Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Very Pleasant Surprise

How many times have you seen a food layout in a magazine and said to yourself, “Wow! That looks really cool! I’ve got to go there.” Well, our first Brazilian restaurant experience was actually spurred by a story in Philadelphia magazine. They had gorgeous pictures of these delicious looking sandwiches. Tempted by the people at Philadelphia magazine we went down to check it out.

When we got there it was just a little hole in the wall kind of place. Some of my greatest food finds are hole in the wall places, so I wasn't really bothered. To make a long story short we go inside and order. We didn’t really look around too much, just ordered and sat down. What a mistake. We sit down at a table and notice that there is a bit of a fly problem, okay, a really bad fly problem. But we already ordered and paid for the food. What were we going to do?

The food comes out and it has a very little in common with what we saw in the magazine. So we decide to hurry up and eat the food and get out of there. As I’m eating my sandwich I’m looking at the window gagging. What had been a noticeable amount of flies, now totaled by weight, more protein than was on my sandwich. We couldn't even finish the food. We had to walk. It was probably the worst restaurant experience not related to service that I’ve ever had in my life. That was my last Brazilian meal.

…until Tuesday

Since Sergio’s Saravá is so close to home we decided to give it a shot. When we attended the Annie Chiu benefit over the summer a couple of my favorite items were from Sergio’s. I’ve probably been to Fire a dozen times, Sasa maybe 5, and not once had we gone to Sergio’s Saravá. I know a lot of it had to do with our traumatic Philadelphia magazine episode. How stupid could I have been to lump SS with the Musca domestica petting zoo in Philly.

I can’t say enough great things about this place. Since it was November we didn’t get to sit outside, but the outdoor eating area is easily the nicest on the east side. I put it in the same category as 3 Birds. The interior is beautiful, but not to the extent that it’s uncomfortable. It actually has a very intimate setting because the restaurant is broken up in to smaller spaces.

If the setting is great, the food is even better. Since it was Cleveland Independents’ Restaurant Week (actually two), I went with the restaurant week menu for $30. What a buy. I ordered the Louisiana Style Gumbo with crawfish, Xim Xim, and Coconut Butter Cake. Incredible. All three dishes hit the mark. The one thing I love is that they gradually built up the flavors in the Gumbo and Ximi Ximi. Too often you get these dishes and they’re packed full of spice and the depth of flavor just isn’t there. With this food you can taste how these flavors harmonize to create a unique and delicious flavor. They were just so enjoyable. You would think that something as simple as Coconut Butter Cake wouldn’t be anything to get excited about, but that too was really good.

Will I be back? Without a doubt I’ll be back. The setting was great. The service was attentive and the food was incredible. If you haven’t been here you’ve got to try it. I really enjoyed my evening here. And guess what? No flies.

UPDATE December 16, 2008

What we had:

Appetizer: None

Regina: BRAISED SHORT RIBS – tender-roasted with a guava glaze. Served with steak fries (substituted with fried spinach) and house slaw 21.5

Cal: FEIJOADA (Fay-JWAD-ah) the ceremonial party dish from Brasil. A rich black bean stew simmered with linguiça sausage, smoked bacon, ham, and pork loin. Served over rice, with farofa, fried spinach, fresh tomato relish, and orange slices. 21

Both: SERGIO’S COCONUT BUTTER CAKE – whipped cream, crème Anglaise, toasted coconut 7.5

Her dish was fantastic as usual. Extremely tender braised beef. She had a full side of fried spinach, I had a partial. This is a photo-worthy dish. The spinach takes on this flaky, iridescent look to it that is visually stunning. However, it is as tasteless as it is beautiful.

My entree was really good as well. It was a huge serving that I boxed halfway through.

The coconut butter cake is simple and delicious. I would put it in the Cleveland top ten desserts. We also picked up a couple jars of the "Ripe from Downtown" Salsa that Sergio helped formulate in conjunction with Cleveland Botanical Garden's Green Corps. The organization provides seasonal employment for city teens to learn gardening and small business skills. The cause is great, the salsa is even better. Sold at the Shaker Square Farmer's Market, it's one of my favorites. I like to put in my favorite chili recipe which I'll eventually write about on this blog.

Sergio’s Saravá
13225 Shaker Sq
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 295-1200

Sergio's Sarava on Urbanspoon

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