One of the hottest international concepts in dining, the Brazilian-style churrascaria, is finally coming to downtown at Brasa Grill Brazilian Steakhouse (1300 W. Ninth Street, 216-575-0699).
While several area restaurants, including Lure Bistro in Willoughby and Sergio's in University Circle, have dabbled from time to time in churrasco -- the gaucho version of barbecue -- it took the owners of nearby Mallorca (1390 W. Ninth Street) to jump in with both feet, delivering unto Clevelanders a style of dining that has been popping up everywhere from London to Las Vegas in the past decade.
Jesus DeManuel (who oversees operations at Brasa as well as at Mallorca and its sister restaurant, Marbella, in Pepper Pike) cautions potential diners to show up at the restaurant with reservations and enormous appetites: Otherwise, how will they begin to do justice to the 18 types of grilled meats (lamb, pork, turkey, chicken, venison, and plenty of beef, including filet mignon, prime rib, and picanha, a prized cut from the choicest part of the top sirloin) that come out of the Brazilian-made grill -- not to mention the 70-item salad bar, which will be stocked with everything from greens and tomatoes to shrimp and sushi?
Typical of this style of dining, there is no menu and only one price: $35 per person, for as much as you care to eat, for as long as you care to try it. (Non-carnivores can stick with the salad bar, for $22; in either case, though, "doggie bags" are a no-no.) Just alert one of the crew of Brazilian servers, who will be continually roaming the room with meat-stacked skewers (a style of service called rodizio), and they will carve off as many slices as you request, at your preferred degree of doneness.
Brasa, of course, is in the space that used to house Circo/Zibibbo, with its ultra-hip lighting and exotic decor. Bits and pieces of the old interior remain intact -- for instance, our favorite Dale Chihuly-style glass chandelier now looks down upon the salad bar, and in the now much-smaller lounge, guests will still find the Italian leather sling-back chairs and a segment of Zibibbo's luminous granite bar. But the former wall of fiber-optic-rigged glass panels is now just a memory, as are the giant orange floor lamps -- all replaced by what is admittedly a more elegant style, better suited to the churrascaria concept. If all goes according to plan, Brasa will be open for dinner only, beginning this Friday, July 30. Look for lunch and Sunday brunch to be added in the future.
See-worthy . . . Meantime, just a few blocks away, it's apparently full speed ahead for Titanic, the richly appointed restaurant inside the newly renovated and repainted Titanic Tower (1350 W. Third Street, formerly known as the Cambridge Building or "that gawdawful pink-and-yellow building across from the Justice Center"). The shiny new dining room and bar are an eye-popping repository of high ceilings, marble floors, crystal chandeliers, gilt-framed mirrors, oversized upholstered chairs, and curvaceous, expensive, Moderne-style tables imported from Italy -- all the better, according to GM Douglas Hoover, to channel the spirit of 1950s Miami.
We had a chance to sneak a peek at the restaurant's large menu last week, and while prices for the various apps, salads, sandwiches, and entrées hadn't yet been assigned, we're guessing they won't come cheap. In fact, with upscale dishes like mandarin-orange-glazed day-boat scallops, served over pineapple and mango risotto; house-made braised-veal ravioli with spiced-rum chasseur sauce; and beef-tenderloin medallions topped with Hudson Valley foie gras, Titanic seems poised to duke it out for customers with such established Warehouse District salons as Blue Point Grille, Johnny's Downtown, and XO.
This is the first restaurant for developer and Albanian native Sako Satka, and it has been in the works since October 2003. If Satka's schedule has proceeded according to plans, the restaurant should be serving lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday, by the time you read this.
Countdown complete . . . After months of construction delays, Hudson's newest fine-dining space, Downtown 140 (140 N. Main Street, 330-656-1294), opened on July 5 in lower-level space next to the Western Reserve School of Cooking. Elegant and intimate, with rich red-and-gold fabrics, exposed stone walls, and dark mahogany woodwork, the 58-seat restaurant oozes comfortable old-world charm.
Executive chef Shawn Monday's menu of contemporary American cuisine sounds pretty charming, too, with a collection of 16 "small plates" (asparagus tempura, house-cured wild-salmon pastrami, and cheese fondue made with R-Haven's goat cheese, for instance) and eight "not-so-small plates," including Niman Ranch pork tenderloin, prime strip steak with brioche bread pudding, and "Faith," the five-course, $50 tasting menu. The wine cellar holds more than 360 international options, including 50-some by the glass; in fact, the extensive wine menu has already earned Downtown 140 a nod from Wine Spectator magazine.
Monday, who grew up in the restaurant business, can lay claim to some pretty impressive experience, including stints as executive chef at the nearby Inn at Turner's Mill, as line cook at Doug Katz's Fire Food & Drink on Shaker Square, and as executive sous chef, under John Kolar, at Three Birds in Lakewood. Restaurant owner and wine connoisseur Kurt Nygaard is a Hudson resident and businessman; his wife, Cindy, owns Vignettes, a specialty retail store above the restaurant.
For now, Downtown 140 is open for dinner only, beginning at 5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Lunch service should be in place by autumn.