7590 Fredle Dr
Painesville, OH 44077
by Beau Cadiyo
I do not delight in calling out Bistro 44. However, right now I feel like Walter Sobchak: “Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?”
John Palmer’s Bistro 44 website explains that the chef graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, and is the only chef in Lake County to have graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, and how prestigious it is to graduate from the Culinary Institute of America. Thus, I felt it reasonable to expect great things from a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. This was misguided, and the first clue was that the only item on the menu resembling a sandwich was a slider. I’ve had bad experiences with sliders before, but while those were mere travesties, the sliders at Bistro 44 were downright insulting. They were described as "Pan Seared Sea Scallops, Mini Challah Rolls, Asian Slaw, Siracha Aioli." Nice try, Culinary Institute of America graduate, but (A) these are NOT SLIDERS, and (B) even if they’d been called “miniature sandwiches,” which would have been more accurate, these were atrocious.
I won’t repeat what makes a slider a slider. However, I will briefly describe why these sucked.
First, the half-inch thick filling (menu description: "Pan Seared Sea Scallops...Asian Slaw, Siracha Aioli") was mediocre, at best. The scallops were bland; in order to have any hope in a sandwich, seafood should have some taste or texture to it. The relish on top added little moisture and scant flavor. Three short sentences are all that the filling deserves.
The bread deserves more: it tasted worse than corner-store enriched white hamburger buns. It was dry, tasteless, of medium density and perhaps 2.5 inches thick. It was therefore five times thicker than the filling, and – as though this needs to be articulated – this is NOT a good proportion. (Proportions should definitely be taught at the Culinary Institute of America, and tested before graduation.) The sandwich tasted entirely of stale bread. The greatest insult was the price: $12 for the plate, or $6 per “slider.”
I will now propose a theory as to what made such a travesty possible. Bistro 44 is perhaps 30 minutes from downtown Cleveland, but is on the outskirts of the outermost suburbs. Cleveland is a culinary hotspot; the restaurants here gain national attention, and while it’s tempting to say that this is because of Michael Symon, he is not the only bright star in our galaxy. (We have a hefty portion of nationally famous sandwiches here, including what many believe to be the top Po’ Boy, corned beef and pastrami, and L’Albatross was just rated as one of the top new restaurants in America. However, these spots are all within a few miles of the city center.
Bistro 44, on the other hand, is in the boondocks. This could be a plus – for example, one might argue that being away from media-fuelled, urban culinary pressures would allow the chef to be more experimental, or be less driven by passing trends. The flip side of the coin is that being away from competition, standards could slip, and sub-par cooking could be passed off as something special. This is what I suspect has happened. This is to the detriment not only of the area, which is hurting for truly good sandwiches, but also of the restaurant and its standards.
We had other dishes – the calamari wasn’t bad, the lamb lollipops were passable and the lobster nachos were actually quite good. However, if you’re looking for sandwiches - as, of course, you are - you should definitely steer clear of Bistro 44.