"There's a joke in the food business," says Zack Bruell, as we climb into a limo bus. "What did they do? Just let a bus out in front of here?"
That's exactly what the chef of Parallax, Table 45, L'Albatros, Chinato and Cowell & Hubbard had on the menu for last night.
As part of his third Tour de Bruell, a contest encouraging customers to visit all five of his restaurants from Memorial Day through Labor Day, Bruell hosted a progressive dinner, with one course at each of his restaurants for five winners who completed the tour early. I was lucky enough to score a seat on the bus.
We started off at Table 45 for a first course of sushi, including the popular Table 45 Roll made with tempura shrimp, tuna, cucumber mayo, scallions and a spicy sauce inside, all topped with red tip clams.
While the limo bus chauffeured us around, Bruell shared tales of his culinary journey (for more, read our October 2011 feature: "Does Zack Bruell Finally Have Your Attention?"). He says Cowell & Hubbard has been the hardest restaurant to open due to the size of the space (it's the largest of the five) and menu (it's the biggest and most ambitious). But you'd never notice any of that struggle based on the entree served as part of the tour's second stop — a stuffed poblano pepper filled with shrimp and ricotta cheese. The lime butter sauce was so delicious that even Bruell used his bread to soak up his extra sauce.
"Cowell & Hubbard's menu is reminiscent of what I did in my last life," he says of his first restaurant, Z Contemporary Cuisine. "That restaurant sort of changed the dining scene. People who ate there never forgot it."
While we enjoyed fusilli with oxtail and beef tongue at Chinato and ended the night with cheese and wine pairings at L'Albatros, it was Parallax that offered up my favorite dish. The roasted peaches topped with ricotta were light and refreshing. The arugula salad of pickled red onions, candied walnuts and lemon balsamic vinaigrette were delicate and sweet.
"This place is a little more free-wheeling," he says of his oldest restaurant. "We have a little more fun here."
I joked with my fellow diners about how this dish seems so simple that I might even be able to re-create it at home, but then I realized it's easier (and probably safer) for me to just enjoy whatever Bruell creates. I will be back to have this dish again. And that, at the end of the day, is all the man is after.
"The goal is to make people feel good when they leave," he says.