Archive for September, 2011
Tour de Bruell Finalists!
Imagine our surprise when we received an e-mail notifying us that Jeff was one of ten finalists for the grand prize of the 2011 Tour de Bruell. During the summer we visited the four restaurants run by Zack Bruell, Parallax, Table 45, L’Albatros and Chinato. Upon completion, we received a tee-shirt and our names were entered into a pool for the Grand Prize, a dinner for eight prepared in your home by Zack Bruell. According to the organizers of the Tour, 100 people participated last year and 180 this year.
Thursday, the nine other finalists and their guest were treated to a four-course dinner with wine parings. Through the evening, prizes were awarded, until the last ticket remained. The final un-drawn winner won Chef Bruell. Michele (the lucky one!) drew a number 8 and received the third from last prize. We will be joining Chef de Cuisine, Tom Schrenk in the Table 45 kitchen for and evening’s service along with some cooking tips and plenty of tasting. We can’t wait!
This was a wonderful evening made especially enjoyable by fabulous table companions. We chatted, talked food, politics and life with a couple it seemed like we knew forever. Between discussions, we enjoyed a fig, arugula and goat cheese salad, a trio of pickled vegetable sushi rolls, a fabulous grilled redfish over snap pea risotto and a decadent filet served with a tasty and pungent South American red pepper sauce along side a grilled Heart of Palm and Aji mashed potatoes. We finished with a lace caramelized tuile filled with a Grand Marnier induced filling dessert. Each course was announced by the chef and the house manger talked about the accompanying wine. Based on the response, I do not think there was a complaint in the bunch.
During the evening, Chef Bruell mingled with the crowd, sat next to Michele and talk with the group that surrounded us. He was immediately charming and open while sharing a bit of self-deprecation regarding his achievements. He talked a bit about the new Cowell and Hubbard that started construction this week. At the end of the evening, a third Tour de Bruell was promised, but of course, a change would be implemented. Next year, dining at each of the five restaurants will be required.
See you next year! We can hardly wait.
It has been a long time since our last visit to Salmon Dave’s. Almost since they opened, we would make the trek to Rocky River for a late lunch or to celebrate Mardi Gras during their annual menu change to all things New Orleans. For some reason, we just had not gone there recently. That changed this week when we found ourselves at a meeting on the far-Westside. We had intended to again visit the excellent Wine Bar Rocky River, but at the last minute switched course to revisit an old friend. The food was OK, but we really wish we would have stayed focused on our original destination.
It is not that the food was bad, it wasn’t. It just was not as good as we remember and our last abbreviated visit to Wine Bar had us so stoked to try a larger assortment of their offerings.
Michele, the real fish-lover was most dissatisfied. Her grilled salmon was a touch too heavily fired and the jasmine rice was bland and flavorless. Jeff fared better. He did enjoy his pan seared grouper, although the olive polenta cake was a bit too heavily crusted and dryer than he hoped. Because of the late hour, we forewent appetizers and dessert.
Memory is a tricky thing. A palate is an ever-growing and maturing entity. Perhaps Salmon Dave’s is preparing the same food in the same way they did fifteen plus years ago and our palates have simply outgrown their offerings. Perhaps it was an off-day and things simply did not get prepared correctly. Perhaps, our past, early dinner/empty restaurant visits afforded the kitchen staff time to concentrate on our food, but a crowded Monday inevitably allowed things to slip by the chef. We can never know the reason unless we frequented the place far more than our once-yearly visit. Suffice to say, the food is OK. If you are looking for something of a higher quality level, you may need to look elsewhere.
19015 Old Lake Road Rocky River, OH 44116 440-331-2739
Here’s our problem with Noodlecat. We are among the luckiest metropolitan areas in America because we have an active and vibrant Asian community with a wide variety of dining options scattered around town.
Here’s our joy regarding Noodlecat. The food is great.
Here’s the challenge to Cleveland diners. Do you visit the inexhaustible collection of Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai and “other” restaurants specializing or featuring Asian “fast food” (soup) or as we Americans prefer, do we go to a sterile environment and get the cleansed version provided by friendly white people? (Insert Noodlecat.)
Assume the world is perfect and all chefs are created equal in the eyes of the benevolent food god. Noodlecat serves up some damn good food.
We started with the broiled rice balls. Sticky, flavorful and wonderful, we couldn’t wait for the soup. Michele ordered the Pork Miso Ramen, a flavorful broth with excellent Ramen noodles and succulent pork pieces. She was concerned about the salt content, but after the first slurp, the concern disappeared. Jeff ordered the special sesame pork over udon noodle in a spicy curry cream sauce. No need to add Sriracha sauce. The sliced peppers did the trick and the cream kept the curry in check. The pork was perfect and the udon noodles were fabulous. If he could have licked the bowl, he would have. Desert was sugar coated peaches and it was the needed antidote to pork and curry.
Our issue with Noodlecat has nothing to do with the food. Each bite was perfect. Our problem is with cost. At No.1 Pho, the soup is $6, Export 33 beer is $4. When we enter the white version, soups reach into the teens and Vietnamese beer an incredible $6!! A pot of tea was $6! This is unconscionable.
If you are uncomfortable trying some of Cleveland’s Asian treasures or if you are unfamiliar with the variables of Asian soup, Noodlecat is your ticket to an experience you will not soon forget. If you (like us) have been eating at an assortment of Asian eateries over the years, your immediate reaction is that this is a far too expensive place to frequent.
You decide. Are you trendy or do you simply want great food?
234 Euclid Avenue Cleveland, OH 44114 216-589-0007
We have written comments about all of Zack Bruell’s great restaurants on these blog pages. Parallax is our favorite place in Cleveland (don’t tell Fire!) L’Albatros is remarkable and getting better with each visit. It is easy to visualize this place soon becoming the best in the city. Michele feels a certain elegance each time we dine at Table 45. The menu at Chinato may be the most interesting and exciting in Cleveland. Together, they represent a fabulous quartet of eateries. There is little convincing needed to stop in any of these places. However, the Tour de Bruell was an interesting campaign to attract patrons during the summer.
It started for us, innocently enough. We simply went to Parallax for dinner one Friday and the waitress explained the promotion. We took the marked cards and didn’t think about them again until visiting the Cleveland Art Museum to see the Indian Kalighat paintings (which incidentally were exceptional!) An early dinner took us to L’Albatros and we remember, “Hey, we have those cards!”
The third stop was equally innocent. Before going to a last minute dinner at Table 45, we tried to get into three or four other places and all were full. Luckily, a table was available at 45. After that dinner, we started to read the instructions on the back of the card and realized we had two weeks to visit Chinato.
We like Chinato, but the crowded downtown location makes it, for us the least visited of Chef Bruell’s restaurants. We typically try to schedule visits to any of the East 4th Street restaurants between baseball and basketball seasons, to avoid the exorbitant parking prices. The lack of a crowd also makes garnering a reservation easier, especially for us, as we almost always make last-minute arrangements for food. To complete the “Tour” we actually reviewed the baseball schedule and picked a day without a game.
Our personal Tour de Bruell started on the first week and ended on the last day. Discussing the event with the waiter at Chinato was interesting. He indicated that in the first week, a number of ultra-competitive people completed the tour in four days to secure the first-place prize. He thought somewhere around 100+ people took advantage of the event and stopped by each location over the three months. Like us, we’re sure they did not do this for the tee-shirt (but it is nice!) They did it because Chef Bruell has kept a constantly high level of quality in each location. Regardless of the time of visit and the place, the food is always excellent. What is even stranger, more times than not, Mr. Bruell is at the restaurant when we are there. We’re not sure if he has a clone, but he appears to be ever-vigilant to insure his high standards are being upheld.
In the coming months, Zack Bruell has decided to open Cowell and Hubbard in the old Cowell & Hubbard jewelry store building nearPlayhouse Square, stretching his empire to five places. We of course will go, eat and already know, enjoy. Like Paul Kahan in Chicago, Chef Bruell continues to stretch his talent and open only quality outlets. Unlike Chef Kahan, Chef Bruell hasn’t been properly recognized on a national level. He should. The Tour de Bruell reminded us again that he is the best chef in Cleveland and the nation should start taking notice. Thanks Chef! We’re looking forward to the 2012 quintet version of the Tour de Bruell!
2179 West 11th Street Cleveland, OH 44113 216-583-1111
11401 Bellflower Road Cleveland, OH 44106 216-791-7880
9801 Carnegie Avenue Cleveland, OH 44106 216-707-4045
2079 East 4th Street Cleveland, OH 44115 216-298-9080