Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Elvis Has Entered the Building!

Uncle Dennis rumbled into town in his sleek, black 500 hp Carlsson Mercedes SL55 AMG. He's one of the coolest people I know, and it's not because of the car.

As always, it was really great to see him and I'm glad he is doing well. I would have worn a t-shirt and shorts if it weren't for the list of restaurants I emailed him to select. Poor Uncle Dennis was ch-ch-chilled by the evening air, hovering around the upper 40s/low 50s.

Blue Canyon from the outside is very clean and looks like a little lodge surrounded by small trees and shrubs in a developed area set against a hillside. Adjacent to the restaurant are Damon's, Donatos Pizza, and Hilton Garden Inn.

As we walked toward the restaurant from the parking area, we noticed a carved out area below that was set up for outdoor dining. Unfortunately, it was too cool to have service there. A few degrees warmer, at least for normal folks, it would have been a marvelous place to eat under the sunset and dusk sky, as this area is completely exposed to the elements.

Uncle Dennis had made reservations for window seating. We were seated in the great room at the center of the windowed area.

Despite being right next to a highway, the view from our table has you feeling like you're tucked away in a resort that hasn't been overly developed in concrete and steel. The ceiling was 2 stories high with huge whole lumber beams crossing the length of the restaurant.

The hostess laid the pliable square leather remnant before me as we were seated. I caressed the creases of the front cover and then the soft suede unlined interior. I looked up and saw Bug staring at me and snickering.

Our first course was a tomato basil flatbread (pizza) that we shared. It was a very simple appetizer that was done well and was tasty. This was followed by a Canyon caesar salad that we shared as well. This was brought in a flat rectangular dish with 9 whole leaves of romaine lettuce stacked aesthetically, drizzled with chipotle caesar dressing. The dressing was superb - almost on the verge of Thousand Island dressing. I would go back just to eat the salad. I was greedily trying to grab one of the leaves and dumped almost all the asiago cheese on Bug's cocktail napkin.

Uncle Dennis ordered the Texas Sirloin with parmesan bacon mashed potatoes and asparagus. The steak was delicious - beef is good stuff. It wasn't fluffed by a lot of salt and other rubbish.

Bug had root beer glaze cedar plank Atlantic salmon. We were shocked by how well it worked. It had a sweet root flavor that wasn't sickly, so to speak. It came with asparagus and whipped Yukon potatoes.

My ahi was good, but the warm crab and sliced asparagus spear salad made me giddy. I loved that the salad wasn't spiced up so I could savor the marriage between the crab and the asparagus without any interlopers.

Bug and I shared a key lime cheesecake. The cheesecake arrived as a key lime topped pyramid and cheesecake base on a square plate. Raspberry glaze was drizzled on the plate. It was a shame that I could not fully appreciate it without that lingering thought of being full with each delicious bite. Uncle Dennis had coffee.

I had a great time with my uncle. Conversation was always interesting and not controversial, which it tends not to be. At least not in an argumentative way. We often discuss politics, but not as a form of debate.

Bug isn't easily impressed, especially when it comes to high end restaurants. He was a little annoyed with our server at first, because of some comments he had made but after the server stopped talking, it was better. Bug was impressed enough to eek out a desire to return. That's saying a lot.

- Cassaendra

Blue Canyon Kitchen & Tavern
8960 Wilcox Drive
Twinsburg, OH 44087

Monday, May 26, 2008

Wassup B!

Cleveland. Japanese food. Buffet.

Sounds pretty scary, huh?

Watami is the most recent addition to a host of Japanese restaurants in Cleveland. As one would expect from a buffet in the Midwest, it is no Todai by any stretch of the imagination. What can you expect for $13.99 all you can eat salad, sashimi, sushi - prepared and made-to-order, hot food, soup, udon, hibachi-to-order, and dessert in the middle of the US?

The salad bar is pretty decent, but looks like crap after people have pilfered through it. It consists of seaweed salad, crab salad, hijiki, asparagus with spicy mayonnaise (not Kewpie), squid salad, and a leafy green salad with the ubiquitous Benihana-style ginger salad dressing...watered down. This is where I spend most of my time. I can't get enough of the crab salad - soft, moist, and pliable surimi, cucumber, and tenkasu, folded in mayonnaise. I LOVE this with rice! I'm the kind of person buffet owners love to have.

The sashimi is reserved to a small section between the salad, plates, and sushi. It's laid out neatly on a small boat. I'm not into sashimi, so I have no clue how good it is. It looks nice to me, that's it.

The sushi area is a very active place. There are always 2-3 people behind the counter making sushi, anywhere between kappa maki to dragon roll to nigiri. They also make temaki to order. They're very friendly. The tip jar is nearby too. :P

I haven't ordered anything at the hibachi area. The udon is pretty good. It consists of a mushroom stock that is thankfully not salty, udon that is slightly overcooked, but not horrendous, and a dash of shichimi togarashi, which always makes me smile.

The hot food is the weakest link and an embarrassment. It's Chinese/American-style Japanese food, which is plain A-W-F-U-L. WTF. The teriyaki beef and chicken are tough and tasteless. The vegetables are often stir-fried. The shumai isn't bad, but uhhh I wonder why. Gyoza is mediocre. I think I'm suffering from some defensive mechanism at this time, because I can't remember what other hot foods they serve.

Oh, ok - I had to refresh my memory by going to their website. WTF is Shogun duck?

Yakisoba is tasteless and not a hint of Worcestershire sauce. It's just lo mein. I've yet to see shrimp tempura, but maybe all the hogs snort-snort-snorted them all after making several foot-high stack passes at the crab leg counter. The salmon is your usual Chinese buffet fare - not bad, not great, always overdone.

Why the hell would anyone eat fried rice at a Japanese buffet? OMFG. Anyway.

The staff is efficient and courteous. Only a few speak a bit of English. None of them speak any Japanese. There is some noticeable effort in food place setting, at least the food that doesn't have to be kept under a burner. They even have ramune and green tea ice cream that tastes a little abnormal.

With all that said, it's a place we've visited several times when Bug has an itch for a quick, high-dose of sushi and something else on the side. Otherwise, Shinano continues to be our restaurant of choice for all Japanese food, except they're closed at this time. Hurry up and re-open in your new digs, please!!!

- Cassaendra

Watami Japanese Seafood Buffet & Grill
7703 West Ridgewood Drive
Parma, OH 44129

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