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Issue Date: April 2007 Issue


Muse


Laura Taxel
editorial@clevelandmagazine.com

Forget about appetizers and entrees at Muse.

Opened in September, Muse replaces Century as The Ritz-Carlton's in-house eatery with a handsome, clubby space defined by gleaming woodwork and white linens that's in contrast to its innovative approach to dining out.

Here, executive chef Chad Ellis replaces traditional courses with cutting-edge cuisine in 3- to 5-ounce tasting portions. Diners create their own eclectic, customized sampling.

Can't decide between cod in lobster chowder sauce ($15) or lobster in a coconut vanilla bean emulsion ($15)? No worries, because here you can have both. Not sure if you'll like the molasses-glazed squab or exactly what the pear gastrique is that accompanies it? Ellis thinks that for $18, you'll be willing to take a chance. The choices are designed to satisfy the most savvy and sophisticated guest, but at the same time invite the less knowledgeable to try new things.

And though I wanted to like Muse's new approach and applaud Ellis for his exciting vision, Muse's execution often fell short with sometimes spotty service and a few dishes that miss the mark.  

Deciphering the dinner menu is challenging for first-timers since it's not designated as small plates. The server must explain the fundamentals of ordering. (Most customers, I'm told, select three to five dishes.)Offerings are divided into six main categories, featuring poultry, beef and lamb, shellfish, fish, salads and vegetable side dishes. If you have a preference, be sure and let your server know the sequence in which you'd like things to be served, otherwise dishes can appear in a random and not always sensible progression. 

Yet, give Ellis his due for using only the very best and purest products available, including bread from Zoss the Swiss Baker, pasture-raised lamb, hormone-free chicken, no-nitrate bacon, Wagyu beef, some organic produce and specialty ingredients from boutique and artisan purveyors.  

You can taste the difference in the Medjool dates, stuffed with mild chorizo sausage and wrapped in bacon ($11). Four of the plump little fruit packages are artfully presented in miniature skillet, on a white platter emblazoned with a vibrant orange zigzag of piquillo pepper sauce. You get sweet, spicy, salty and that bass note of meaty umami all in one mouthful.  

Other dishes could use a different muse, including the corn chowder (too salty), the lobster pot pie (short on lobster), the Elysian Fields lamb (tough to cut) and the mac-and-cheese side with truffled Parmesan mascarpone sauce (not as good as the original). 

The scallops ($16), however, are delicious. Two of them, pan-seared to a glossy brown finish, are presented atop an herbed crostini, and the crunch provides a delightful counterpoint to the soft, succulent flesh of the fish. The pair are surrounded by chanterelles and English peas, a bit of braised greens and a tasty lemon thyme alfredo. Another standout is the squash potage, a lush and satisfying cream soup with duck confit, caramelized apple compote, and a drizzle of cinnamon hazelnut oil ($12). For those in need of a heartier option, the slow-roasted short ribs with blue cheese polenta ($19), is a main course in miniature. The scallops ($16), however, are delicious. Two of them, pan-seared to a glossy brown finish, are presented atop an herbed crostini, and the crunch provides a delightful counterpoint to the soft, succulent flesh of the fish. The pair are surrounded by chanterelles and English peas, a bit of braised greens and a tasty lemon thyme alfredo. Another standout is the squash potage, a lush and satisfying cream soup with duck confit, caramelized apple compote, and a drizzle of cinnamon hazelnut oil ($12). For those in need of a heartier option, the slow-roasted short ribs with blue cheese polenta ($19), is a main course in miniature.  

So while Muse's pitch isn't perfect, at least it's inspiring.                                            

Muse, The Ritz-Carlton, 1515 W. Third St., Cleveland, (216) 902-5255. Breakfast Mon-Sun 7 - 11 a.m., Brunch Sun 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.,  Lunch Mon-Sat 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m., Dinner daily 5:30 - 10 p.m. Major credit cards accepted. Valet parking $5 with ticket from restaurant.


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