Two years into his role as executive chef at Luxe Kitchen and Lounge (6605 Detroit Ave., 216-920-0600, luxecleveland.com), Dallas Martinez has noticed a change in the neighborhood. Since joining the team of the Detroit Shoreway restaurant as a cook in 2009, he's seen yoga on the beach as part of the popular Edgewater Live parties and a running club organized by the juice shop directly across the street, Daily Press.
These days, he says he can walk right over to the Battery Park farmer's market. When the Ohio Honey pop-up was on the street as part of the LeBron James "Cleveland Hustles" television show, he was even able to scrape his own honey that went directly onto Luxe's cheese board.
So it's no surprise that when he stepped into the role of head chef, one of his goals was to steer the menu in a health-conscious direction. "I was really trying to think, how can we appease people who are on diets and trying to eat light and still trying to get that flavor?" he says.
Being raised in Japan, seafood and vegetables were familiar territory for Martinez, a tradition he's tried to emphasize at Luxe. "Growing up, cookouts meant crab, lobster, tofu, shrimp, skewered fish, squid and noodles," says Martinez.
For the spring and summer menu, the chef has added a butter lettuce cup stuffed with crab and shrimp salad and a ceviche made with scallops, shrimp and Green City Growers lettuce. The ceviche is served with a charred tomato jam, which also appears on a roasted beet and bean vegetarian burger and the seafood board.
Heirloom tomatoes, from traditional red to tiger-striped, are Martinez' seasonal ingredient of choice. His mussels dish combines stewed and fresh tomatoes with chorizo and Ohio sweet corn.
"The tomatoes bring out the sweetness in the corn and the citrus of the seafood," he says. "Plus, the chorizo is spicy. In the summer, people are looking for that extra flavor kick."
A burrata shared plate is served with fresh heirloom tomatoes and herbs infused with lemon oregano oil. Another simple heirloom dish, tomato pasta, combines roasted local cherry tomatoes with a trio of peppers in a citrus and chile-infused oil.
"It was based on coming up with something fresh, fun and versatile that we can do for vegetarians and vegans," Martinez says.
Brunch-goers will see an open-face, skillet-style heirloom tomato omelet made with French feta, arugula and scallions. In homage to the French tradition of adding a touch of lemon to omelets, he uses a lemon thyme dressing.
For the first time in eight years, Luxe is now open for brunch on Saturdays. For those looking to punctuate their weekend morning with a craft cocktail, sparkling Bellinis are a specialty made with a choice of mango, white peach, apricot or pear puree. The bar also infuses vodka with pineapple and basil.
A little day drinking is especially enticing when you notice that the ingredients are plucked from the patio, where fruits, vegetables and herbs like purple Thai basil are grown. "When people ask for mojitos, we can pull the mint straight from the patio," says Martinez.
As the weather cools, Martinez plans to pickle many of the garden items as is traditionally done in Japan at the end of the summer season. Pickled ghost peppers, poblanos, jalapenos and habaneros will end up later in the year on meat and cheese boards and atop fish.
From farmer's markets to patio gardens, "farm fresh items are becoming a lot more accessible to Cleveland," Martinez says. "People are starting to demand it more because, in this neighborhood, they're looking for fresh, local and made from scratch."
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