We’d been meaning to visit the recently opened Rockefeller’s on Mayfield Road for a while but hesitated. Trying out a new sandwich place is one thing, but it’s a bit riskier when entrees are in the $20–25 range. Once they offered a restaurant.com coupon, though, we decided to take the plunge. We’re glad we did.
The restaurant space is impressive and is housed in a historic building built by John D. Rockefeller. But the atmosphere is not oppressively formal, and the establishment is perfectly set up for a relaxing meal. The tables are also spaced far apart, adding to the diner’s comfort.
The most important aspect here is the food, of course, and everything we had was really good.
We’re all meatball fans, especially Jonathan, so we started out with the lamb meatballs. They were some of the best we’ve ever had, subtly scented with Middle Eastern spices and accompanied by a tangy yogurt sauce and saffron couscous. Executive Chef Jill Vedaa worked at Lola, and elements of Greek cuisine come through here. Perhaps most impressive were the mint scented chopped onions on the end. Raw onions rarely elicit excitement, but these were somewhat tamed (soaking?) and nicely infused with sweet mint. I ate them by the spoonful. They also worked really well with everything else on the plate.
Rockefeller’s has an excellent bottled beer list heavy on innovative craft brews and Belgian imports. I started the meal with a Founder’s Red Rye IPA and concluded with a Unibroue Don Dieu, a Belgian strong ale. Both are outstanding, complex beers that paired really well with food. Their cocktails also look interesting and include their take on a Manhattan, a ginger margarita, and a gimlet. Considering the history of the building, an emphasis on the classics is not suprising.
I had the evening’s special for my entrée, a cornmeal encrusted walleye. The fish was mild and perfectly counterbalanced by crispy (but not greasy) cornmeal crust and earthy chickpea purée. The tomato and onion salad on the side was, like the mint scented onions, impressive in its use of everyday ingredients. This was an extremely tasty dish and very easily polished off.
Sarah ordered the trout. It was tender and crispy, and the peach purée was a novel (but totally fitting) accompaniment to a somewhat rich fish. The asparagus were also tasty. Chef Jill Vedaa’s philosophy of “respect the food, don’t mess with it too much” is nicely illustrated in the fresh fish and perfectly cooked vegetables in our entrees.
Kids are also welcome. Jonathan, in addition to having plenty of meatballs, ordered buttered noodles and parmesan ($8) made with what looked like Ohio City Pasta. We tried some and really enjoyed them as well.
Our server was friendly, attentive and knowledgeable. The only issue was that I ordered a beet salad special that never came. That said, it wasn’t on our bill. There were also distractions coming from our table. Jonathan woke up at 6:30am that morning, and my premonitions upon being woken by him of fine dining reservations gone awry were borne out, partially because of a worst case scenario of parents disagreeing on how to deal with a moody kid. Given all this, our waiter did a great job and perhaps forgoing an additional course was a good idea.
For those looking for a cheaper, more casual dining experience, Rockefeller’s also has a lounge to the right of the stairs that offers an abbreviated bar-style menu along with their excellent drink selection. As I write this at 12:21am, compensating from being wired from too much caffeine by drinking a couple home-shaken Manhattans, I kind of wish I was there.