Everything Old Is New Again
Years ago I had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to eat at L’atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris. At the time, I wondered why more chefs didn’t display their skill before a live and hungry audience.
I’m happy—change that to ecstatic—to see that Chef Rob Connoley is doing just that at Bulrush, the hot, new restaurant on Washington Avenue, that features “contemporary foods rooted in Ozark cuisine.”
A Bounty of Flavors
Rob scourers farms, fields and forests for his unique ingredients. Everything is locally grown or organically raised. In his kitchen workshop, he plays with flavors in exciting new ways. How does he extract such a panoply of tastes from such humble ingredient? Beats me. I guess that’s why I’m merely a food blogger, and he’s an esteemed chef. But he makes it look easy.
A Seven-Course Meal (Small Plates)
The unique restaurant format allows dinners to sit around a rectangular table, outlining the open-plan kitchen. You get a bird’s eye view of Rob and his helpers as they prepare and serve 7 different small plate courses. Instead of giving a dish a name, Rob describes it’s ingredients.
Some are familiar (pumpkin, eggplant, cauliflower, squash, apple,) Other items are a bit more unusual (sorghum molasses, pawpaw molé, lambsquarter, sunchoke, fried venison sliders, pickled elderberry, persimmons, purple hull peas). When I told him that the sorghum my in-laws served was always bitter, he explained that freshly made syrup is not like that. He was right.
Despite the funky ingredients or combinations, there is nothing weird tasting or strange looking. The meal—the entire evening—comes together like a well choreographed dance. A soothing simplicity.
Treat Your Taste Buds to a Historic Ozark Holiday
The price is $100 for each diner, but that includes tip and tax. Drink pairing with each course can be had for $125 per diner. That’s not bad, when you consider this is more than a meal, it’s an experience, a discovery, and you get to talk to the chef as he delivers your plates.
If there’s someone on your Christmas list that has everything, a gift certificate for an evening at Bulrush would be perfect. If you want less food, but still a taste of Rob’s inspired menu, there are tables and a bar in an adjoining room where you can get a more abbreviated meal. Whichever you choose, it’s a perfect prelude to a evening at the nearby Fox Theater or Symphony.
Bulrush. 3307 Washington Avenue in the Grand Center Arts District. Open: Thu-Sun 5p-10p. Reservation strongly recommended for the Ozark tasting, though walk-in seating is sometimes available. Changes daily. Chef-Owner: Rob Connoley.