ZED451 is an AYCE (all you can eat) New American steakhouse, opening in River North in two weeks. The restaurant is similar in concept to the various churrascarias around town like Brazzaz and Fogo de Chao, but with a New American rather than Brazilian orientation toward the meat and accompaniments. For a $50 prix-fixe ($25 for the kiddies), you get your pick of proteins like bacon-wrapped filet mignon, Parmesan crusted pork medallions, buttermilk marinated bottom sirloin, spicy fruit-glazed lamb chops, and so forth. And in lieu of a traditional salad bar, ZED451 employs a “Harvest Table” with sides like Maui pineapple salad, roasted asparagus with herbed aioli, and a “Hot Station” with options like sherry braised mushroom soup.
One mildly interested twist is that the restaurant employs thirty front-end chefs, who do everything from carving your meat to delivering it to your table. Furthermore, they get to show off their skills by making amuse bouches for the audience…er, dining guests. This is sort of like an audition so maybe you can hire them to be your corporate chef or something! We wonder if they wear name tags…
If ZED451 sounds familiar (the restaurant’s name refers to the last letter of the alphabet and the temperature at which paper spontaneously combusts. All this makes us nervous that it’s a doomsday cult), that’s because there are already two in the area: Downers Grove and Schaumburg each have a location. It definitely feels like sloppy seconds to get a restaurant concept that got its start in the suburbs; we’ve learned by now to not assume that food served in the suburbs will be less sophisticated than its city counterpart, but…we cannot shake the associations of the soulless marketing immanent to restaurant groups in general, and these suburbs in particular.
The next best thing to judging a dish by eating it is to judge by looking at it (this is the premise behind Top Chef, by the way). Above are some encrusted lamb chops (apparently not the spicy fruit-glazed variety they have on the menu). They look…fine. More than adequate. There are chives in the foreground, cilantro in the background. Definitely a stab at upmarket. We look at these lamb chops and know instantly that the food will be good enough for the people who decide to go to this restaurant. It will be tourists and conventioneers and families and all sorts of people who appreciate high quality AYCE in a large (15,000 sq ft!), safe space. It at least has the virtue of being slightly different from other plausible alternatives in Chicago. Given the spiraling costs of meat, $50 for all the filet mignon you can eat is not a terrible deal.
[Photo: ZED451’s media center]