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CLEVELAND, OH. – Chef opens restaurant and sets off retail growth. Chef achieves national recognition and television contract. Restaurant booms. Chef gets even bigger and restaurant gets left behind.

It’s not hard to imagine such a scenario. The first three statements are true of Cleveland’s Michael Symon. But now that he’s skyrocketed to food fame, his iconic Lola’s restaurant is just as good as ever. As a matter of fact, Symon now lives in New York at least partially because of his weekday talk/food show The Chew.

My job requires a bit of travel in fall and that brings our travel group to Cleveland where we usually enjoy Lola’s incredible dishes. Friday night was my fourth visit and it might have been the best.

It’s the combinations and attention to detail along with creativity that makes Lola’s and such restaurants so enjoyable. I had a wonderful ginger carrot soup with orange zest and bits of lobster. My dinner partners enjoyed oysters and shrimp.

The main attraction was lamb loin with cipollini onions and fingerling potatoes. It was cooked perfectly medium rare, juicy and flavorful. Those wonderful little onions made the dish. The other guys raved about their hanger steak and Symon’s signature pork chops.

Dessert was just as tasty as it was beautiful. The presentation at Lola’s is good as any modern American cuisine spot. I enjoyed a brown sugar panna cota while the others had a Lola’s smore, carrot cake, and tiramasu.

A glass of Drouhin Chard was great with my soup. For dinner, we shared a bottle of Spanish Crianza. The bottle was $52, or about 100 percent markup. The Lola wine list is extensive with a wonderful selection of very high end wines. But it also features really good selections in the $40-$60 range.

There are other wonderful restaurants in the city. But Lola’s is the standard in Cleveland.

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