Sophisticated food in surprisingly creative flavor combinations, paired with a comfortable, casual-chic environment, make for a great date night at 111 Bistro.
My husband and I sat in a comfortable back booth Friday evening in this spacious Montville Township restaurant for dinner, where low lighting creates a romantic atmosphere. Some of our foodie friends have praised this chef-owned restaurant over the years, and we were excited to try it.
Chef Anthony Scolaro and his business partner, Meghan O’Donnell, opened the restaurant in 2014, changing the menu with the seasons. His goal is to expand diners’ palates by pushing the boundaries of what they might be comfortable with, introducing ingredients you might not see on anyone else’s menu in the area.
Scolaro, 36, who grew up with the delicious, traditional Italian cuisine of his grandfather in North Royalton, likes to take traditional dishes and elevate them. For example, you won’t find veal, pork or beef in his bolognese dish. Instead, he makes it with lamb, topped with fresh mint instead of basil.
The chef created his spring menu two weeks before our visit. During the downturn in business from the pandemic, he’s streamlined his entrees to 10 choices, down from twice as many. The effect, he said, is a more efficient operation and the ability to change his smaller menu more frequently.
The most popular dishes at 111 Bistro include the pork chop with chili brine, corn-poblano farrotto, hot honey-cilantro chimichurri and queso fresco; Wagyu coulotte steak, the American version of Kobe beef; and the stuffed pepper starter with Poblano, chorizo, mole, queso fresco and cilantro.
This upscale restaurant’s prices are reasonable, with 10 starters ranging from $6 to $15 and entrees ranging from $18 to $32.
111 Bistro chef Anthony Scolaro competed with Food Network’s Bobby Flay
Our attentive waitress had some fun and interesting anecdotes, including describing Scolaro as a “rock star” chef who competed on Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay” in 2019. Scolaro’s staff is so devoted that servers even lovingly grow unusual vegetables at their homes for him to work with and are excited when the chef features them on the menu.
We learned about a vegetable we hadn’t heard of before that goes into the house-made kimchi: the daikon radish, a white radish that’s shaped like a carrot.
My husband, Steve, and I started out with some amazing appetizers, both of which featured the kimchi. Mine was the ahi tuna with Napa cabbage kimchi, wasabi mayo, ginger soy vinaigrette and chinese black rice.
The kimchi, with its ginger soy vinaigrette, created a delightfully zingy explosion as an accompaniment to the rare tuna, ringed by wasabi mayo. The small Chinese black rice also added a subtle crunch.
To say that Scolaro devotes a lot of time and attention to his culinary creations would be an understatement: He ferments his kimchi for a whole month, “turning” it periodically with gloved hands.
Steve’s edamame pot sticker appetizer was refreshing, also paired with the kimchi and a zestful wasabi that I could feel in my nose.
Both of us had tried only jarred kimchi in our much younger days, and we were not fans. But that all changed Friday night with Scolaro’s intensely flavored, delicious kimchi.
Mission accomplished with the Clawsons as far as expanding our palates.
We each chose a Bell’s Brewery craft beer, which paired nicely with our Asian fusion appetizers.
Next, I dined on ricotta ramp gnocchi ($24), which featured pillowy-looking green gnocchi accompanied by melt-in-your-mouth, bite-sized pieces of duck confit. The dish was served in a decadently rich demi-glace sauce.
In contrast, the indigenous ramp onion leaves, which Scolaro purees to mix with the ricotta, turn the whole gnocchi green and give the entree a bite of spring. Scolaro, who graduated from the University of Akron with a culinary arts degree and a business degree, uses part semolina, part all-purpose flour for his gnocchi.
My dinner was so rich with the amazing French demi-glace, I brought some home in a doggie bag for lunch the next day.
Steve also dined on duck, a breast ($25) served with soba noodles, watercress and citrus, snap peas, blackberry soy sauce and sesame seeds. He declared his dish delicious.
After dinner, I decided to get a glass of port as dessert — a rare treat for me. I chose the lovely Penfolds Club Tawny Port ($7), which was the perfect, raisiny ending to a vivacious dinner.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or [email protected].
Place: 111 Bistro
Address: 2736 Medina Road, Montville Township
Hours: 4 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 4 to 10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Social media: @111 Bistro
Online ordering: oneelevenbistro.takeout7.com