Despite world-class culinary talent, impeccable service and posh surroundings, Muse has always struggled to attract diners who were not sleeping at the Cleveland Ritz-Carlton. Impediments like pricey valet parking, a sixth-floor address and a conservative menu – not to mention the explosion of competition since Muse opened its doors a decade ago – prevented the eatery from becoming a truly local restaurant.
The goal of TURN Bar + Kitchen, which debuts Friday, Oct. 27, is to completely change perceptions about dining at the swanky hotel, unravelling decades-old stereotypes while attracting a fresh new clientele. As part of a multi-million-dollar hotel-wide renovation that has taken 18 months to complete, TURN is destined to become the social nucleus of the entire facility.
More than a straightforward concept and menu rebranding, TURN was built from the studs in and the ground up in the former home of the Lobby Lounge. Sharing the sixth floor with reception, the open-concept bar, restaurant and gathering spot is a complete 180-degree turn, pun intended, from what has long been the staid habitat of cucumber sandwiches and steaming pots of tea.
"The Lobby Lounge of the past was grandma's living room, with flowered chairs, dead ancestors on the walls, and naval battle paintings," explains executive chef Richard Arnoldi. "That's all gone. TURN is going to be very modern and sociable. I want this space to be a freestanding restaurant that just happens to be six floors higher than most typical restaurants."
Separated from reception by a glassy two-sided fireplace, and anchored at the other end by a dramatic, illuminated onyx bar, the contemporary space seats 90 guests at a combination of traditional and soft seating. Whereas Muse is tucked away in a windowless corner of the hotel, TURN boasts a wall of windows that better connects guests and visitors to diurnal rhythms. The space will evolve over the course the day to suit peoples' moods and needs, from coffee and breakfast in the morning, to a mid-afternoon snack, to a nightcap before turning in. Six different "mood periods" will be achieved through various combinations of lighting, music, food and drink.
Second only to the room, the menu is the biggest departure from the repast of Muse, which will become private event space once the new restaurant opens. In place of a Continental cuisine that took its cues from abroad, TURN trains its gaze on its surrounding neighbors and neighborhoods for inspiration.
"When I stand in the epicenter of this city, which I consider to be this building here, everywhere I turn, all the neighborhoods that are around, there's something new for me to taste," says the chef, with emphasis on turn. "I've lived all over the world and I think this is one of the most unique culinary scenes because there are such little blocks of ethnicity and cultural diversity that I can play off and bring into this space."
At a recent sneak peek, Arnoldi, along with chef de cuisine Josh Nahm, trotted out delicious examples of how the new menu better reflects the city around it. A bowl of Asiatown tom yum goong is an exotic brew of coconut-milk infused broth with shrimp and galangal. Tiny wheels of fiery bird chili are served on the side for the diner to dial up the heat. Moving from the Far East to the East Side, a comforting bowl of matzo bowl soup expands the cultural embrace.
Our Eastern European roots are represented by an uber-crisp and wafer-thin chicken schnitzel, kept on the light side thanks to a green salad with tender potatoes in a bright mustard vinaigrette. A dry-aged beef filet is gilded with a link of smoked sausage from Dohar Meats at the West Side Market. While the ahi tuna certainly isn't local, its preparation is intended to satisfy a Midwesterner's craving for meat. The sandwich roster is like a Lolly the Trolley ride through town, with pit stops for corned beef, falafel and Polish Boys, all of which get the Ritz treatment.
For dessert, there's Slavic Village paczki, Little Italy cassata cake and a nostalgia-inducing root beer float made with Mitchell's vanilla ice cream and served in a salted caramel pretzel rimmed glass.
At the bar, there's been a big push to bring the cocktail program into the modern era by looking backwards. Classics like daiquiris, punches and Sazeracs have been dusted off, reimagined and sharpened. Three interactive cocktails are sure to draw the attention of nearby tipplers. Both at the bar and at your table, Manhattans and Old Fashioneds are infused before one's very eyes with wood smoke in a theatrical feat of pyrotechnics. Local breweries are represented on the beer list.