When veteran restaurateur Hiroshi Tsuji was describing his latest project recently, it seemed certain that something had gotten lost in translation. Though he has lived and worked in the Cleveland area for more than 40 years, Tsuji still speaks through a strong Japanese accent. So when he said something about a pub serving barbecue and sushi, we pictured tiny slabs of rice supporting barbecued eel, smoked salmon, and perhaps a soy-glazed scallop tossed in for variety's sake. Not quite.
Hiroshi's Pub, which opened two months back in Beachwood, indeed specializes in barbecue and sushi. The sushi is a no-brainer: Tsuji has been slicing up some of Cleveland's finest fish for decades, first at Shujiro and still at Shuhei. The barbecue also was a natural, because the casual pub would cater to all diners — even those who shun sushi.
But as anybody who has visited the nascent eatery can attest, Tsuji hardly stopped there. As batty as fish and 'cue might sound, the menu also includes saloon-style starters, Latin ceviche, Italian panini, New York deli, American comfort foods, and eclectic pasta dishes. The tri-fold, six-page menu has so many options, in fact, that merely ordering a meal feels like a Mensa challenge. And as one might expect from such a long-winded menu, there are winners and losers. Surprisingly, though, much of it is very good.
The first decision you'll need to make is where to sit. Previously Sumo, a large Japanese steakhouse, Hiroshi's inherited a roomy footprint. Off to one side is a bright dining room. Opposite is a lengthy, multi-angled bar that seats 35. A well-appointed VIP room is available for groups who desire a little privacy, while there's also a larger private dining room. At the heart of the space, affixed to the central kitchen, is a decent-sized sushi bar. There is also a fresh new patio for alfresco dining. All told, there's room for some 250 guests.
Apart from being too dense, the menu suffers from a maddening layout. In addition to the section titled "Pub Appetizers," there is one called "More Appetizers" and another, believe it or not, titled "Pub Sushi Appetizers." In total, there are 19 categories brimming with well over 100 items. It's no wonder servers can be overheard preemptively apologizing to diners when menus are delivered.
Sushi here is a no-brainer, and the variety can make for some pretty creative snacking. Along with the usual roster of nigiri sushi, sashimi, and hand rolls, Hiroshi has come up with some pretty killer futomaki, or large rolls. Crispy fried onions garnish the outside of the White Dragon ($12.95), a large nine-piece beast filled with shrimp tempura, albacore, and wasabi mayo. Bridging the Far East with the Wild West is the Big Horn ($12.95), an unholy roll-up of smoked brisket, jalapenos, sushi rice, and barbecue sauce.
Speaking of barbecue: Apart from the baby backs ($13.95/half), which had an odd flavor and texture, the fare leaving the hefty wood smoker ain't half bad. The pulled-pork sliders ($8.50/3), topped with cole slaw and served on buttery rolls, make a delicious starter. Beef brisket ($13.95) leaves the smoker agreeably supple, moist, and flavorful. Thick-sliced smoked turkey breast, part of a dinner platter with potatoes, veggies, and cornbread stuffing ($12.95), was easily the tastiest thing on the plate. We'll be back to sample the "12 by 12" prime rib ($19.95), a 12-ounce portion of 12-hour-smoked rib steak.
With a hefty handful of primo burger joints at our disposal, we hardly need another option. But Hiroshi's hamburgers ($7.95) are pretty awesome too. Twin slim patties are griddle fried, layered with cheese, and slid into a toasted brioche bun. Toppings run the gamut from bacon and egg to house-smoked corned beef.
Duds pop up here and there, like the bland, saltless edamame ($4.50), the smoked-meat potstickers ($7.95) absent any trace of smoke, and the egregiously salty cornbread stuffing on the turkey platter. But there are pleasant surprises too, like fresh salads (with or without meat), stuffed and toasted panini ($7.95), and all-beef, additive-free hot dogs ($4.95) with gourmet toppers.
The fact that Hiroshi's serves food at all, let alone in the quantity it does, is somewhat ironic. The original Hiroshi's, a Cleveland Heights hotspot back in the 1980s, never much bothered with sustenance — unless you count a shot with beer chaser.
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