These are high times for adventurous eaters: A handful of chefs have recently embarked on interesting side projects that offer a welcome change of pace from typical restaurant fare. On June 21, Lanny Chin of Naya Bistro (6323 Wilson Mills Rd., 440-446-1234, nayabistro.com) will kick off a new monthly event called Food Warriors (facebook.com/foodwarriors). Best described as "extreme eating," the tastings will highlight foods not usually seen on Cleveland menus.
"There are many foods that are commonly eaten all over the world that are not necessarily acceptable in Cleveland," explains Chin. "I have been trying to get my hands on everything edible." According to Chin, hissing cockroaches eaten live taste a bit like salted butter; deep fried, they taste like popcorn chicken.
Attendees at the Velvet Dog (1280 W. 6th St., 216-664-1116, velvetdogcleveland.com) event can sample wild boar bacon, antelope spare ribs, and squid-ink ice cream. Down the road, the menu might include live baby octopus, Burmese python, bear, and balut — embryo-filled eggs eaten whole. Tickets are $12 pre-sale, $15 at the door.
Elsewhere, Matt Mytro's recently launched Yumm events, held first Mondays at Mercury Lounge (1392 W. 6th St., 216-566-8840, themercurylounge.com) offer a taste of the future. Mytro uses the latest molecular gastronomy techniques to fashion captivating snacks like inside-out deviled eggs, liquid nitrogen-baked potatoes, and instant ice cream. Mixologist Mike Gulley uses similar techniques to craft cutting-edge cocktails like the "mojito of the future," topped with mint caviar and coconut bubbles. His rendition of the old fashioned is made with bacon-infused bourbon and maple foam. "It's breakfast in a glass," says Mytro. Tickets are $7 or $10 at the door.
Mytro, who also owns Stove Monkeys kitchen apparel (stovemonkeys.com), has taken over the kitchen at Touch (2710 Lorain Ave., 216-631-5200, touchohiocity.com). "We're building on [outgoing chef] Jeff Fisher's menu of fresh and simple flavors, while adding more approachable comfort foods."
Last week, Middle East Grille (20126 Chagrin Blvd., 216-752-7500, middleeastgrille.com), an upscale Lebanese eatery owned by Henry Schoenberger, opened in the former home of Matsu. Billed as "enlightened Lebanese cuisine," the restaurant offers a large selection of contemporary Middle Eastern salads, wraps, and grilled items for lunch and dinner.