Location: Cleveland, Ohio City
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The Right Touch
The Right Touch
Chef Fisher Is A Perfect Match For Touch Supper Club
By Douglas Trattner
Duck egg roll - Rocks a fruity blueberry sauce. To rip off Oscar Wilde: Some chefs cause happiness wherever they go; other chefs whenever they go. Jeff Fisher is a chef who would fall in the former category.
Over the past five years I've had the pleasure of following Fisher from restaurant to restaurant. Each of them benefited from his arrival; most suffered from his eventual departure. His work at Calabria made that Italian restaurant a bright spot in a dim Flats landscape. Fisher moved on to Sushi Rock in Beachwood, where he was responsible for injecting the non-sushi portion of the menu with substance and style. His culinary handiwork at Gusto, and then Lago, rewarded diners with ambitious, hand-crafted Italian fare. So when Fisher turned up at Touch Supper Club, a bar regarded more for its music than food, I had no reservations about scheduling a visit.
With an out-of-the-way locale and often mysterious milieu, Touch has to work twice as hard as Main Street restaurants to draw business. A couple of blocks off the main Ohio City drag, and bearing a fa�ade that at the best of times looks as if it has been padlocked by the feds, Touch is not the most welcoming of establishments. That is, until you cross the threshold. Like a lonesome aunt, Touch showers guests with attention. Diners are encouraged to sit anywhere, and servers are quick with water and a wine list. Bar jockeys are treated to gregarious bartenders and service that rivals table seating.
A true supper club, Touch offers dining upstairs and entertainment on the lower level, typically starting late in the evening. But the fun isn't limited to the basement. Engaging house music emanates from a professional DJ booth at the rear of the bar, and an ever-changing gallery of avant-garde artwork garnishes the walls.
Despite working in a tiny kitchen, Fisher is producing food with huge flavor. His made-from-scratch work ethic is evident throughout the tightly constructed menu. He waits until the last minute to fill and fry his duck egg rolls ($11), producing a perfectly brittle-crisp crust. Bursting with lush shredded duck meat and paired with a fruity blueberry sauce, the roll rocks.
We go one-for-two with an order of calamari ($9), a starter that pairs fried calamari with a sauted version. Pale, crisp and delicate, the deep-fried squid is delicious, more so when dragged through the garlic aioli. But having stewed for too long in its spicy Cajun broth, the saut�ed presentation succumbs to rubber-band disease.
The only thing that could improve Fisher's warm mushroom salad ($7) is a more diverse selection of fungi. Scooped into cool, crisp lettuce cups, warm sliced mushrooms, plump sun-dried cranberries and goat cheese mingle in a creamy parmesan dressing. It may be crass, but I say pick up the lettuce cups and eat them like tacos. Dusted with herbs, sprinkled with cheese, and drizzled with olive oil, the grilled flatbread is like a beautiful naked pizza. At $4 a pop, the thinly sliced bread should accompany every meal, especially saucy ones.
With his entre selections, Fisher takes familiar items and figures out ways to boost their flavor profile. His grilled cheese sandwich ($9) might be the best in town, oozing with fragrant gruyere and bulked up with thin-sliced Italian salami. The buttery griddled sandwich is paired with tomato bisque which, while tasty, is too thick to make a good dipping soup. (And isn't that the point?)
On one night, grilled hangar steak ($16) is dressed with a rich sake-soy reduction, on another it is topped with an aromatic wild ramp sauce. The portions are huge, the meat cooked perfectly, and the sides seasonal and appropriate. I'd prefer less salt on my steak, but the situation is far from ruinous.
For a messy treat, go straight for the burger ($ . Topped with crisp ham, lettuce, tomato, aioli and a runny fried egg, this is a burger that explodes on contact. Worthy of the $8 on their own, Touch's slender twice-fried frites are nearly impossible to stop eating. They also are available as an appetizer or side ($5), where they are accompanied by homemade ketchup and aioli.
Touch has real pizza ovens, and when combined with hand-tossed dough and top-notch ingredients, as they are here, the result is a damn fine pie. Five varieties are available ($10-$13), with arrangements that include caramelized onion, bacon and ricotta and smoked mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and coppa.
Based on my past and present Jeff Fisher experiences, I'll continue to follow him around town. But if I were Touch owner Rob Ivanov, I'd do my best to prevent him from ever leaving.
Touch Supper Club: 2710 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, 216.631.5200, touchohiocity.com. Kitchen Hours: 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Wed.-Sat.; 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Fri.
Online Supper Reservations Here
Cleveland: Pay for what you get.