Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lure Bistro

38040 3rd St
Willoughby, OH 44094
(440) 951-8862

By Beau Cadiyo

The relationships that people have with restaurants mirror human sexuality. Most restaurants that one might enter are like one-night stands – you may remember them, you may know how to get in touch, but you don’t plan on going back unless absolutely necessary. Here, either you’re extremely adventurous, eating things you normally wouldn’t, or you are exceptionally conservative, sticking with what you know. Others are like long-term marriages; you know the restaurant repeatedly and intimately, and you generally stick with one or, at most two, comfortable dishes. That’s a shame: the fun of casual dating, of the learning curve, of the playfulness of exploration and discovery and not knowing what you’re going to get, is lost as soon as you settle down into a rhythm. Restaurant relationships are boring and routine and predictable; you’ve lost the fun, the excitement, the spark. However, sometimes you get a taste of something new and exciting – that’s when you owe it to yourself to explore more, to dive in, to push your own limits. It’s uncomfortable, though, and difficult. It’s difficult to go to a restaurant that keeps you excited and interested and a little bit confused. It’s difficult to walk into a place and not know what to expect. You may be disappointed, you may wish you hadn’t tried at all, you may be scared. But in the end, it’s those moments where you have to close your eyes and remember what is happening and take the risk that it might be incredible.

Lure is a restaurant to date right now. It was just taken over by a new chef and his general manager, and it is evolving and changing and exciting. We would have reviewed it back when it was UrbanSpoon’s number one ranked restaurant in Cleveland, but we thought it was solely sushi and didn’t have sandwiches.

The lighting at first reminded me of a warm dinner party. The entire patio vibe, really, was like that; the only thing missing was a good host to talk to people, introduce them, share them around and mix and match the tables appropriately. Think of the function of a restaurant host. Now replace them with a good dinner party host who ensures that nobody is left alone, nobody feels out of place, and people with common interests, be it the law or architecture or food documentaries or voice-distorting megaphones are made aware of their commonalities and, therefore, brought that much closer. In some places, such a social catalyst would be out of place – the Velvet Dog, for example. At Lure, it felt uncomfortable not to be introduced to the two girls sitting just one table over, and uncomfortable not to know anything about the large dinner party under the outdoor chandelier.

Such a function was partially served when the manager, Jonathan, stopped by and introduced himself around the table. A tall, lean man with a shaved head, a massive watch and intricate tattoos up his arms, he was eager to talk about the restaurant and his plans for the menu – the new dishes he wanted to serve (I want to return to sample the bison and the crocodile), the features to renovate, etc. I got the impression that this was something special, something more than an ordinary restaurant. For him, Lure isn’t a business – it is a passion. It was exciting.

The grouper sandwich arrived and he excused himself. We fell upon the homemade chips, hot with oil, thinly cut and simultaneously crispy and chewy. The waiter absent-mindedly suggested a remoulade, wandering away and returning with a small cup, the contents of which I spread thinly on the bread.

It was simply incredible. The grouper fell apart in my mouth, flaking away, not too moist, not too dry. Frank Hoxha, who doesn’t like fish, actually used her fork to collect some of the bits that fell out. The tomato slice oozed juice and seeds and the bread was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The remoulade was nice, but it was an unnecessary addition. It was like adding a single leaf or snowflake to a Hokusai print – it adds an element, sure, but it was not necessary and may have actually detracted from the rest.

Yet something seemed slightly off, and we all noticed it. Perhaps it was first-night jitters on the part of the staff, or fear and uncertainty on the part of the long-time patrons. We sat around talking as the patio and bar emptied out. When the bill came, we asked that it be split 75/25; the waiter mixed up the cards, so we settled it in cash. Things aren’t perfect at Lure, but there’s potential for something if a few of the kinks are worked out. There’s going to be a second date in the very near future.

Lure Bistro on Urbanspoon

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