Ask any avid, well-traveled Cleveland diner what this city lacks and more than likely the reply will be a French brasserie. In New York, places like Balthazar and Les Halles are perennially packed, thanks to exceedingly appealing menus coupled with a spirited scene. With the opening of L'Albatros (11401 Bellflower Rd., 216.791.7880, albatrosbrasserie.com), that culinary gap finally has been plugged. Set inside a completely reinvented That Place on Bellflower, the bistro seduces diners with a roster of classic brasserie gems like escargot, pork terrine, roasted cod and choucroute garnie. But since this is a Zack Bruell (Parallax, Table 45) restaurant, guests can count on more than a few contemporary twists. Thankfully, there is no monkeying around with a picture-perfect onion soup gratinee ($7). Served in a crock glazed with melted cheese, the hearty onion-studded brew is absolutely superb. Same for the chef's terrine ($7), two rectangular slices of rich, moist pork and veal p‰té. Gilded with lard, speckled with pistachios and topped with good grainy mustard, the starter is textbook. Pork rillettes ($7), slow-cooked and shredded meat that is served with toasts, gets better and better as it loses its chill. Salads include the classic frisée, bacon and egg, plus a refreshing radish and cucumber mix ($6) dressed with a blissful cr�me fraiche vinaigrette. L'Albatros' cassoulet ($22) is a glorious medley of duck, lamb, sausages, white beans and crispy bits. But don't expect an earthenware crock - this version is presented in a 12-inch stainless skillet. Of course, the flourish is trademark Bruell, as is the polished, minimalist décor. Completely reworked, the space will be virtually unrecognizable to That Place diners. Upon arrival, guests practically walk straight into the wide-open kitchen. Next up is a snug but lively little bar and lounge area. Dining rooms feature whitewashed brick, snow-white tables and white plastic chairs. Bruell has assembled a top-flight staff, which includes Andy Dombrowski (Delmonico's) as chef de cuisine and Rob Rasmussen as general manager and wine pro. L'Albatros is open daily for lunch and dinner except Sunday.
Come late spring, fans of chef Dante Boccuzzi will no longer need to travel to Valley View to enjoy his cuisine. On the stroke of midnight New Years Eve, Dante restaurant on Rockside Road will revert back to Lockkeepers, with original owners Frank and Malisse Sinito at the helm. Meanwhile, Boccuzzi plans to convert the stately Third Federal Bank building, near Literary and Professor in Tremont, into his new restaurant.