Amp 150 is probably the most talked about new restaurant in Cleveland these days. We headed over there once as a family and once during my mom’s layover at Hopkins, both times with a $25 restaurant.com coupon purchased for $2 (the promo code as of this writing is “summer”). We definitely enjoyed both food and drink.

The strangest element of Amp 150 is its being located in the lobby of a hotel. This isn’t something you forget as the restaurant is really open and the front desk and hotel entrance are always visible. This isn’t entirely a bad thing, though, as it allows for a casual feel not often found in fine dining.

For appetizers we tried the bread, house made potato chips and sweet soy & peanut wings. The bread was okay–soft white and wheat–but the butters (especially the honey) were excellent.

The chips were quite good, clearly homemade but not greasy or soft. They came with a vinegar aioli and Dortmunder aioli. The vinegar aioli was great, just like fresh fries and vinegar as the waitress pointed out. I was less impressed with the Dortmunder. Beer cheese is more common but also more appealing. The chips didn’t seem fresh fried, but then again that visit was at 3pm.

The wings were very good and extremely tender. The waitress told us that they brine them. The soy / peanut flavors were a little milder than I would have liked, but the spicy kimchi on the side was outstanding. The prevalence of sweetness and ginger made me wonder if it was David Chang’s recipe, which is currently fermenting in my fridge (blog post to follow).

The drink menu at Amp 150 is also impressive. During one visit I had a draft Thirsty Dog Old Leghumper Porter, which was very good, and a Great Lakes Erie Monster, a truly outstanding beer. Keeping not only the food but the draft beer local shows some impressive locavore dedication from Chef Ellis Cooley. The next visit I ordered the Cucumber-mint Martini. This was perhaps the most impressive “dish” flavor-wise during either visit. The drink was simultaneously bracing and intensely flavorful with unmistakable sharp mint and cool cucumber with just the tiniest bit of simple syrup to (almost) tame the alcohol. Amp 150 clearly seems to be vying for a spot in Cleveland’s “cocktail renaissance.” Next time I might order the Ginger Cilantro Margarita.

Our waitress recommended the chopped salad based on both flavor and use of local vegetables, so I thought I’d give it a try. The vegetables were clearly fresh and dressed nicely with the white balsamic vinaigrette. The olives were an especially good, pungent element, although the strong flavors of the salad almost needed some protein (e.g. the optional chicken or steak) for balance.

We also ordered some small plates, both of which were excellent. The apricot gnocchi were wonderful, with apricot flavors both in the gnocchi dough and and sauce. They weren’t overly sweet, and the Parmesan and fresh asparagus were good counterpoints. Even Jonathan liked this.

My mom ordered the scallops for her entrée. These were also excellent, and the pea and coconut purée perfectly echoed the greens on the side. Our only complaint was that the pickled ramps were in short supply, overshadowed by the arugula (which was quite good).

I ordered the grilled walleye with crème fraîche beets. While a simple recipe, it’s flawlessly executed using excellent ingredients. The sear of the cast iron pan nicely flavored the fish, and the sourness of the crème fraîche was a good counterbalance to the sweet beets.

The one “dud” during our visits was Sarah’s Chicken Paillard Sandwich. The roasted tomatoes and balsamic aioli on the menu would seem to assure a savory, moist sandwich, but the whole thing was dry, chewy and almost flavorless. The aioli was in short supply, and the chicken was overcooked. Sarah also didn’t realize it didn’t come with a side and would have appreciated being asked if she wanted one.

Amp 150 also has a children’s menu, and Jonathan was very happy with it. During one visit he had the mac ‘n cheese and the next he had the pizza. The mac ‘n cheese used tortiglioni cooked just past al dente with a generous (but not excessive) amount of cheese. The pizza was a version of institutional-style (a crust type familiar to kids) with crazy amounts of cheese and yummy pepperoni. Each dish includes two sides, which is odd considering the portions of all the kids’ entrées and sides are huge. Jonathan had no hope of eating a 10″ pizza, a bowl of fruit and a plate of fries. We were happy to help him with the pizza, though.

On the whole we really enjoyed our visits to Amp 150. It didn’t strike us as quite being in the same league at this point as Fire, Crop Bistro or the Flying Fig (all known for using local ingredients), but it’s also a bit cheaper. And you definitely won’t find better food or drink for a few miles in any direction.

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  • http://clevelandrocksclevelandeats.com Jill

    It’s a shame the chicken sandwich wasn’t up to par during your visit. It is easily one of my favorite things on the menu. Paired with the velvet mushroom soup it is comfort. If you go again definitely save room for dessert. The milk chocolate pana cotta and the Elvis brownie are to die for!

  • http://heightseats.com Ben

    @Jill: We probably won’t try the chicken sandwich again as the one we got bordered on inedible, which was quite surprising considering the overall attention to detail otherwise. Then again, especially for a restaurant only open since fall, they had a high average with us: five excellent dishes, two decent ones and one miss, plus reasonable prices and a good kid’s menu. We almost ordered the panna cotta and definitely will next time.

  • http://bitebuff.blogspot.com/ Bite Buff

    Very funny that we missed you by just a few hours! The apricot gnocchi really was somethng unique and delicious. I know that I’ll be back to try more of Cooley’s creations.

  • http://heightseats.com Ben

    @Katrina: We would have gone to the meetup except that Sarah was working that night and the window for my mom’s layover was 3-5pm. For the first five minutes our post was up I used the gnocchi picture as it was our favorite dish, but when I surfed over to your post I figured we shouldn’t have almost identical title images.

  • http://www.bridgetcallahan.com Bridget Callahan

    I have to agree with Jill. The chicken sandwich when I had it was great. But it’s the drinks that really keep me coming back. And the fact it is spitting distance from my house. Which considering the other option around me (irish bars and paninis) is pretty awesome. I mean, I don’t mind driving ten minutes to Ohio City, but I certainly like not having to all the time.

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