right: Scallop with tobiko, scallions and lemon zest, Tuna with lardo,Yellowtail with pesto and tomatoes, and Salmon with orange, fennel, and red onion. This was the only one of the five dishes that didn't completely wow us. Perhaps the memory of the exquisite crudo served up at The Chowder House Cafe  the previous Tuesday was still in our heads (see it here), but we both noticed very slight "off" flavors in the scallop and yellowtail. Still, we enjoyed the plate.

Matt whisked away our first two empty plates, and shortly after, the last three items hit the table:

Tonnarelli with Black Pepper, Pecorino and Lemon

Chinato makes most of its pastas from scratch, but the tonnarelli textured like an extruded pasta cooked from dried. I didn't think I'd love citrus with cheese, but it all worked extremely well.

Gnocchi with Tomato, Basil, Toasted Garlic, Butter and Parmesan

This exquisite dish had us sighing with pleasure. Is there any food so sexy as perfectly prepared gnocchi served with tomato, butter and parmesan cheese?

Fennel Sausage, Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella Pizza

At first glance, the thought that barreled through my head was "Shmura Matzo" pizza - a description given to extremely thin crust pizza by an observant Jewish attorney I worked with in New Jersey years ago. But this specimen wasn't merely thin - it had amazing elasticity and chew, and combined with the tasty toppings (including house made sausage to die for), really satisfied this fussy pizza eater. The pizza is small, but made with top quality ingredients and cooked to perfection.

We were so full that we didn't empty all of the plates completely. Our check, including four glasses of Elliot Ness, was a gentle $45. Chinato offers a food bargain not to be missed if you are anywhere near downtown Cleveland between 4:30 and 6:30pm Monday through Saturday. Or if you are around after 9pm, when it starts all over again! In between those times, all of these items are available on the regular menu. Based on our Happy Hour experience, there is much more on the regular menu that we need to try! Fun playing with beautiful food, quality drink and and fabulous service awaits you at Chinato.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like we were there on the same night and some of the same dishes! Glad to hear that you enjoyed it as well. It was my first time there. I loved the Suppli and Gnocchi. I know that I'll be back soon!