Although Sarah and I have been blogging for close to three years, we’ve somehow never eaten at a Zach Bruell restaurant. Sarah loves Italian, so Chinato seemed like a good choice for dinner. We got a sitter for Jonathan, although there were a number of people who brought kids along.
We walked in the door at 6:30pm to a mostly empty house. The maître d’ greeted us and the hostess offered to sit us at table 308. The maître d’ told her “Seat them at 311.” The hostess suggested 308 again, and the maître d’ replied in a low, annoyed voice, “SEAT THEM AT 311–it’s a nicer table.”
We proceeded to 311, which was against a wall between two four tops. The table had no view and was uncomfortably close to other tables, so we can only infer that 308 was the nicer table and that they were trying to avoid outside customers seeing us. Our visit only got better from here on out, though.
Our waiter was very friendly and knowledgeable. He guided us to the drink list (which was a tad confusing as elements were on two different menus) and Sarah ordered a Peroni while I had a Duvel. Our waiter quietly repeated my drink with the proper pronunciation (DUvel) which makes sense as I knew it meant “devil” but had been saying “DuVEL.” We both very much enjoyed our drinks, and they went well with the food.
We ordered the stuffed potato with shitake mushrooms and fonduta as a starter. It was quite good, delicately flavored with buttery melted cheese and earthy mushrooms. The dish didn’t feel particularly distinctive or Italian-influenced, but the portion was generous: four small potato halves.
Our next dish, the shaved mushroom salad, was when dinner started getting really good. We’ve never had anything like it, but the raw mushrooms worked wonderfully with the parsley, lemon, capers and olive oil. Everything was fresh, hearty and bursting with flavor.
Our next course–ravioli with pork, veal, zucchini mushrooms with melted butter and Parmesan–was the highlight of the evening. The stuffing in the ravioli was very good, but the sauce was amazing, garlic butter and Parmesan highlighted with a subtle zing of lemon. We would be very happy to eat this again.
I ordered the house cured salt cod (a preparation I’ve never tried) with tomatoes and white raisins. It was excellent, and the subtle saltiness brought out a depth of flavor in the fish. It was cooked perfectly, not at all dry or fishy, and the sweet-sour-salty sauce complimented it very well.
Sarah ordered the egg-battered chicken with brown butter and lemon, which was also very good. While most batters contain eggs, the eggs were very out front in this case. The chicken was nicely crisped and tender, and the lemony sauce worked well with it.
We couldn’t leave without trying a dessert, so we ordered one of our all-time favorites, tiramisu. While it was quite good, we really weren’t expecting a strong lemon flavor in a dessert typically dominated by coffee, chocolate and rum. Perhaps they used Limoncello? While the addition of lemon worked well and was innovative, we would have preferred a more traditional flavor profile as every dish we’d had that night also had lemon.
As we left, Sarah got a nice picture of Tower City from the corner of E. 4th and Prospect:
We very much enjoyed our food during our visit, and might try some other Bruell establishments in the future. Hopefully we’ll have the good fortune of a better seat next time, though, or perhaps the restaurant should sacrifice a little dining space to spread out the tables more. There were a couple times we had to cut short our conversation because the waiter talking to a nearby table was less than a foot away from us.