Restaurant Review: Cleo Hollywood

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Ciao my friends! Johnny here with a little restaurant review for you! On October 17th, I headed up the freeway from Orange County to Hollywood to see Florence + the Machine at the Hollywood Bowl (it was a spectacular show – maybe the best concert I’ve been to so far). Anyway, having experienced the parking nightmare of the Hollywood Bowl before, I decided to head up to Hollywood early to ditch the car and spend a day being a native-tourist and of course, treat myself to a great meal at a new restaurant!

Earlier in the week, I had begun googling for good restaurants near the Hollywood Bowl; the one that really captured by attention was Cleo. The restaurant was described as a cool Mediterranean Tapas Restaurant, serving up small plates of Greek, Lebanese, and other Mediterranean inspired delicacies as well as great cocktails – these are things I love so naturally I landed here for my dinner before the show.

Cleo is located on Vine just off of Hollywood Blvd and a stone’s throw from the Pantages Theatre, in fact, many of the guests in the restaurant that Saturday evening were having their pre-show meal before walking over to the Pantages for the evening musical. For this reason, there weren’t any tables available; however, I was offered to sit at the bar where they serve full meals as well so I took the offer. I actually love eating at the bar sometimes to shake things up a bit!

(Disclaimer: I wasn’t expecting to blog about Cleo until I got there, so all the photos were taken on my phone without flash because I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’, so I apologize for the picture quality)

Cleo’s interior is dark and lush, a distinct royal Mediterranean feel but also a heavy splash of old Hollywood glamour and charm. The dim lighting and elaborate décor make Cleo a restaurant that is exciting to dine in; it’s somewhat ritzy, very classy, but also comfortable and friendly given that you share your food with others.

Moody and Romantic, no!?

Moody and Romantic, no!?

We were seated at the bar and immediately attended to by the friendly and knowledgeable bar tender who was happy to offer his recommendations and seemed to really take pride in the quality of food his work provides. Hungry from a day of playing tourist, excited for the upcoming show, and pleased with our choice of restaurant based on the brief few minutes we had been there, we began to order and enjoy!

Cleo is well known for their great cocktails, so I of course had to start there. I had a Jasmine Margarita. I love a good Margarita, and this was beyond great. Avion Silver Tequila, fresh lime, Pomegranate juice and garnished with pomegranate seeds, this Margarita is refreshing and fun. Careful though – the drinks here will run you a pretty penny, far more than the food, but its part of the experience.

Jasmine Margarita. Here's my credit card, can I have another?

Jasmine Margarita. Here’s my credit card, can I have another?

Now, for those of you are not familiar with Tapas Style establishments – Tapas Style just means that you and whomever you are with order various small plates of food to share; enjoying many little bites of different types of foods and lots of different flavors to comprise your entire meal. I love eating Tapas style; you get to try more dishes and enjoy more flavors which is fun and for a cook, inspiring. Cleo offers an expansive Tapas menu: dips and salads, wood-fired vegetable dishes and other veggie concoctions, gourmet flatbreads and pizzettes, kabobs and exotic sausages, and masterfully created meats and seafood dishes. There is really something for everyone here and everything seems to be gourmet and quality. As the menu is divided into different sections like: vegetables, seafood, meat, flatbreads, etc. I suggest that you pick four to five sections and then order one dish from each of those sections to really sample of the different flavors and styles.

Here is the current menu. You can see how the sections are divided.

Here is the current menu. You can see how the sections are divided.

Our starter was the Babaghanoush, a roasted eggplant dip and one of my favorites, served with their freshly baked lavash bread. The dip was smooth and smoky, just as it should be, and the bread warm, fluffy, and seasoned with just the right amount of sea salt which all acted as the perfect vessel for the dip. A great Mediterranean starter!

Babaghanoush and Lavash Bread

Babaghanoush and Lavash Bread

Next, we had the Brussels sprouts; these kept popping up in the online searches for Cleo as one of the must have dishes, and they did not disappoint. They are almost served deconstructed; the leaves are all separated and roasted to a perfect crisp so that the entire dish is almost a warm and crunchy salad. The leaves are sprinkled with just the right amount of salt, given a tang with the additions of capers, a greater crunch with the inclusion of sliced almonds, and all dressed with a light drizzle of a red wine vinegar dressing. Incredible – get these!

The must-have Brussels sprouts

The must-have Brussels sprouts

We then had the wood-fired artichokes with lemon and olives. There is something about wood cooking mixed with artichokes that just gets me, if there is an artichoke dish that has been wood-roasted, fired, or smoked on a menu, then I am bound to order it. This dish was light and tangy while also possessing that earthy, smoky flavor and scent. I could’ve had several orders to myself.

The Wood-Smoked Artichokes with Lemon and Olives

The Wood-Smoked Artichokes with Lemon and Olives

Next, we had the Day Boat Scallops over a Fresh Corn Polenta with Citrus and Chilis. OH. MY. GOD. Angel’s sang during the consumption of this one. These were probably the best scallops I’ve ever had; incredibly tender with the perfect sear on the outside, the added freshness of multiple citruses and the kicking spice of the chilis, all contrasted and balanced by the sweet and creamy corn polenta. This seafood course was out of this world. I HIGHLY recommend.

The heavenly Day Boat Scallops

The heavenly Day Boat Scallops

Lastly, we tried the Grilled Hanger Steak per our bar tender’s strong recommendation. Another WOW. Cooked to a juicy medium-rare perfection with subtle seasoning to allow the great flavor of the beef to shine, served with a salad of fresh tomatoes and herbs that act as a great topping to compliment the heavier red meat with a side of buttery roasted potatoes. It was just the course to finish us off for the night before heading to the concert.

The Grilled Hanger Steak

The Grilled Hanger Steak

In conclusion, Cleo was phenomenal: the atmosphere, the service, the craft drinks, and the gourmet food. I hadn’t had a meal that good (apart from my own Stuffed Acorn Squash) since coming back from Europe at the beginning of the month. If you’re in Hollywood and looking for a great place to enjoy lots of fantastic flavors with friends and loved ones, especially before a show, then Cleo is your place!

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