Monday, October 13, 2014

Fun Playing in Sanctuary

Cleveland food truck pioneer Chris Hodgson and his Driftwood Restaurant Group partner Scott Kuhn have teamed up with Twin Tier Hospitality at the Doubletree Hotel in Beachwood Ohio in the newly minted Sanctuary Restaurants, to, as their website says, "reinvent the in-hotel dining experience with an expertly crafted menu, expansive wine list, and farm fresh ingredients." Driftwood Group, under Hodgson's supervision, not only has taken over restaurant and room service in the hotel, but also all of the event catering. This is an exciting hotel trend, first seen in Cleveland at the Airport Marriott's AMP 150, of bringing in true food professionals and offering creative and locally sourced menus at value price points. A second Sanctuary project is on tap for the West Side of Cleveland in 2015, as the former Holiday Inn Westlake is also transformed into a Doubletree. Bob and I were recently invited to a complimentary soft open-preview of the menu. My opinions, as always, are my own. And my conclusion was - this menu is fun!

Hanky Pankies
Chorizo, Tillamook Cheddar, Fig Jam, Crostini, was served as a passed hors d'oeuvres together with the restaurant's "signature cocktail," the Beehive, composed of Old Forester Bourbon, St. Germain, lemon, ginger-honey and soda. Since I'm not a big bourbon fan, I decided to try the Sparkling Pear on my own dime. This libation mixed Absolut Pear, Honey Syrup, Amaretto and Lemon Juice, and I liked it much better than the bourbon. These crafted cocktails generally range from $9-11 each.

The Hanky Panky packed a substantial flavor and texture punch for a little crostini.

Bread Service
Warm and fluffy.

"Sanctuary Pesto" and Whipped Butter
No one told us what the signature aspect of the pesto was, but it was fresh and pleasantly garlicky without being overwhelmingly so. The butter spread easily on the soft bread.

Blue Crab Hushpuppies
One of Chef Hodgson's signatures is the fried . . . anything. Here, this skill produces a succulent crispy ball of crabby goodness, with just enough breading to hold it together, and a refreshing "Old Bay'onnaise" topping to round it out (you may also find the bits of cucumber refreshing, I however preferred them on the plate).

French Wedge
This plate featured Tomato, Hard Egg, Pickled Red Onion, Bacon, Blue Cheese Crumbles, White French Dressing. I loved the choice of a very approachable bleu cheese that wasn't too strong, and the White French Dressing, which was also muted enough to allow the great flavors of the pickled onion and bacon to shine through, making the whole dish much more than the sum of its parts.

Seared U-10 Sea Scallops
Everyone at the table marveled at the perfectly cooked Risotto underneath the scallops and I agreed that it was delicious. Fried Golden Beets, Caramelized Apples, Butternut Squash, Fried Sage, and Apple Gastrique also accompanied the scallops, which were expertly seared while tender in the middle. A dish I would happily eat again and again.

Certified Angus Beef Hanger Steak With Frites
Served rare, our table of food forward diners thought highly of the steak preparation. We also loved the garlicky Salsa Verde atop the meat. The shoestring frites were crispy and not too assertively seasoned, and were accompanied by a thick Malt Vinegar Aioli.

Chocolate Mousse
The dessert was the only course that didn't hit a home run, though it was by no means a strikeout. The salted caramel was understated, though the whipped cream happily tasted of a fresh beating. The packaged pretzel rod seemed a bit stale and didn't really contribute the salty kick the kitchen was probably shooting for. The mousse itself, however, delivered on its airy chocolaty promise, so no harm done.

Sanctuary serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and each menu has a combination of hotel menu standards and Chef Hodgson's more creative and locally sourced items, all at very fair price points that should make Sanctuary a destination for outside diners in addition to hotel guests. The facility also touts a wine bar, and several flexible types of seating areas. We had fun playing with our tastes of Sanctuary and look forward to trying more. 

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