With my sister returning to Cleveland for her final year of school we'd spent a long day moving boxed and arranging furniture prior to our 5:15 Saturday reservations. Early? Yes. Strangely so considering the hostess on the phone told me this was "the only time available," yet the restaurant was nowhere near full when we completed the meal at 7:20. On entering the restaurant I will admit I was duly impressed with the dark wooks, hypnotic acrylic bar, beautiful chandaliers, and wide open (Momofuku style) kitchen. Admittedlly the place was VERY dark, but eating so early provided plenty of ambient outdoor light through the gorgeous front windows looking out onto the interesting 4th Street district of Cleveland.
With regard to service, there were hits and misses. Our server, a cocky fella named Tony K, definitely knew the notably short menu well and sold each dish adequately, but vastly overstepped his role when I attempted to place an appetizer order for the group (myself and 3 ladies) and he bluntly told me "we'll let the ladies order first." This move essentially led to ordering mains before appetizers and the table accidentally forgetting to order a couple side dishes until after appetizers were consumed. Awkward. Water was filled quickly and repeatedly, but the table bread was anemic and a total afterthought....white bread, plain butter, five 3/4" thick slices from what I presume was a baguette. Yawn.
Watching the kitchen was actually quite interesting and a novelty here in Ohio. Each dish was constructed via chefs, sous-chefs, and servers in a stylish and fresh manner, yet the kitchen was very quiet and pristine, much like Momofuku in NYC.
Desserts.....desserts were underwhelming, undersized, and overpriced. $9/ea and incredibly small in portions, none were truly mindblowing although one was certainly unique and another had promise that fell far short.
At $58/pp after tax and tip without any drinks, this certainly wasn't a "break the bank" kind of meal, but I've spent less at "Iron Chef" restaurants (Babbo, Otto, Mesa Grill) and been vastly more impressed. I've also spent less at M@Miranova, Rosendales, Rigsby's, Lindey's, and Worthington Inn in Columbus and been vastly more impressed. All told, Michael Symon does two things extremely well - Pork and Polenta - while doing a number of other things adequately, but at far too high a pricepoint for the quality or experience. Sure, he has a great TV personality that many chefs may lack, but for such a celebrated name/restaurant, Lola likely isn't in my top 10 for Ohio let alone all time. More attention to detail, more intuitive servers, more appropriate pricing.....Lola just isn't enough.