We were all geared up to take a second look at Napa Valley Grille (26300 Cedar Road), the happy alternative to food-court eats in tony Beachwood Place, when we got the bad news: Executive Chef Robin Wilkins -- hired in September to head up this outpost of the California-based chain -- is already history. It's hard to imagine what Wilkins could have done to fall out of grace so quickly, but GM Susan Walters confirmed that the end came just before Thanksgiving, while Wilkins was off work recuperating from pneumonia. It's a shame, because, to our way of thinking, Wilkins had already made progress in moving the menu away from the sometimes pretentious vertical cuisine -- with its frou-frou garnishes and shocking flavor combos -- of the old menu toward more homey but sophisticated Midwestern fare. We were crazy about Wilkins's version of smoked pork tenderloin, for instance -- dotted with plump sour cherries and bits of Granny Smith apple, and piqued with a drizzle of apple-brandy reduction. And we loved the scrumptious sautéed chicken livers, with a garnish of fresh pear compote and a touch of ruby-red port reduction syrup. But we've probably seen the last of them. A new new chef will be taking over soon, bringing yet another set of recipes with him and giving us more food for thought.
Grovewood betters . . . After several months of culinary deprivation in the wake of Chef Mark Wilson's departure, staff members are once again setting the tables at Grovewood Tavern and Wine Bar (17105 Grovewood Avenue, 216-531-4900). Tim Ogan, formerly exec chef at Tremont's Hi & Dry In, has taken over the tiny Grovewood kitchen and promises an inexpensive, informal menu of multicultural dishes, ranging from grilled Caesar salads and Black Angus burgers to meatloaf, pork satay, and chicken paprikash. Ogan, originally from Columbus, says the menu will continue to evolve as he gets to know his clientele, a neighborly group of diners and drinkers who come to the Grovewood for live entertainment, fairly priced wines, and hearty food. Ogan will be dishing out the victuals Tuesday through Thursday from 6 to 11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday until midnight. In addition, resident wine guy Lee Karr continues to lead informal wine tastings each Wednesday and Thursday at 8:30 p.m. And as for Wilson, you can find him downtown in the kitchen of Winsor's in the Wyndham Hotel.
Travelin' tandoor . . . Clay Oven fans who have been pining for paneer or crying for curry won't have to wait much longer: It looks like the relocated restaurant will open in Parma before Christmas. The popular Indian eatery lost its Fairview Park digs in October, when the city decided to take a wrecking ball to some of the low-cost motel properties along Lorain Road. Since that time, staffers have been renovating and redecorating space in the Snowville Shopping Center, on the corner of Snow Road and Chevrolet Boulevard. Despite the disruption in the flow of mango lassi, the upside is that the reincarnated restaurant will be more than twice the size of the old place and will accommodate an even grander menu of homemade Indian specialties. Clay Oven's new address is 5747 Chevrolet Boulevard; you can give 'em a call at 440-888-6490.