Back in the fall I did a walk through of what had once been That Place on Bellflower. The old restaurant was long gone and what remained was a badly decayed- albeit still charming- shell of two connected brick carriage houses with various add-ons. The structure I saw was gutted and a mess. Even some of the floors were ripped out down to the dirt underneath. It was hard to believe, despite all Zach Bruell told me, that it would soon be transformed into a beautiful French style brasserie. But he did it. I visited a few nights ago and was knocked out by the transformation.
L’Albatros Brasserie and Bar in University Circle, which just opened for business, is lovely. The space manages to retain its vintage feel and still be stylishly contemporary. The candle glow atmosphere was intimate, welcoming, and warm- the fire burning brightly in the hearth in one room didn’t hurt. And the food is terrific. I wanted to eat every single dish on the menu of French comfort food. What I did try- pork rillettes, a frisee salad with bacon lardoons and a poached egg, duck confit, and skate wing- was lick the plate good. I can’t wait to go back to sample his cassoulet and bouillabaisse. Also had some amazing cheeses, a customized selection picked out just for me and the husband by the on-staff fromage expert who can tell you stories about where each cheese comes from and who made it.
Bruell’s timing couldn’t be better. Within days of my meal there I got a dining trend report for 2009 from a food industry magazine. According to these expert forecasters approachable, affordable classic French bistro cuisine is going to make a big comeback in the U.S. Looks like Bruell is on the cutting edge- as he has so often been in his long culinary career- and putting Cleveland right there with him. Better yet, he’s putting wonderful food on the table once again. When you need a break from your own kitchen during this upcoming week of holiday festivities, check out what’s happening in his.