Enjoy our 3-for-$30 menu during Cleveland Restaurant Week!

It’s Cleveland Restaurant Week, and Ruth is especially excited because she’s just been elected to the board of Cleveland Independents, the group that sponsors this annual opportunity for you to sample our unique, locally based restaurants at special prices.

If you’re a loyal Bistro 185 guest, you already know what we can do, and we hope you’ll plan to join us during Restaurant Week for more. If you’ve never visited before and are thinking of giving us a try, we’re eager to have you stop by and sample the pleasures of dinner with us.

Plan now to come in Monday through Friday (through November 11) and choose your three-course feast by selecting one from each category:

Salads and Starters
Soup of the Day
Chicken and Vegetable Pot Stickers
Field Greens Salad
House Tempura Vegetables

Entrees
Chicken Parmesan with Pasta Marinara
Slab St. Louis Ribs, House Fries and Slaw
Medallions of Beef Filet, Hollandaise Sauce, Mashers and House Tempura Vegetables
Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna with Sesame Peanut Noodles
Sautéed Walleye with Hollandaise Sauce, Mashers and House Tempura Vegetables
Pan-Roasted Salmon with Pecan Butter, Sweet Mash and House Tempura Vegetables
Jambalaya with Andouille Sausage and Chicken, Topped with Rice and Black Beans

Dessert
Key Lime Pie
Coconut Cream Pie
House-Made Ice Cream
Chocolate Crème Brulee
Warm Chocolate Molten Cake

Please note that entrees are not available for sharing and there are no substitutions; price also does not include beverages, tax or gratuity. The $3-for-$30 menu is available dine-in only.

If it’s been a while since you had a nice night out and you want to support the local economy when you plan that occasion…if you’re tired of the chain restaurant experience, but afraid that any “tab for two” at a one-of-a-kind place will end up in the three figures…or you just want to get together with some friends over a truly first-class meal without breaking the bank…you owe it to yourself to come to the Bistro and see how far we can stretch your $30! We know you’ll come back!

21st Amendment Beer Dinner brewed up a delicious evening!

The 21st Amendment Beer Dinner October 18 served up an assortment of beer for all tastes and food hearty enough to please anyone, as I, the Tenant, can testify. I’m not any more of a connoisseur of beer than I am of wine, and this was the first beer dinner I’d attended (or had the chance to attend) since the Irish dinner, but it was an enjoyable education in different approaches to brewing, as well as container philosophies. All the beer at this dinner was provided by 21st Amendment Brewery, a San Francisco-based brewery whose brewing facilities are actually located in…Minnesota. Why? As Bob Gera, our 21st Amendment rep for the evening, explained to us, 21st Amendment cans all its beers rather than bottling them. They believe cans do a better job of preventing light damage and reducing headspace and air in the container, as well as making their containers more easily portable and recyclable. And the local cannery with whom 21st Amendment originally planned to work wanted license to manipulate the beer ingredients here and there…something the brewery absolutely did not want. Only in Minnesota could they find a cannery that agreed not to make any changes in the original formulas for their beer, so they could be assured the finished product possessed the qualities they originally intended it to have. That’s how much integrity means to this brewer.

Our first course was a meal that I’ve had a few times already at the Bistro and it’s always been a reliable, satisfying classic. In his kindness, Marc even sent me some upstairs by request when I was feeling ill, and I honestly think it may have helped cure me. The House-Smoked Chicken Mac and Cheese is an incredible concoction of cheeses, macaroni, chicken redolent of smoky flavor, and browned panko crumbs that is irresistible even without a good beer to go with it. The 21st Amendment choice was Back in Black IPA, a beer whose very appearance was surprising because when it arrived at the table in its own screen-printed logoed glass, it looked more like a stout than an IPA — the P in “IPA” stands for “Pale,” after all, and it was truly black-dark with a considerable head. Bob explained that this particular IPA is more like a “hoppy porter” than an IPA, and informed us of its 6.8% alcoholic content and IBU (International Bitterness Units) rating of 651. What does this mean to a non-beer expert? Not a lot, but it did remind me more of a stout than your typical IPA.

If the first course was hearty, the second course only turned up the knob on the hearty dial even higher: Slow-Roasted Beef Short Rib in Red Zinfandel Reduction Sauce with Fall Root Vegetable Mash. This is the kind of dish I’d love to get a particular one of my sisters in to try. (You meat-and-potatoes eater who loves few things so much as a good, tender pot roast–you know who you are. Let me tell you, beef short rib is like the best pot roast you ever ate.) The meat was achingly tender as always and the bright flavor of the sauce, studded with sauteed chanterelle mushrooms–I detected a touch of mint, I think–really shone. The mashed root vegetables were a fine combination of creamy and chunky–I’m not sure what was included, but my bets would be white potatoes, parsnips and rutabagas (I’m sure I tasted rutabaga). Appropriately, the beer served with this course, an IPA called Brew Free or Die (obviously exemplary of the 21st Amendment philosophy), was much paler, lighter and more sparkling on the tongue than the first. This, we were told, is a 7% alcohol beer with 751 IBUs.

By the third course we were ready for a light refresher, and we had one in the Fried Green Tomato and Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad. The fried green tomatoes were as good as they’d been at the Vegan Taste of Fall Dinner, and the addition of the chevre was very appealing. All was delicately balsamically drizzled. The beer accompanying the salad was a true departure from the previous two: Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer. This beer served as one of the points of contention causing 21st Amendment to select an out-of-state cannery; they wanted to be absolutely sure they could brew it with 100% watermelon juice, without any added sugar or other elements that might give it what Bob described as a “Jolly Rancher taste.” They got what they wanted, a twice-fermented beer with a light, sparkling feel and a gentle, fruity but not overly sweet taste and a 4.9% alcoholic content.

With the next course, it was back to the hearty: Mojo Shrimp with Corn Pudding. It was just amazing, the long-marinated shrimp redolent of cilantro, resting on its tender bed of corn pudding atop a sea of rich corn sauce. The beer with this course was called Hop Crisis, and while I’m not a huge fan of intensely hoppy beers, if you are a hop lover, this is the beer for you. Bob explained that this oak-aged, heady brew is an Imperial IPA that is part of what 21st Amendment calls its “Insurrection Series.” It ranks a 941 on the IBU scale and contains anywhere between 9.7% and 10.5% alcohol, so this is one serious concoction and it takes a rich dish like corn pudding to stand up to it.

The meal concluded with the kind of dessert of which I know that sister mentioned above would surely approve (and so did I!): bread pudding. This one was topped with an orange-vanilla-fig balsamic sauce that was truly tasty. The accompanying beer had not been announced prior to the conclusion, so it was a surprise: a winter seasonal called, appropriately enough given the 1930s air lent by the brewery’s name, Fireside Chat. This is a spicy, once again softly sweet, beer of 451 IBUs and 8% alcoholic content that makes a good dessert partner for a stick-to-your-ribs finale like bread pudding. Bob said the brewery likes to tweak the recipe slightly each year so it’s never exactly the same two years in a row. I don’t know that it’ll replace Great Lakes Christmas Ale in the hearts of Clevelanders, but it was a pleasant enough brew.

So, it was a wonderful evening of beer and food–but if you missed it, don’t fret. Just pick up the phone, call 216.481.9635 and make your reservations now for the UniBroue Beer Dinner Wednesday, November 16. You’ll have a fine time enjoying soul-satisfying French Canadian dishes and beers. See you there!

Back and ready to start again tonight!

We’re back — and ready to go! Tonight we’ll feature Grilled Pork Tenderloin with George Germon’s “Hot Fanny Sauce,” served with individual ramekins of marshmallow-and-pecan-topped sweet mashers. We hope you’re ready to rejoin us, because we are more than ready to resume cooking up great dishes for you!

Here’s something we thought was interesting. In his very last column published recently, retiring New York Times head restaurant critic Frank Bruni decided to answer questions he had been asked over the years but had not yet answered, as well as questions he said he wished he’d been asked. Among them was this provocative question: “Is there any best, safest way to navigate a menu?” His answer was this:

— Scratch off the appetizers and entrees that are most like dishes you’ve seen in many other restaurants, because they represent this one at its most dutiful, conservative and profit-minded. The chef’s heart isn’t in them.

— Scratch off the dishes that look the most aggressively fanciful. The chef’s vanity — possibly too much of it — spawned these.

— Then scratch off anything that mentions truffle oil.

Choose among the remaining dishes.

What do we think of that advice? Well, the first piece shows a great deal of insight into the restaurant business, but not necessarily into the heart of the chef. A restaurant is in business to make money, and yes, there are items on the menu of every restaurant that are money makers. They may not be the most creative items, but guests enjoy them and order them time and time again. The same is definitely true of Bistro 185. Why would we take such items off the menu?

However, we would challenge the assumption that “the chef’s heart isn’t in” these tried-and-true favorites. We believe that even the most popular dishes on our menu should be made with the freshest ingredients and presented beautifully. For example, almost every restaurant we see has a Caesar salad on the menu, and so does ours. But if it is to meet our standards, it had better have the freshest Romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, and other ingredients we expect to find in a Caesar salad.

At the Bistro, we have people come in and order the same entree time and time again. If we took these entrees off the menu, these people would be very disappointed and might not come again. However, the other four people they may be with are trying our new specials — so if we lose the less adventurous diners through eliminating their favorite items from the menu, we may also lose their friends who like trying something new and different on our special menu. That way, everyone would lose.

Every time Ruth suggests to Marc that we remove an item that has been on the menu a long time, the question she always gets back is: “Is it a seller?” If the answer is yes — “Why shoot a winning horse?”

The beauty of Bistro 185 is that we have different specials that appear and disappear from the menu, and that is where our creativity comes in. At the same time, we keep offering the old favorites — but while they may not require the same creativity, we put as much care into their preparation as we do into the specials, to make sure they’re consistently satisfying to the people who order them every time.

As for “aggressively fanciful dishes,” we might agree with Mr. Bruni on this one. We watch for too many ingredients and components in a dish, because when there are too many, the main item tends to get lost. Personally, we like clean presentations that highlight the key ingredient.

As for truffle oil — yes, that’s very trendy! You need to watch that it is not on every entree.

In short, we can say that fads in dining come and go, as does the popularity of certain dishes. Ideally, a restaurant strikes a balance between offering creative dishes for adventurous diners and familiar entrees for those who prefer the dependability of a menu standard. But whichever way you like your dining experience, we strive to offer the best of both options at Bistro 185. How are we doing? Let us know!

Julia Project Dishes for Week 4

Here’s our Julia Project lineup of dishes for Week 4, beginning with dinner on August 31.

Monday, August 31 — Grilled Pork Tenderloin with George Germon’s “Hot Fanny Sauce,” served with individual ramekins of marshmallow-and-pecan-topped sweet mashers. (This dish, from In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs, page 75, will feature a sauce Chef Todd learned while working under George at his award-winning restaurant Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island.)

Tuesday, September 1 — Filet de Boeuf en Feuilletons, Duxelles: Tenderloin of Beef sliced and stuffed with mushrooms and roasted. We will serve this with Yukon gold mashers and grilled asparagus (Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2, page 180)

Wednesday, September 2 — Poached Filet of Red Snapper with Mushrooms and Fast White Butter Sauce, served with Israeli couscous (Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, page 238)

Thursday, September 3 — Fried Chicken with Chicken Gravy and Corn Pudding (In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs, page 192)

Friday, September 4 — Crêpes Suzette (Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, page 410). Also, Fridays of the Julia Project will be “Reprise Nights,” in which we will bring back a popular dish from earlier in the week in addition to our special Friday dish. (Last night, we brought back the Pork Tenderloin with Prunes — and you ate it up!)

Saturday, September 5 — Paella with Chicken, Lobster, and Clams in Saffron Broth (In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs, page 201)

Mark your calendar and make your reservations…when we come back, we’ll be cooking up a storm!