Let Them Eat Steak

Upscale diners have spoken, and they want their meat.

Peter Pan Palace Theatre, Playhouse Square Center, 1519 Euclid Avenue Through March 20, 216-241-6000
XO is poised to hit its Prime -- Steaks, that is. - Walter  Novak
XO is poised to hit its Prime -- Steaks, that is.
"Adapt or die" has long been restaurants' rallying cry for surviving tough times, and XO (500 West St. Clair Avenue, 216-861-1919) aims to be a survivor. To that end, owner Zdenko Zovkic (pictured right) and Executive Chef Scott Popovic (left) announced last week that they're ditching much of the restaurant's edgy Euro cuisine and climbing aboard the upscale steakhouse bandwagon.

XO will close on Sunday, March 20, for minor remodeling and redecorating, including new lighting, new wooden blinds, and the installation of a state-of-the-art Montague broiler, which reaches temperatures of 2,500 degrees. When it reopens for dinner on Saturday, March 26, it will be as XO Prime Steaks, serving a menu of eight different cuts of USDA Prime beef, as well as fish, seafood, and daily specials. A newly expanded wine list is in the works too, with an emphasis on reds. "Restaurants evolve to meet customer demand," Zovkic says -- and smart restaurateurs don't stand in the way when it happens.

But just because broiled slabs o' beef will dominate the new menu, don't expect a stodgy, stuffy dining experience. Today's contemporary steakhouses are rushing to distance themselves from Granddad's shrimp-cocktail starters and baked-potato sides, and XO will be no different.

"Everyone has meat and fire," Popovic says. "It's what you do with them when they come together that's important." In this case, that means housemade sauces, compound butters, and glamorous sides, such as truffled, three-cheese macaroni with peas and prosciutto, or jumbo twin potato pancakes, topped with caramelized apple compote and sour cream.

Appetizers, too, are going au courant, with such items as spicy-tasso-and-collard-green egg rolls, and lobster-cream soup topped with a crab beignet, zapped tableside with a shot of sherry.

The move puts XO on the area's ever-growing list of chichi steakhouses, including Morton's and Hyde Park Prime downtown, Fleming's Prime and Ruth's Chris in Woodmere, Red in Beachwood, and Delmonico's in Independence. Most likely, it's a good move for the restaurant, which, like all its downtown brethren, has taken a serious beating with the opening of the suburban lifestyle centers and their associated chain restaurants. Still, we can't help thinking that Midwesterners' ongoing obsession with meat 'n' taters doesn't bode well for developing a quirky, cutting-edge dining scene.

XO Prime Steaks will close for Easter (Sunday, March 27), then reopen daily for dinner. Look for lunch service and shaded sidewalk dining to begin on Memorial Day.

Sweet stuff . . . 'Twas back in '99 that brothers Mike and Pete Mitchell opened their first Mitchell Brothers Ice Cream shop in Westlake. By spring, they'll number four: A new location in Beachwood's tony La Place (2101 Richmond Road, 216-831-2722) is slated to open May 1.

While all three existing Mitchell's locations (including Rocky River and Solon) have an outdoor bench or two, ice-cream maker Mike is particularly stoked about the new store's alfresco options: A spacious patio, complete with umbrella tables, will make it that much more enjoyable to while away a sunny afternoon in the company of a voluptuous chocolate peanut-butter ice-cream cone or coffee hot-fudge sundae.

Salute . . . If your idea of indulgence packs more of a punch, meet the trendy new cocktail menu at Woodmere's Bravo Cucina Italiana (28889 Chagrin Boulevard, 216-360-0099). Among the possibilities: Italian lemonade, made with Tanqueray gin, Level vodka, Grand Marnier, lemonade, and a splash of soda; the Martini Bianco, with Ciroc Snap Frost vodka and white grape juice, sipped from a sugared rim; and the Veritas, a combo of Belvedere Pomarancza vodka (flavored with orange essential oil), fresh lime and orange, and simple syrup. Best of all, stop by on a Tuesday evening, and save $2 on every cocktail.

Incidentally, a new Bravo opens in Mentor (at 7787 Reynolds Road) on March 22. Hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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