Side Dish heaps the hype on the Clinic's new fine-dining spot.

The Perfect Guy CD release party, with 84 Nash Beachland Ballroom Friday, May 9

The buzz is building for the new Classics, the elegant high-end restaurant coming to the InterContinental Hotel on the Cleveland Clinic campus. Management has been coy about details, but from what we've seen, Classics could be the most impressive European-style restaurant between Chicago and New York.

At around 65 seats, the new Classics is smaller and more intimate than its namesake, which closed in 1999. Rather than the old spot's wall-to-wall marble, the new dining room, wine room, and posh lounge are filled with dark woodwork, crystal, and brass. "The idea is to re-create a five-star European dining experience," says one insider, "with petite portions of extraordinary food." Executive chef is Didier Montarou, who has worked at InterContinental properties around the world; the pastry chef is Anton Yeranossian, who previously toiled at Lockkeepers. The chef du cuisine, rumored to be a Michelin two-star chef, recently arrived in town by way of Lebanon, but his name remains a secret. Look for Classics to open quietly by early June.

Bird food . . . Mid-June should see the launch of 3 Birds (18515 Detroit Avenue), a casually upscale restaurant in Lakewood. GM Michael Yih, who has worked in some of the city's top dining rooms, says the restaurant will feature "modern American cuisine" served in an industrial-chic setting. Most of chef John Kolar's dinner entrées will check in at less than $26.

Screwed . . . Amiable Aussie winemaker Philip Laffer looked a little sheepish as he twisted the cap off a bottle of Jacob's Creek 2002 Reserve Riesling. "Now, I know screw tops are thought of as signaling a poor-quality wine," he said. "But really, on this bottle, a screw cap is a very good thing."

Laffer, recently named his country's top winemaker, was in town recently, talking about Jacob's Creek's newest releases. The Riesling's innovative topper, called a "Stelvin capsule," is made of tin and plastic, and provides an impermeable barrier between the contents and the air, while eliminating the slightly "woody" flavor that cork can lend to wine. "That taste isn't a problem in oak-aged wines," Laffer says. "But it can be objectionable in floral whites."

The Riesling itself has all the hallmarks of a great food wine. The bouquet is mouth-watering, the taste is crisp and well balanced, and the finish is clean, dry, and slightly effervescent. Like most New World Rieslings, this one should be especially fine with Asian and Indian foods. For now, it's still in short supply locally. But Jeff Johnson of Wine Distributors Inc. says the great white ($12.99 retail) should be readily available by mid-June.

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