Amuse-bouche, mouth amuser in French, celebrates appetizers’ playfulness to the palette. Here in The 330, these supper starters delight restaurant diners with unexpected ingredients, surprise spins and simply fun fare. We zeroed in on the best of the bunch —downhome favorites with a twist and one-of-a-kind culinary creations — and present five of the area’s top
taste bud teasers.
Blue Canyon Kitchen and Tavern
8960 Wilcox Dr, Twinsburg
Splashes of pink, red, yellow and green pop from a colorful salad that salutes summer. Blue Canyon Kitchen and Tavern’s tomato-watermelon salad embodies a cool and creative blend of seasonal picks to nibble under the sun.
Executive chef Dan Shelnutt starts the dish with feta mousse spread over a chilled plate. Melted feta combined with heavy cream and gelatin and folded into whipped heavy cream create a creamy and subtly salty layer on which Shelnutt piles halved heirloom cherry tomatoes, bite-size pieces of seedless watermelon and roasted golden beets. Roasted before chilled, the beets lend sweet and earthy accents to the salad. Arugula punctuates the succulent bouquet with a peppery undertone.
As Shelnutt tosses the fresh heap with splashes of broken sherry vinaigrette, salt and pepper, and sprinkles toasted coriander on top, he describes these finishing touches. “The dressing is light and the seasonings are mild so they don’t overpower the dish’s individual flavors, which we want to come out,” he says. “What you have in the end is a very fresh, pretty and vibrant salad that has received nothing but good comments.”
Blue Canyon’s lushly landscaped tiered outdoor patio provides the perfect perch for dining alfresco on this fresh fare.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Grilled Asparagus
Edgar’s Restaurant, overlooking J. E. Good Park Golf Course
530 Nome Ave, Akron
Blanched in a bubbling pot of hot kosher-salt water then plunged into ice water, brilliant green asparagus spears emerge tender, yet crisp, and ready to be dressed with paper-thin prosciutto slices.
As Edgar’s Restaurant chef and owner Glenn Gillespie prepares the prosciutto-wrapped grilled asparagus — a customer favorite he created about four years ago — he discusses the details of the dry-cured ham he uses in this dish. “It’s the finest prosciutto — from Parma, Italy — nutty, salty and rich. It melts in your mouth,” he says.
Gillespie wraps a delicate sliver of proscuitto around each asparagus spear, beginning under the crown. He drizzles a batch of five with extra virgin olive oil, adds a dash of salt and a bold dose of freshly ground black pepper, and pops and turns them under the grill where the prosciutto crisps ever-so-slightly and the asparagus diffuses its grassy flavor.
Atop the wrapped spears he sprinkles candied walnuts, tossed in extra virgin olive oil, coated with sugar and toasted in the oven during their preparation. Another sprinkling — this time, of crumbled fresh goat cheese — crowns this appealing appetizer, accompanied with a lemon wedge for a burst of brightness.
“It excites the taste buds with its spicy, sweet, grassy, salty and citrus flavors,” says Gillespie, who suggests Mer Soleil Silver unoaked chardonnay, with its clean taste that doesn’t overpower the asparagus, as a wine pairing.
57 E. Market
Lump and claw crab meat blended with diced onion, scallions, red and yellow bell pepper, chopped garlic, house-made mayonnaise, eggs, panko breadcrumbs and spices, such as paprika and cumin, create a savory mixture ready for heat.
Crave executive chef and owner Aaron Hervey molds these traditional crab cake ingredients into two 2-ounce patties, dusts them with panko crumbs, pan fries them in extra virgin olive oil and finishes them off in the oven.
“They’ve been on our menu from the start,” says Hervey, who will celebrate Crave’s 10th anniversary in September. “They’re one of the five or six menu items our customers look for and we just can’t touch.”
Hervey accompanies this house favorite with a summer slaw of shaved sweet green papaya and thinly sliced scallions combined with agave nectar. Paper-thin garlic shavings pickled in rice wine vinegar, water, sugar and kosher salt embellish the cakes with a subtly spicy counterpoint to the sweet slaw. Hervey presents the dish with aji Amarillo sauce that begins with seeded and destemmed dried chilies simmered to softness, pureed and folded into a rustic French rouille thickened with breadcrumbs. He adds fresh mayo made with egg yolks, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and garlic to bring richness to the smoky sauce with a tangy touch. Deep-fried cellophane noodles dusted with salt, cracked black pepper and Chinese five-spice powder top off the cakes with a crispy accent.
“We always build contrasts in textures and flavors into every dish,” Hervey says, noting that he and his culinary staff spend long hours, weeks and sometimes months concocting combinations that elevate every dish and conjure cravings.
“The name Crave embodies what we do and what we want people to have when they walk in the door with an expectation for great food,” he says.
Kasai Japanese Restaurant
295 Weatherstone Drive, Unit E, Wadsworth and 3875 Massillion Road, Suite 300, Green
Yellowtail delivered fresh from Japan sets the stage for the jalapeño hamachi at Kasai Japanese Restaurant in Wadsworth and Green.
This delicacy begins with a bedding of inari, or tofu skins, marinated in sweet soy sauce. Kasai owner and chef Leon Liang places four carefully and painstakingly cut slices of hamachi — Japanese amberjack — atop the inari spread. While casual onlookers might see the preparation of hamachi as an art, Liang describes it as a discipline.
“It takes self-discipline and attention to every step. Every cut of the fish is clean and the knife sharpened every time. Without attention to detail, it’s hard to produce a fine result. Sushi takes hard work, energy and time,” Liang says.
Liang places thinly sliced fresh jalapeño on top of the filets and dresses the dish with a lemon soy ponzu sauce. He then adds a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds, thinly sliced green onion and smelt fish roe to finish off this fresh fare for an intermingling of flavors.
The sweetness of the tofu, the slightly tangy ponzu sauce and the spiciness of the pepper accent the richness of the yellowtail and creates a smooth overall dish, says Liang, who brings his expertise as a seasoned sushi chef to each plate he prepares.
A local culinary hot spot, literally, Kasai is sizzling with a traditional Japanese charcoal rabatayaki grill at its Green location. Here, patrons enjoy bar-side grilled Japanese cuisine at its finest.
“We’re building in popularity, presenting cooking styles so different from any other in the area and offering customers something truly special,” Liang says.
Lobster Deviled Eggs
Ken Stewart's Lodge
1911 N. Cleveland Massillon Road, Akron
Rustic yet elegant, Ken Stewart’s Lodge’s lobster deviled eggs behoove the restaurant’s ambiance, where white linen table clothes meet logwood walls. Nestled in a white porcelain egg tray, four egg halves brim with a decadent filling that casts lobster in the star role of a classic dish with a twist.
Executive chef and general manager Adam Boone begins his creation by squeezing fresh lemon juice over a mound of lobster claw and knuckle meat. He then adds mayonnaise, a potpourri of finely diced celery, carrots, red onion and a shower of chopped tarragon, kosher salt, freshly ground white pepper and Old Bay Seasoning. Boone folds together the creamy mixture, sweet and rich with lobster meat, flecked with crunchy vegetable morsels and spiced subtly. After he spoons the lush filling into boiled, chilled, halved and hollowed free-range eggs, Boone tops each with a wispy fennel frond.
“I wanted to offer something different, something I haven’t seen in other restaurants,” says Boone, who introduced the dish to the restaurant’s menu two years ago. “It’s one of our top-selling appetizers. It makes us unique.”
Served with balsamic glaze and sriracha dips, these deviled delights appeal to diners with a penchant for a sweet or spicy-hot accent – or both. Paired with a buttery chardonnay or champagne, the light, two-bite treats leave enough room for dinner.
Boone describes the appetizer as a fitting first entrée to the experience that defines Ken Stewart’s Lodge, where a wood-burning fireplace on the outdoor patio and five more inside create just the right atmosphere for special occasions and romance.
“I’ve seen a lot of marriage proposals here,” says Boone, adding that it’s not unusual for him to add a customer-requested ingredient to a dish, perhaps, even an engagement ring.