When Michael Symon’s away — like, say, opening a Mabel’s BBQ in Las Vegas — executive chef Jacob Micale can play, holding down the fort at Lola, Symon’s stalwart, chic bistro in the CLE.
Micale started in 2009 as an hourly prep cook with no formal culinary training and learned almost everything he knows from Symon and others at Lola. Now, he’s the one in charge of whipping up the identifiable-but-imaginative dishes for which the restaurant is known, giving diners a chance to feel comfortable with curiosity.
Take, for example, one of Lola’s storied best-sellers, the beef cheek pierogi ($15), which is no run-of-the-mill appetizer. Made with Kansas braised beef cheeks and a rich, mushroom-veal demi-glace that takes three days to finish, it’s been on the menu since day one — and will probably never come off. “[That dish] is something Michael holds close to him,” Micale says.
There’s also the playfully named fish and chips ($17), a raw tuna dish served with fingerling potato chips, and the veal sweetbreads ($18), crisped to chicken-nugget-like perfection and served with skordalia, a garlicky potato puree. One of Micale’s newest dishes is a take on a recognizable fan favorite, a lamb T-bone ($35). This one is topped with less common elements, such as a house-made chermoula (a spiced Moroccan relish) and a citrus yogurt.
As the ingredients and techniques continue to be as elevated as we’d expect, Micale succeeds at the Midwestern fine dining Symon perfected.
“I’m not trying to put foam and broth in front of you,” Micale says. “It’s very straightforward food. It needs to be. It’s Cleveland.”
2058 E. Fourth St., Cleveland, 216-621-5652, lolabistro.com