the accidental tour de bruell

Within the past month and a half, we have been to 3 out of Zack Bruell’s 4 restaurants. If I wasn’t so full from dining out, I’d add in Table 45 and complete his actual tour.

Here’s a recap of our recent Bruell eats:

On Saturday, I got together with my oldest and dearest friends to celebrate two birthdays at Chinato. Our husbands were there too, though you wouldn’t have known it until we left (boys on one side, girls on the other). For two of the couples, this was their first trip.

The night did start off a little shaky. There were 8 of us and they sat us in a table clearly meant for 6. Sure, we could have all fit, but we would have been packed like in sardines and no one wants to go through a meal without being able to lift your arms. That’s not conducive for an enjoyable night out (and knowing we were an 8 top is why I made rezzies nearly 6 weeks out).

The management quickly saw this was an issue and changed our table. Problem (easily and swiftly) solved. Unfortunately, the somewhat shaky service did continue throughout the night. I get it was crowded and I get it was a Saturday night. But I have to imagine we’d be a good table to have: fun group, lots of food, lots of alcohol and we weren’t in a hurry to get someplace. But there were small things throughout the night that made us all feel like it was a bother to wait on us and that our server had much better things to be doing with his time (forgetting to bring things out, rolling eyes when asking for oil for bread, rather condescending overall, etc.).

But on to what really matters – the food! And as all of our previous visits, the food was stellar. We started off with fried artichokes, mussels, involtini and ribollita for the table. For my dinner, I had my favorite fennel salad (seriously, I can’t go there without ordering this) and a half order of the pappardelle with creamed cauliflower, pecorino and peperoncini (love how there is zero cream in this velvety sauce).

Everything was top notch and happily devoured by all. If you haven’t been, I recommend going soon. And despite the off service this night, we have enjoyed wonderful service on past visits.

For our 4th wedding anniversary, we went to Parallax. Now this has long been a favorite of ours since he first opened. We love sitting out front during the summer, cocktails at the bar, and the main dining room, too. And they have some of my favorite sushi in town. But I have to say, this was my first trip to Parallax were I didn’t leave wowed and completely content.

I started with the yellowtail, jalapeno, mango chirashi with avocado sushi rice, followed by the beet salad and finally the udon noodles with rock shrimp & pork belly (miso black cod – as always – for Jamie).

I stand corrected. I was quite content and overly smitten with my entrée. Plenty of pork belly and shrimp swimming in mounds of noodles. I was happy. But not so much with my two starters. The beets weren’t cooked enough and the chirashi was just bland (which was surprising given its accompaniments).

But everyplace has off days and perhaps this was one of them. Because like I said, we’ve been big fans for years now and one experience like this won’t change that.

Finally, dinner with friends at L’Albatros. My favorite outing of the three (meal wise) because of two things: Brandon and cheese. Zack is truly lucky to have found Brandon and us Clevelanders are lucky Brandon chooses to call Cleveland home (side note: read more about how Brandon Chrostowski ended up here in Fresh Water). Service was excellent as was the food. And if you’re a fan of cheese, you simply can’t leave until you have let Brandon share some of his favorites with you.

While the cheese is always my favorite part of my L’Albatros experience, I did also greatly enjoy my oysters and braised leg of lamb. And the overall atmosphere is my favorite of all three.


  1. Posted November 15, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    It amazes me to this day when one goes into some of the higher end (and higher priced) establishments the service staff acts as if they are doing YOU the favor by waiting on you. I have noticed this happens at establishments where the tips are pooled over those working to build relationships with their diners thus earning a greater tip for themselves. Any extra work that does not add to the final bill (ie oil for bread, and heaven forbid water refills) is just a bother, as it doesn’t add to the percentage they will receive from the pool. It makes me sad as those who are not as comfortable with fine dining end the evening feeling even more intimidated due to an arrogant server. Cleveland has some great restaurants and great chefs but only a small number out of the whole population actually know about them. At least at Applebee’s they are required to have “flair!”

  2. Rosemarie
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I was with a party of 12 Friday night at l’albatross and the service couldn’t have been more wonderful, accomodating or helpful. Our server even brought out extra sauces she thought would be good on a pizza, without anyone even asking her.

    Maybe Zach needs a Brandon at all of his restaurants!

  3. Posted November 16, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    I love the cheese and need to get back there.

  4. Posted November 19, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know what server you had at Chinato, but the next time you go, I suggest asking for either Brian or Joe. They are the two best servers there. They’re both very knowledgable about food and wine/beer and are enjoyable to talk to if you’re that kind of table that likes to talk to the servers.

  5. CrabtreeNick
    Posted September 8, 2013 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    your life consists of fawning over overpriced food that other people make.
    what an achievement.
    ‘brandon chrostowski’…yikes…what a name. sounds like a humpback whale upchucked.

  6. CrabtreeNick
    Posted September 8, 2013 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    Cleveland versus NYC: we are just as good as you. We can charge 20 dollars a plate for pasta too. How much does it cost to boil water? you need specialized training for that.