Dining From A to ZED451

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Saturday, December 17, 2011 - 1:28pm

How a restaurant chooses its name says something about the concept. Sometimes a place will name itself after its location, like 437 Rush. Other times, like The Southern, it's representative of its cuisine. I've always wondered about ZED451, and at our Chef's Table event we learned the story behind the name.

"451" is the temperature at which fire ignites - it is, as Chef Patrick Quakenbush told us, the beginning of cooking. "ZED" is the end of the alphabet - the letter Z. They want to provide the entire experience, from beginning to end, and they do. 

We had a full house for this event, and as guests arrived they were greeted by Brianna and Ruben with a glass of Red Apple Sangria. As the seats filled the anticipation grew. To get to our private room we had to walk by the display of "Harvest Tables" surrounding a roaring fireplace in the center of the room and by the open kitchen with its rows of roasting meats.

Chef Quakenbush addressed the group, explaining ZED451's concept and that it's the only one of its kind in the world. It should not be confused with a churrascuria. Instead, it's an unconventional all-you-can-eat dining experience that focuses on local, seasonal food. They don't serve lamb or blueberries in the winter, for example.

Their Harvest Tables consist of several prepared dishes, salads, soups, and an impressive charcuterie board. (Can you call it a board when it's more than 10 feet long?) There are breads and specially prepared butters designed to go with the entrees, like black truffle and shiraz.

It's easy to fill up on those many and varied items, but the real star of the show is yet to come. One after another, chefs with skewers and plates of entrees circled the tables. We were offered ribeye, sirloin, house made sausage, Morroccan-style chicken, duck, venison, and more. One of the favorites of the evening, which was a surprise to many, was the blackened catfish, but everything was flavorful, tender, and delicious. 

Just when we were so full we thought we couldn't eat any more they brought out plates of desserts. Bites of banana creme pie, s'mores, peanut butter and chocolate, butterscotch bread pudding and red velvet cupcakes disappeared despite the quantity and quality of food . And then, as the guests left, each one received a cake pop courtesy of the pastry chef. As if that weren't enough they were also given cards that could be redeemed in January. No one knows how much each one is worth, but the minimum redemption amount is $20.12, and some lucky guest will receive dinner for eight!

The design is simply gorgeous. As you enter through the heavy wooden doors you're faced immediately by their wine room. Wines line the walls on three sides and glasses hang from racks in the center over a chest-high table. This is for tastings and pairings. To the right, the large bar is welcoming with roaring fireplaces for those who want to be a bit more romantic, and with a giant TV for those who want to watch the game. There's room enough for everybody. Upstairs is private dining, and during the warmer months of the year, one of the most popular rooftops in the city.

See Chef Quakenbush in the video below, and then make reservations for your own visit. You'll be glad you did, from start to finish.

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Theresa Carter

Theresa Carter is the founder and publisher of The Local Tourist. 

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