Renaissance Man

Boyishly charming Marco Klein, new executive chef for Sans Souci (24 Public Square; 216-696-5600) and head of catering operations at the Cleveland Renaissance Hotel, made his public debut earlier this month with an intimate "chef's table" gathering for a few guests. Klein's sophisticated five-course menu began with rosy Carpaccio of Beef and Veal in a white truffle-oil vinaigrette, and concluded with Poached Marzipan Apples stuffed with cinnamon mousse and walnuts, and drizzled with a sauce of hot mulled wine. The showstopper, in the midst of a parade of delicious dishes, was a Yellow and Red Pepper Cream Soup: two separate cream of bell-pepper soups, snuggled against each other in the same bowl. Such delights will start finding their way onto Sans Souci's menu in January, although hotel general manager Bob Swenson promises that there will be no major changes in the restaurant's award-winning style. Klein, 32, comes from Cologne, Germany, where he was executive chef at Restaurant Raffael and at the Brasserie Valentino in that city's Renaissance Hotel. His biggest eye-opener since moving to the States? "I have been surprised by the quality and freshness of Cleveland food. I thought you ate nothing but steaks, hamburgers, and french fries!"

The little red book . . . Tim and Nina Zagat have just come out with their Millennium Edition of America's Top Restaurants, covering 1,130 restaurants in 42 cities, and Cleveland's hot spots are well-represented. Number one for food, according to Zagat's cadre of volunteer diners, is Johnny's Bar on Fulton. Also among the top spots are Sans Souci, Chez François, Baricelli Inn, Parker's, Shuhei (Beachwood), Giovanni's, The Riverview Room, Luchita's, Sergio's, and Fratello's. And getting the nod for the first time are our contemporary wonders Flying Fig, Moxie, Kosta's, and Lola. But lest we get all puffed up on our own hipness, please note that five chain steakhouses, including three Hyde Park locations, Morton's of Chicago, and Ruth's Chris Steak House, also are ranked among the top 24 Cleveland eateries: good places all, but far from cutting-edge. Maybe Marco was on to something, after all.

Wonton expansion . . . One of the nation's hottest restaurant concepts, P.F. Chang's China Bistro, has closed a deal to lease property in Beachwood for the construction of a 7,000-square-foot restaurant at 3401 Enterprise Parkway. This will make the second Ohio location for the Phoenix-based chain; a Columbus P.F. Chang's opened earlier this fall. Founded in 1993 by former Ruth's Chris Steak House franchisee Paul Fleming and Chinese cuisine expert Philip Chiang, the chain has been eyeing Cleveland's eastern suburbs for several years, initially hoping to snag space in Beachwood Place. The restaurant's signature is the pairing of familiar Chinese foods with American desserts, a large wine list, full bar, and an "upbeat, fun atmosphere." The concept enjoys immense popularity: P.F. Chang's has 36 locations in 19 states, reports third-quarter revenues of $41 million, and expects to have 43 locations by this time next year. The large menu claims to reflect the cooking styles of Canton, Mongolia, Szechwan, Hunan, and Shanghai provinces, with most entrées priced at $13 or less. But don't unwrap your chopsticks quite yet: The restaurant isn't scheduled to open until the fall of 2000.


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