Prices have also become more approachable, with a menu tailored for business dining and repeat visits.
"Still, in some ways, we're a special-occasion restaurant, but we're becoming more and more the everyday place," says general manager Erich Steinbock, a native of Vienna.
In tune with the cityCentury is also a restaurant more in tune with its city. Witness the recently added bento box-style lunch called The Clevelander: corned beef, pastrami, spicy mustard and coleslaw on Jewish rye.
"We want to be Cleveland's hotel," says Steinbock. "We don't want to be someplace that comes from outside and brings everything in. We want to use the local flair."
"The more local that I am, the better I feel because I wanna support what's around. I wanna be part of the community," agrees chef Joseph Panarello, who, like Steinbock, joined the Ritz-Carlton Cleveland team last August. During the cold months, Panarello gets most of his produce from California, Florida, Chile and other points west and south.
But when Ohio warms up, he's already established contacts with local organic farmers and hothouse growers. As soon as he can in early spring, he'll start showcasing their products in such menu additions as a cherry-tomato salad with basil and goat cheese.
New, fun foodRather than continental, Century's menu is "new American," heavy on seafood and with a strong Asian influence that includes a sushi bar. The restaurant is meant to more closely connect the hotel to the heritage of the former Cleveland Union Terminal, now Tower City Center. Century derives its name and ambiance from the New York Central's flagship "20th Century Limited," the most luxurious American passenger train from the golden age of railroading.
|Pick up the March 2001 issue of Cleveland Magazine to read Michael von Glahn's full review of Centruy.|
One of the best examples of that is the Century lunch boxes ($13), each a four- or five-compartment polished box containing soup, one or two salads, an entree and a small dessert. Steinbock notes that the bento-box idea lends itself well to business lunches because the entire meal arrives at once, so an intense discussion won't be interrupted by the arrival of later courses, a server taking dessert orders and so on.
The boxes are popular enough that Century now offers five different varieties, where once there were only two. In addition to The Clevelander, there is a vegetarian box, an Asian box with soy-glazed chicken or salmon, a sandwich box (smoked chicken, avocado and provolone on pretzel bread) and a Century box that changes daily.
Chef's tableFor $120 per person, Century offers the ultimate in personal service at a chef's table right in the kitchen. Panarello will prepare five to seven courses, each accompanied by a glass of wine, for two to four people, cooking up items not from the menu, but rather based on the customers' stated preferences, such as a recent request for bison which Panarello obtained from an Ohio rancher. "I cook for them like they were my family," he says.
His best-seller on the regular menu is crab-crusted Chilean sea bass on a bed of perfectly textured mashed potatoes in red-pepper reduction sauce ($29). The fish was topped by some of the best asparagus we've had in a long time rather amazing considering our visit took place in midwinter. Overall, it was a lovely entree, executed flawlessly. Also, the portion was just right for an appetite primed by the Century Caesar salad ($8) which, unlike the traditional Caesar, contained radicchio and other greens rather than just the traditional Romaine.
The daily fish inspiration is also a top seller, as is the Atlantic salmon with spinach and saffron orzo ($20). Panarello says the grilled lamb chops ($27) currently sided by spaghetti squash, carrots and herb oil "pretty much outpowers our meat department."
Restaurants look better when . . .In addition to ever-changing "chef's inspiration" dishes, the menu changes two to three times a season, so you will always find something new at Century. It's a concept with a future, judging by the fact that Ritz-Carlton has just opened a similar restaurant at its hotel in Marina del Rey, Calif., and another is in development in Tysons Corner, Va. bento boxes and all.
"We want to get away from the formal empty restaurant," says Steinbock. "Restaurants, no matter how well you design them, always look much better when there's people in them."
Judging by the diners on hand during our visits, Century is looking mighty good.