Chef Jason Corbridge believes in food's universal nature. That faith inspired him to name his restaurant ParaƧol in midtown Billings that he owns with partners Don Christensen, Jamey Eisenbarth and Ronald Eisenbarth. Para sol, as two separate words, translate to "for sun" in Spanish, while as one French word, parasol, refers to "an umbrella or sun shade." As the words transcend languages, Corbridge wanted the name to symbolize the repetition of food across the globe with specific references to the Norwegian lefse and French crepe, both wraps. The backwards "Ƨ" hints at Corbridge's desire to distinguish his restaurant and food.
On a hot sunny day, Sarah Brown and I sat outside on the patio, shaded under a red saffron-colored umbrella. Brown characterized the L-shaped area off the front entrance as "pleasant and spacious outdoor seating."
Inside, a stone fireplace in the entry welcomes diners into a room with a wood-slotted ceiling anchored with a chevron-patterned hardwood floor. The side walls lined with booth seating lead the guest to look at the open kitchen at the back of the restaurant. The lighting projects criss-cross patterns onto the walls, syncing with the lacy kaleidoscope pattern crowning the upper back wall.
Corbridge wants his food to show "my appreciation for world cuisine and perceived connection to the world." Ultimately, he added, "We all look for comfort in food. There are so many things tied to food aside from sustenance and survival. There's also craft and art." His faith in the creative and the concrete show with the restaurant's umbrella logo tattooed on his left arm.
Corbridge learned to cook at George Henry's Restaurant, but his grandmother Carolyn was his great influence in the world of cooking and gardening. His grandparents gifted him "Larousse Gastronomique" and "The Escoffier" cookbooks teaching him classic European techniques. Those skills led him to open up Cafe DeCamp in 2018, helm the kitchen at Commons 1882, and more recently cook at the Last Chance Pub and Cider Mill.
"I love the way Jason takes different foods and flavors and ingredients, puts them together, and creates a whole unique set of new and intriguing flavors and tastes," Adela Awner said while lunching with her husband Paul Miller.
She ordered the "Hummus Plate" with the "Rotating Hummus Batch." Corbridge utilizes the plate as "an opportunity to highlight fresh ingredients such as Kate's Garden's Romano beans and heirloom radishes from Swanky Roots." He continued, "I let the ingredients tell me what needs to be used up."
The day's hummus combined garbanzo beans with garbanzo flour, peaches and sesame seeds. We ordered the "House Soup." The "scratch-made daily" soup combined seasonal cucumbers and lavender honey topped with a swirl of Mexican crema. Sarah Brown said that "the cuke soup is special and chef-y — something you wouldn't make at home."
From the "MainStays" section, Sarah and I both ordered the "Wagyu Reuben Sandwich on Sourdough Toast with 1000 Island." It came to the table on dark-brown bread with a golden crispy outside, and soft inside with red cabbage sauerkraut.
Both the lunch and dinner menu contain about 16 items in three categories of starters, main courses and desserts. Lunch is served from Wednesday to Saturday with brunch on Sunday. Of dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, Corbridge says, "My fish and beef specials sell out like crazy." Wanting to support local producers and serve the freshest product possible, he said, "I check with the fishmonger for what they have for the day."
However, he admitted, "I love making soup and ice cream." Right now, it's vanilla bean ice cream, pure and simple. Adela Brown says of his soups, "I never ceased to be amazed by his soups — a new one each day!"
The whimsical and worldly brunch menu offers "Chicken and Waffles" with a "Cocoa & Buckwheat Waffle", "Black Brioche French Toast" made with "Coconut Ash Brioche," and "Lamb Chorizo & a Duck Egg Crepe." A traditional American breakfast can be created by combining items from the "Sides."
As Corbridge "walks a fine line of satisfying my creativity and making people happy," he will continue to share his flavors here under the umbrella of the Big Sky.
Stella Fong, author of 'Historic Restaurants of Billings and Billings Food' hosts 'Flavors Under the Big Sky: Celebrating the Bounty of the Region' for Yellowstone Public Radio.
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