Friday, May 1, 2009

Tableside Service

If Zack Bruell was stuck on a desert island, it’s safe to say the two ingredients he’d bring with him are olive oil (French, of course, it’s got a more flowery taste and smoother finish than its Italian counterparts) and fresh lemon juice. The Table 45 chef topped off nearly every dish of last night's six-course dinner with the two — and the result was a great meal from start to finish.

The reason for the intimate gathering around the kitchen countertop table at Table 45 was two-fold. First, Bruell wanted to give our group of 10 a sampling of his favorite dishes from the recently unveiled spring/summer menu. But he also wanted to fill us in on the newest tableside service he’ll be offering at Table 45, one of this year’s Silver Spoon Award winners featured in the May issue. The action station cooking demo series offers a maximum of 10 guests the chance to watch Bruell and chef Rick Argoso cook, learn techniques, plate dishes and then feast on a prix fix menu.

We started with tuna carpaccio rolled paper thin and garnished with cucumbers, tomato, feta and mint oil. Next, we sampled a crab cake wrapped in crispy rice paper and served with spicy Asian remoulade. The Belgian endive salad offered a great blend of salty and citrus flavors thanks to tender prosciutto and orange and lime slices. 

It was followed by the halibut poached with olive oil, blanched leeks oregano, thyme, orange peel and some salt and white pepper. It was served swimming in roasted garlic and smoked paprika broth with ivory lentils, green beans, crispy croutons and saffron aioli. Next came Bruell’s more sophisticated version of a gyro — a Greek-style braised lamb shank (it fell off the bone perfectly during preparation) with cucumber salad, Tzatziki sauce and orgeno naan freshly made in a Tandoori oven right at the kitchen station.

I was surprised at the simplicity of the dish ingredients — “A little salt and pepper and that’s it,” Bruell repeatedly told us — and the complexity of the flavors that he was able to create. And I even picked up a few pointers along the way to use in my own kitchen: the right way to cut tiny orange slices and how to make sure your lentils don’t end up as a pile of mush (slightly undercook them because they’ll keep cooking even after you take them off the heat).

The plan is for Table 45 to start these weekly demos in June. And Bruell’s hope is to serve single walk-up dinners as well as large parties — just as long as the evenings are kept lighthearted, he says. “Food should be fun, not serious,” he told us. 

Catch Bruell and other top Cleveland chefs in two weeks at our Silver Spoon Awards party on May 14 at the InterContinental Hotel. Bruell will represent his two winning restaurants, Table 45 and L’Albatros. For tickets, visit us here.

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