- Walter Novak
- Black mustard-crusted pork tenderloin marries well with a bottle of Four Graces pinot noir.
"No we didn't!" giggled his wife, administering a playful shove. "It was just really cold over there. But anyway, do you guys come here often? I see you're drinking that Four Graces pinot noir . . . Isn't that a great bottle of wine?"
That's just the way it goes at 2182, the unpretentious Brecksville wine bar and bistro near the intersection of routes 21 and 82: The good vibes flow like fine Bordeaux, but at considerably more reasonable prices. In fact, every one of the bistro's out-of-the-ordinary selections is pegged at Ohio retail -- the same price you would pay at the grocery store, if you could find it there -- plus a $10 corking fee. That can add up to sizable savings compared to the usual restaurant markup -- particularly at the higher end, including that Four Graces (an organically grown Willamette Valley pinot from a small family operation, retailing at $27). Our only gripe? The wine list's lack of tasting notes, pairing suggestions, or other helpful data to guide our explorations.
As it turned out, the quartet next to us were hard core Akron foodies. The young couple on our right, meanwhile, dine at Cleveland's trendy boîtes. What drew them, along with another 40 or so like-minded guests, to this affluent suburb halfway between the two cities was the promise of fine food, interesting drink, and warm service. And with only a few minor exceptions, we doubt any of them left disappointed.
Much of that is due to genial host and owner Brian Klopp, who, with wife Tennille, operates the little bistro like an extension of his home. One minute he's taking coats, the next he's pouring wine; a few minutes later, he's across the room, clearing tables. As a result, even if guests have to cool their heels for 15 minutes waiting for a reserved table, as we did, they don't feel particularly ill treated.
The rest of the applause goes to young Executive Chef Rob Stauch, whose prior experience has taken him from the Warehouse District's Blue Point Grille to Bricco in Akron. For 2182, he has designed a mouthwatering lineup of small, medium, and entrée-sized offerings, featuring bold flavors, luxurious ingredients, and a soupçon of rustic elegance, evidenced in dishes ranging from rosemary-and-parmesan-piqued pommes frites to classic cassoulet.
Of course, when your pantry is stocked with duck confit, foie gras, and truffle oil, the temptation to go overboard can be hard to resist. Predictably, then, the kitchen occasionally turns out something like our roasted beet salad, where waves of Maytag blue, balsamic syrup, and plump, toasty pistachios sank any hint of beet-related nuance.
But just when we began to fear the kitchen might be stuck in "more is better" mode, Stauch countered with a series of well-crafted dishes that eschewed an overload of high-octane add-ons in favor of natural va-va-voom. Take the swordfish entrée: Moist, lush, and relentlessly fresh, the meaty filet was simply seared, then paired with a mound of creamy, thyme-flecked risotto and a bevy of sautéed baby Brussels sprouts; a restrained application of browned, honey-sweetened butter brought it all together, highlighting the natural goodness without masking a thing.
Tart hints of whole-grain mustard, astringent whispers of wilted frisée, and subtly sweet harmonies of roasted pear, port wine, and fig showcased another main-course standout: juicy, medium-rare pork tenderloin. In place of the more predictable starches -- risotto or mashed spuds, say -- Stauch sided the meat with a pair of potato croquettes, rolled in bread crumbs and baked to golden crispness.
Admittedly, the lineup of smallest small plates ran hot and cold. Loved the cool, briny oysters on the half shell, but yawned over the indistinct baked oysters, bested by their goat-cheese and prosciutto toppings. And dug both the slender, seasoned pommes frites and the tiny grilled sirloin sliders (topped with equally tiny dabs of seared foie gras), but shrugged over the soggy tart of (not much) duck confit.
Other than the busy beet assemblage, salads were another high point -- both the ample frisée version, in warm sherry vinaigrette, topped with a pearly poached egg and oodles of savory bacon, cured in-house, with brown sugar, basil, cilantro, and a touch of lemongrass, as well as the clean-tasting arugula salad, tossed with seedless grapes and candied walnuts. And for $12, the well-endowed charcuterie board was a bargain beauty: cured coppa, North African-style Merguez sausages made with a blend of lamb and beef, and a tiny pot of duck confit, topped with a translucent layer of rich, rendered fat. A stack of toasty crostini, some cornichons and cured olives, and dabs of mustard completed the mini-banquet.
After dinner, options include cordials, single malt scotches, spirited coffees, and a small collection of ice wines, ports, and sherries. Staffers brew a robust pot of Kona-blend coffee; there's also a handful of homemade desserts, including a trio of crèmes brûlées, chocolate mousse torte, and a memorable goat-cheese cheesecake.
Laced with lemon, dusted with cracked black pepper, and finished with an edible sprig of candied thyme, the cheesecake straddled the intersection of savory and sweet like a hero, and left us hungry for a return trip.