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Da Funk Is Sunk 

Kosta's does without its Brandt-name appeal.

Say ta-ta to former Executive Chef Brandt Evans's flamboyant "Asian-Ozark Funk Cuisine" at Kosta's (2179 West 11th Street, 216-622-0011). And welcome the "New-American Underground" stylings of recently appointed Executive Chef Bob Elliot. Evans, whose tongue-in-cheek productions once included a giant blue-frosted oval cupcake modeled after a Viagra capsule, left the restaurant abruptly in mid-December. But his former sous chef Elliot declares most diners won't be able to tell the difference. "The big portions, bold flavors, and unusual treatments will remain," Elliot vows, although the chef admits he is toying with some novel flavor pairings. A graduate of "the kinder, gentler CIA" (New York's Culinary Institute of America), Elliot first worked with Evans at Ward's Inn in Moreland Hills before joining the Kosta's staff in 1998. When we caught up with him in his Tremont kitchen, Elliot was busy designing a new menu. Among his creations: a roasted beet and grilled apple appetizer, interlaced with goat cheese and finished with micro-greens, balsamic vinegar, and truffle oil. Evans, meantime, is cooking up plans to open his own place, complete with wine, fondue, and jazz.

Reservations canceled . . .

Tiny Ristorante Salvatore (2181 Murray Hill Road) is locked up tight. Rumor has it that longtime Executive Chef Michael DeGeronimo and owner Salvatore Geraci parted company in mid-January; now, a message on the restaurant's answering machine simply informs callers that Salvatore's is closed "for a vacation and remodeling, until further notice."

Ahead of the curve . . .

After years of trailing towns like New York and San Francisco, Cleveland may be getting downright trendy. Just look at this month's Bon Appétit and its annual review of the national dining scene. Restaurant trend of the year? Cheese. That wouldn't be news to Paul Minnillo, who has been stocking his affinage cooler at the Baricelli Inn (2203 Cornell Road, 216-791-6500) with imported artisanal cheeses for years. Cocktail of the year? Caipirinha, the Brazilian national drink that savvy Clevelanders have been swilling at Sergio's (1903 Ford Drive, 216-231-1234) since the mid-'90s. Dessert of the year? Updated comforts like "coffee and doughnuts." Hey, Jeff Uniatowski's been dishing them up at Mise (10427 Clifton Boulevard, 216-651-5473) for two years. Now, don't you feel hip?

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