“Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead,” Bruce Willis’ character, Butch, told his girlfriend in “Pulp Fiction.” In stark contrast to Quentin Tarantino’s dark character, ZED451 at 739 N. Clark Street in River North is a vibrant establishment that’s utterly thriving. My girlfriend, Ashley, and I visited this Brazilian steakhouse on Valentine’s Day for dinner. We were immediately impressed by the hostess’ friendliness and professionalism. Within minutes of being seated, our extremely outgoing and gregarious waitress, Nina, asked us if we’d like beverages. I ordered a bottle of Miller Lite ($6.75) and, after perusing over a selection of 190 brands of wine, Ashley asked for a glass of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($14).
Rather than waiting for our drinks, we strolled around and enjoyed the restaurant’s elegant and stunning decor. This premise has high ceilings and its lighting is designed to make patrons feel like they are eating outside on a deck. While standing next to a warm fireplace on a frigid evening, we were approached by the steakhouse’s manager, Mark. Mark wished us a Happy Valentine’s Day and proceeded to escort us to a swanky wine room. Mark subsequently poured us both a glass of complimentary Champagne to celebrate the romantic occasion. After slamming our sparkling wine, we walked to the harvest table and glanced over their sides, salads, soups and charcuterie. Because Ashley worried that she was preparing to go into a meat-induced coma, she declined to fix herself a plate. However, like a glutton, I took roughly six helpings of smoked tomato caprese. This starter was made with ripe cherry tomatoes, aromatic basil, mouthwatering mozzarella and a perfect splash of olive oil.
After consuming the smoked tomato caprese, Ashley placed a stone in front of our plates to alert Nina that we were ready for our main entrees. Shortly thereafter, a chef arrived at our table with a hefty stick of freshly prepared hanger steak and an Argentinean chimichurri sauce. The steak was flawlessly chargrilled and brilliantly seasoned. In addition to eating roughly a half-dozen pieces of steak, we ate Moroccan chicken, Ferro Island salmon and bacon and pheasant sausage. All of these samples were generously sized and presented with various sauces that perfectly complemented our meats. More importantly, the arrays of meats were juicy, tender and simply scrumptious.
Although beyond stuffed, we asked Nina to bring us a lava cake. When the dessert arrived, we were stunned by its culinary artistry. The lava cake was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a giant, crisp piece of chocolate that was shaped like a heart. Due to its beauty, Ashley and I didn’t know if we should enjoy the treat or just gaze at it adoringly. So, before devouring it, we took pictures of the last course. The lava cake actually tasted as good as it appeared. On the cusp of exploding, we asked Nina for our check. Per usual, Nina was prompt with her service and our bill was placed on the table roughly two minutes later.
Our enjoyable night notwithstanding, ZED451 can still improve. There should be a greater variety of options at the harvest tables and, considering it’s a Brazilian steakhouse, more Latin-inspired dishes would be appropriate. Furthermore, recognizing its costliness, we should have been provided with some type of bread from the outset. Still, despite such minor drawbacks, ZED451 is a wonderful dining experience.
739 N. Clark Street
Chicago News rating: Four stars
Open: Monday through Thursday from 4:30 p.m. until 12 a.m. Friday from 4:30 p.m. until 2 a.m. Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m. Sunday from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m.
Prices: Main courses $31-$53.90 (unlimited samplings)
Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V
Reservations: Recommended on the weekends and during a holiday
Noise: This is a somewhat noisy establishment
Ratings key: Four stars, outstanding; three stars, excellent; two stars, very good; one star, good; no stars, unsatisfactory. The reviewer makes every effort to remain anonymous.