By PARIS WOLFE
Cru Uncorked in Moreland Hills is much more than a culinary experience in an elegant “French Chateau.” It’s a holistic, sense-engaging experience. And, that experience is getting better. In early June – just nine months after adding 2.5 plus acres around the restaurant – the Cutler family is bringing new features both outdoors and indoors.
Outdoor seating will more than double to 130 seats, and heaters that hang from the overhead trellis will keep the area cozy throughout much of Northeast Ohio’s unpredictable seasons. Perhaps the most interesting outdoor additions are a year-round greenhouse, farm-to-table gardens and an expanded yet discreet outdoor service area.
On the northern edge of the patio, guests will enjoy an open-air wine tasting room. Scheduled to open in early winter, it will have about 30 seats and can be closed to the elements. Tables will be artisan-made from wooden wine boxes to create a vintage vibe. An extended wine-event list will be part of the schedule when the room is available.
The greenhouse and gardens, anticipated to open fall 2021 to spring 2022, will have a full-time grower on staff. The goal is to supply the kitchen with the freshest flowers and produce possible. The space will also be available to guests for strolling pre- or post-dinner.
Meanwhile indoors the temperature-controlled wine storage has tripled capacity to more than 25,000 bottles and a cheese-aging system is part of the current addition. With greater breadth and depth in wine selection, the restaurant is positioning to move from Wine Spectator’s two-bottle Best of Award of Excellence to the coveted three-bottle Wine Spectator Grand Award rating. In 2020, only 100 restaurants worldwide (none in Ohio) had this designation.
The Grand Award, notes the Wine Spectator, is given to restaurants “that show an uncompromising, passionate devotion to the quality of their wine programs. These wine lists typically feature 1,000 or more selections, and deliver serious breadth of top producers, outstanding depth in mature vintages, a selection of large-format bottles, excellent harmony with the menu, and superior presentation.”
The cheese-aging cave will enable the restaurant to purchase and age artisanal cheeses until perfectly ripe. Choosing between buttery, lush, perfectly aged tripel creme cheese and a spicy, aged manchego will be among the new options for Cru guests.
“We’ve been working to create this restaurant as an all-encompassing experience since the beginning,” says Bill Cutler, General Manager. The restaurant opened in 2017 with 108 indoor and 72 outdoor seats, reduced to 64 indoor and 60 outdoor during the pandemic. “The new gardens are inspired by those of French Laundry (Yountville, CA) and Blue Hill at Stone Barns (Tarrytown, NY).”
“The gardens also have a European influence,” he says. “I lived in Florence for a year and ate at Enoteca Pinchiorri. It’s such an all-encompassing feeling. You just immerse yourself. It’s unforgettable.”
The discreet service bar will allow the lounge bar to again accommodate diners at the bar itself. “The enthusiasm of our guests for the hand-crafted cocktails is huge and we’d outgrown the service area in our lounge,” says Cutler.
To keep standards high, he asks that diners with dietary restrictions be in touch a few days before arriving. “We’re happy to accommodate but prefer to know in advance. We have vegetarian dishes on the menu, but we can create an entire dish for special diets. Vegan is tougher. We like to be ready and have the freshest products,” he says.
When the current renovation is complete, the Cutlers will, no doubt, be thinking about the next experience. Cutler says, “Once we hit expectations for ourselves, we’ll raise the bar higher so we can keep improving.”
In late spring reservations were booking fast. Weekend seating is a few weeks out with weekdays being busy as well.
Visit Cru Uncorked in Moreland Hills for exceptional dining, indoors or out
By PARIS WOLFE