I’ve never written a restaurant review before, mostly because I have never wanted to write a restaurant review before. There are plenty of restaurants that I’ve been impressed with, it’s not that I’ve been generally under-whelmed. It’s just, I think, that I’ve never been as impressed with how connected a restaurant is to the community as AMP 150 before. And despite the name of this blog, I assure you I can have a much more distinguished palate than fast food. And sometimes I eat at a table with friends.
The restaurant is located inside the Airport Marriot on West 150th Street in Cleveland. As a life long Clevelander that seemed like a very strange place to put a restaurant. I hadn’t ever really thought about traveling to a roadside hotel because the food was so tasty. But then I started thinking about some of the other restaurants I’ve been to that are in hotels and realized that it wasn’t it’s location inside a hotel that was strange to me, but rather the location of the hotel. If it had been downtown I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash, but West 150th Street seemed a bit out of the way. Of course, it’s by no means an outrageous distance, and I had faith that other qualities would make up for its lack of convenience to me. The staff is polite and efficient, finding the right balance between being on hand and being annoying (it’s a fine line, really). My two best friends had been there once before me. J had won a free entrée over Twitter and went to collect; afterwards he wrote his review which you can find on his blog here:http://ftcs.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/amp-150-amps-up-the-taste/. Bitches that they are, they didn’t invite me. But, presumably, because of this on both outings Chef Ellis Cooley came over to our table to say hello, which really impressed me. It’s clear that he really cares about his clientele and wants to engage with the public. He also uses social media properly. More and more businesses are creating social media sites and writing updates for their potential clients so they know about what’s going on at the place. Some are better than others. I am aware of AMP 150 on Facebook, but mostly through Twitter.
People misunderstand Twitter. They think that it’s full of people who say completely banal things about stuff that no one could possibly care about. And I am sure that that does happen, not everyone can be completely entertaining all the time, but there is so much more than the naysayers give credit for.
I admit, I was reluctant to join Twitter as well. It seemed so silly, not to mention slightly egotistical to think that anyone would care what was on my mind twenty-four hours a day. But then I realized the potential. It’s a great way to know what’s going on around town. If I am ever in need for a little pick me up it’s really easy to know what’s going on that night because, inevitably, people are tweeting about it. It’s a great way to hear about deals, cheap things going on or coupons to take advantage of, plus tons of contests for free stuff people or businesses are giving away. Also, what I like about Twitter is that it gives everyone a voice. A small voice that’s easily lost in the twisted hallways of the internet, but a voice none the less. And even if no one is listening, it’s nice to believe they are. And, at least in my experience, they are. Finally, there is the advantage for businesses. I first heard of AMP 150 when Chef Cooley started following me on Twitter. I assume that at some point I would have heard of the restaurant, as it’s pretty much been universally lauded, but sooner is always better and the first time I got a chance to go I had been anticipating it for quite some time.
The first time I had the chicken paillard sandwich; a grilled breast with greens, brie cheese, and white truffle oil. I had never really thought that there could be something so impressive about a chicken sandwich, but I was wrong. The chicken was juicy and grilled to perfection, and the truffle oil complimented it well. I’ve always loved brie, and its distinctive taste brought out the other ingredients. I’m not a fan of greens on my sandwiches. I don’t like them to crunch, and the iceberg lettuce that I’m often handed doesn’t do much to change my mind. Still, I elected to leave on the greens of this sandwich because I wanted to get the full effect of what the chef had in mind. I’m glad I did, because these were wilted just enough to only add to the sandwich. Adding taste, that is, not crunch. To go with the sandwich I got the sea salt fries. They’re pretty basic fries. Very fresh, cut in thick squares and fried just enough to cause a slight crunch with soft potato between. They were served with ketchup (which I am NOT a fan of… unless he’s wearing glasses and running the Hot Dog Derby at an Indians game) and a lemon aioli sauce. Now, let me say right here; I love sauces. Mustards, mayonnaise, tartar, hollandaise, béarnaise, chimichurri, habanero, you name it. I also love lemon flavored anything, so a lemon aioli can really make a side of fries.
On that same trip K had lamb chili. I’m not a fan of chili. At all. But, I am a fan of lamb, so I gave it a try. Lamb, done well, is tender and flavorful, and I was a little afraid that the chili spices would tone it down a bit. No. Actually, if it’s chili you really want then I wouldn’t recommend this. If, however, you’re looking for a tastespolsion of tender lamb, spices, and fava beans, then this is the one for you. It’s advertised as a small meal, and that’s what it would be alone. K teamed it with fries and that was plenty. She was sad to see that it wasn’t still on the menu when we went back, but it’s sort of an early Spring meal, I’m sure it’ll will come back round again. If we ask enough.
My second visit was in conjunction with the recent Thirsty Dog Beer Tasting. I’m not a fan of beer. I wish that I was the sort of girl that could swig beer and shoot whiskey, but I’m just not. I like my pink girly drinks. So the signature cocktails on the menu treated me just fine with something to fit pretty much any distinguished palate. I got a margarita with cilantro in it. It was strong, but good, and while whiskey has always been beyond me, I can shoot tequila like a pro.
This time I got chicken wings. I wanted something small and they seemed like they would fit the bill. Like the chicken paillard, I didn’t really think there was a way to make chicken wings any more excellent than they already are. And believe me, I’m a big fan of chicken wings. These were fantastic. They didn’t feel fatty like so many wings do, and were crispy on the outside while still being tender on the inside. They were flavored with Asian spices. AMP 150 offers two different kinds of wings; the other is served with a peanut sauce and homemade kimchee. I couldn’t decide between the two. Ah, maybe next time. K got the Cuban sandwich, which was also delicious.
The reason I wanted to eat light was, of course, dessert. The first visit left me full to the brim and ready to explode. I didn’t want to repeat this performance, but I knew we needed dessert. On the first trip out Chef Cooley visited our table to say hello, presumably since J had written his review, and sent out three decadent deserts. There was a fried apple pie a la mode, a rich chocolate cake teamed with double chocolate ice cream (for the chocolate lover, one would assume), and a lemongrass crème bruléeaccompanied by a lemon sorbet. All three were incredible, but I have to give special mention to the crème brulée. My two favorite desserts are crème brulée and bread pudding. I have had a lot of crème brulée. I’ve had crème brulée on more than one continent. Previously, my favorite was a raspberry variety I had in Detroit, but this was way better. It was creamy, but not too creamy (that was Mortons’ problem), the bruléebits were perfectly torched, the lemongrass gave an extra kick and the lemon sorbet was the perfect compliment. I didn’t think it could get better than this.
Then I had the panna cotta. I’d never had panna cotta of any sort before. I’m not a huge fan of creamy gelatin things so I sort of doubt I would have picked it out on the menu. But K had it the first time they were there and hadn’t stopped going on about it for months, so I was eager to try it. I will never look at dessert the same again. All other deserts will pale in comparison. It’s a milk chocolate variety with frothy cream topping and an amazingly delicate layer of caramel. I believe hazelnuts may have been involved. They are the sort of ingredients that are all good alone, but together combine to form the sort of super flavor that leaves you dreaming at night about when you can have more. Like Häagen-Dazs Five lemon ice cream. Except better. Which I never thought I’d say.
So, in case you haven’t realized; this is a good review. My expectations, when I went to this place, were high, but they weren’t only met they were exceeded by spades. Between the simple, yet fresh and well made food, the friendly atmosphere and the personable and involved role played by the chef there’s really not much bad to say about it. The only thing I don’t like about AMP 150 is that it’s not closer to me. The airport Marriot may be a bit of a trek for some people, but its well worth the trip.