Taste (2317 Lee Rd., 216.932.9100, tastefoodwine.com) has opened in the former home of the Wine Room. While many lament the modifications to the previous tenant's glorious wood bar, Taste is already garnering praise of its own. The expanded footprint allows space for a bar and lounge area, a separate dining room and an open kitchen with adjacent chef's table. All told, the restaurant seats about 80. With a granite bar, blond butcher-block tables and minimal accents, the space is clean, fresh and modern - a perfect match for the food. Chef Anthony Vicente, a recent transplant from Paris, where he cooked at a perennially packed bistro, has a sharp focus when it comes to food. Dishes are restrained - austere, almost - and executed flawlessly. Airy salmon mousse is spooned onto toast in one starter, while another features glazed chicken-stuffed crepes with tart greens. Nearly all the starters are cold dishes, an odd tack given the season. There is no such misconnect in the entrée section, where items like rack of lamb, seared scallops and seared bronzini get top billing. For $45, diners can select an app, main, dessert and two glasses of wine.
Andy Himmel has sold his five-year-old restaurant Boulevard Blue (12718 Larchmere Ave., 216.721.5500, boulevardblue.com) to chef Kurt Steeber. Himmel, who also operates the successful Paladar (28601 Chagrin Blvd., 216.896.9020, paladarlatinkitchen.com), says that the move saves him the unwelcome task of having to shut the doors. "That size restaurant really has to be owned and operated by a chef to make financial sense," says Himmel. Steeber, who recently returned from a cooking stint in California, took possession December 1. Steeber intends to preserve the name and concept to start, but will transition to a more casual Southern-style menu. And while most of the staff will remain, the live music will not. Steeber has worked at Mosaica, Great Lakes Brewing Co. and Ballantine, among others.
Jonathon Sawyer is dissolving his partnership with Sam McNulty and Bar Cento (1948 W. 25th St., 216.274.1010). After the first of the year, the chef will no longer have any connection to the wildly successful restaurant. Sawyer says he intended all along to bow out when his new restaurant, Greenhouse Tavern, neared its opening date. "I thought I might be able to handle both places," Sawyer told me, "but I just don't have the resources and people to do both well." Mike Nowak, who has cooked alongside Sawyer since the beginning, will take over.