HOLLYWOOD LOCATION IN IDENTITY CRISIS MODE
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Cleo Mediterraneo as I love its look, feel and Mediterranean cuisine. But a recent visit to the Hollywood location left me somewhat perplexed.
The setting and environment is still chic, festive and perfect for a great night out. But for some reason, the Cleo concepts between the Third Street location at the Orlando Hotel and the Hollywood restaurant are different. Whereas most restaurants with multiple locations aim to offer guests the exact same dining experience, Cleo offers different menus at its two L.A. hotspots.
Cleo Hollywood stresses its seafood menu and is less meat-centric as is the Third Street Cleo, which would be fine, albeit unusual, if the seafood was satisfying. Personally, I think the restaurants should offer guests the same experience instead of making you choose one location over the other depending on what you want to eat.
Some of the Starter dishes remain the same like the favorite Spicy Cigar (a must-have dish) prepared with Brik pastry, spiced beef, Lebaneh (yogurt), and feta. While Cleo Third Street offers Madras Curried Cauliflower, Cleo Hollywood offers Fried Cauliflower with green chili, blue cheese tahini, and garlic chips. Both are equally order-worthy. Both Cleo spots also offer Greek salads as well as bold beet dishes.
Main dishes considered specialties at Cleo Hollywood include the Balik Salmon Trio (natural cure, beet cure, truffle cure), which is their attempt at sashimi; “Güvec” -- think baked shrimp hotpot with tomato, basil spices, grape molasses, and lemon served with crusty bread and flambéed tableside; Whole Branzino; and Saffron Paella. Unfortunately, they were all underwhelming.
The salmon trio was just bad sushi. And the branzino, a favorite seafood dish of mine, was bland and completely forgettable. The “hotpot” offers a great tableside presentation but then disappointed.
I started longing for Mediterranean staples like Lamb Shawarma or Moroccan fried chicken, which I can get and enjoy at Cleo Third Street. If you’re going to make your menus different, then you better make them both solid and outstanding.
What did standout at Cleo were the cocktails. As Cleo is an SBE property, the cocktail program is run by Director of Beverage Program and Development Gui Jaroschy. For the most part, the drinks were daring and bold with first rate presentation. So many of the drinks just looked badass and were so very Instagram worthy. The glassware was stellar and the libations were very enjoyable.
Sure, Cleo Hollywood is swank and a great date spot or good for a big celebratory group outing but the seafood, which is supposed to be the specialty of the house, just fell flat. If I find myself back at Cleo Hollywood, I know I can enjoy good drinks and great bites but if I have to choose between its two locations, then I’ll happily dine at Cleo Third Street.
Cleo Hollywood is located at 1717 Vine Street. Open daily from 5pm to close. Happy Hour is Monday 5pm to 10pm and Tuesday through Sunday from 5pm to 7pm at the bar area only.
Photography Courtesy Of: Cleo Hollywood