Versatile staffers at the newly opened Erie Bleu (4204 Detroit Avenue, 216-651-2538) have been working hard over the past few months -- not just to prepare for their duties as servers, managers, and chefs, but also to create the restaurant's ultra-chic decor. GM Roxanne Bibeau, for example, spent hours helping install an intricate wooden "tumbling blocks" mosaic that tops the stairs leading to the redesigned restrooms. Strong guy and Executive Chef Warren Dolata hung drywall. And owner Paul Tomko planned, coordinated, and completed hundreds of construction details, along with the rest of his industrious team. Whatever they couldn't do themselves, they commissioned other respected Cleveland artists to complete: Hector Vega designed two beautiful illuminated stained-glass panels for the foyer and bar, Sheila Weil created an entire school of mosaic and stainless-steel fish to swim across the silvery ceiling, and Paul Shuster painted an enormous trompe l'oeil mural on the exterior wall of a nearby building. The mural, visible from inside the dining room through three diamond-shaped windows, mimics the Flats' skyline (look for the monkeys). The result is a strikingly original space, full of sparkle and style. The food's pretty special, too, judging from a recent lunch. Dolata, former sous chef at Grappa's in Fairlawn, and his band of merry men make everything from scratch, including fat wild-mushroom agnolotti, ginger-spiked lamb osso bucco, perfect smoked-cheddar macaroni and cheese, and for dessert, an incredible banana risotto that we now realize we've been waiting our whole life to discover. Erie Bleu is open for lunch on weekdays and dinner Monday through Saturday.
This Saturday will be Norbert Peissert's last night as executive chef at Lakewood's Pier W (12700 Lake Avenue, 216-228-2250). The former Napa Valley Grille chef has accepted a job as top gun in the kitchen of the Mentor Harbor Yacht Club. A Pier W manager says Sous Chef Lethaniel Beagay will be in charge until the restaurant finds a replacement for Peissert. But the seafood restaurant with a spectacular view of the downtown skyline has been flooded with applications, we hear, and it shouldn't be long before a new exec chef is on board.
Sprucing up the Grovewood
Staffers at the Grovewood Tavern & Wine Bar (17105 Grovewood Avenue, 216-531-4900) took time out last month to make some interior upgrades. Owner Beth Noragon's friendly East Side tavern now has new lighting fixtures in the dining room, a spruced-up men's room (Noragon says the ladies' powder room is next on her to-do list), and a smart new bartop inset with an international collection of wine labels. The tiny dining room, with its votive candles and white tablecloths, is now an even more pleasant setting for Chef Tim Ogan's robust dishes, which he serves up in eye-popping portions. Recent favorites include Chicken Paprikash My Mother's Way ($12.50) -- two plump boneless chicken breasts, caramelized onion, roasted vegetables, and plenty of spaetzle, all in a dreamy sauce of Hungarian paprika and sour cream; and zesty Sesame Noodles ($2.50 as a side dish), sprinkled with chopped scallions and black sesame seeds. And the Grovewood's impressive wine list continues to be one of the most reasonably priced ones around, with many of the 150 or so selections set at less than $30 a bottle and some rare vintages going for nearly half the prices we've seen at upscale downtown spots.