Un-Comfort Food

Push your palate out of its safety zone in 2008.

A new year is upon us, bringing 366 more opportunities to get intimate with your region's restaurant scene. Resolve to be adventurous: Sample an exotic cuisine, or just head out to someplace you've heard about, but never tried.

If you're a West Sider, set out for Shaker Square, where the don't-miss options include Doug Katz's contemporary American showstopper Fire Food & Drink (13220 Shaker Square, 216-921-3473); Sergio Abramoff's Brazilian hot spot Saravá (13225 Shaker Square, 216-295-1200); and Scott Kim's sassy Sasa Matsu (13120 Shaker Square, 216-767-1111), sort of a Japanese tapas bar.

Or maybe Little Italy is more your style: Sample the artisanal cheeses at Baricelli Inn (2203 Cornell, 216-791-6500) or the plush pappardelle at artful Michaelangelo's (2198 Murray Hill, 216-721-0300). Then stop by Corbo's Dolceria (12210 Mayfield Road, 216-421-8181) to check out their cappuccino and cannoli. Or venture up the hill to the Heights, to Tommy's (1824 Coventry Road, 216-321-7757), that tasty 1960s throwback.

And East Siders: Isn't it time you explored Ohio City? Try Flying Fig (2523 Market Avenue, 216-241-4243) for its sophisticated take on farm-fresh ingredients. Also required eating: south-of-the-border fave Momocho (1835 Fulton Road, 216-694-2122) and charming Bar Cento.

Ready for something more exotic? Try Asia Town's Siam Café (3951 St. Clair Avenue, 216-361-2323), with its seafood-centric menu of Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese dishes; Parma Heights' Udupi Café (6339 Olde York Road, 440-743-7154), for sumptuous South Indian fare; or Empress Taytu (6125 St. Clair Avenue, 216-391-9400), for elegant Ethiopian meals eaten from a communal platter.

Maybe you're ready for some forward-thinking cuisine: Meet Crop (1400 West Sixth Street, 216-696-CROP), Dante (8001 Rockside Road, Valley View, 216-524-9404), Table 45 (9801 Carnegie Avenue, 216-707-4045), Fahrenheit (2417 Professor Avenue, 216-781-8858), and Lola (2058 East Fourth Street, 216-621-5652).

Now go forth and eat. It'll be 2009 before your stomach knows it.