Friday, July 10, 2015

Fun Playing With Tapas

For some reason, tapas have been a hard sell in Cleveland for at least as long as I've lived here. Keka in Ohio City is now The Flying Fig, Diamondback Brewing Company tried it and failed, and even Iron Chef Michael Symon couldn't get Clevelanders to buy into the lovely small plates that are tapas when he reinvented his original Lola into Lolita. 

We dined at Casa Roja in Chagrin Falls tonight almost by accident; I was Googling for a different place down the street, and didn't realize exactly where we were booked. A most happy accident. If you enjoy small plates or paella, and Spanish flavors appeal to you, run and do not walk to Casa Roja. 

Casa Roja is a venture associated with Gamekeepers, which probably helps them in sourcing high quality ingredients. All three dishes we sampled were top notch, but the quality of the pork, chorizo, saffron and especially the calamari were even more top notch. I've skipped over all the vacation food photos from the past two weeks to show you this dinner first - it was that good. Though we didn't request outside seating, we were led to the larger of two patios adorning the property and thoroughly enjoyed the nice weather and fresh air.

We started with two tapas:

Ensalada Verde Greens, avocado, asparagus, green beans, roasted garlic green goddess dressing 
When was the last time you had Green Goddess Dressing (or wanted to)? This small plate married all of the greenness into smooth, creamy deliciousness.

Calamares Sauteed in white wine with scallions and peppadew peppers. Finished with crispy garlic
I may dream about this dish tonight. Never-frozen squid rings cooked to tender perfection and finished with pappadew, scallions and the mentioned crispy garlic. I only wish that we'd had some crusty bread to sop up every drop of the plate-licking-good sauce.

Paella Valenciana Chorizo, chicken and pork 
Our last encounter with paella was in Boston last summer and it was a disappointment. The above plate came to the table within a reasonable time from when the order was placed, and it rocked with buttery, porky, saffron-y flavors. The chorizo wasn't too spicy, but packed big taste into small bites and the pulled pork had that beautiful almost-but-not-quite gamey flavor of high quality piggie. We couldn't finish it, but brought the leftovers home. 

I've lived in Cleveland nearly 20 years, and honestly never thought of Chagrin Falls as a food Mecca. But new spots like Grove Hill, Crumb and Spigot and Casa Roja are making it easier to find great eats  on the East Side at rush hour without having to run the I-480 West gauntlet. 

1 comment:

  1. You had me at paella. Always looking for a good paella here. Thanks for sharing, Nancy!