Good Enough

Minnesota's newest luxe Italian bistro and wine bar is good enough, fast enough, nice enough, and, generally, enough all over

Brix
4656 Excelsior Boulevard,
St. Louis Park

952.698.2749
www.brixwine.com

I have two conflicting thoughts. They war in my head like hawks bearing flamethrowers and tiny little hawk machetes. I must set them free, and so unto you I deliver: the first thought: One danger of not leaving town for a while is that a creeping kind of relativism seeps into your consciousness, and you approach a restaurant thinking, Well, this is better than three-day-old Byerly's takeout, microwaved, forgotten, then microwaved a second time and eaten while standing, right? And it's better than that place in St. Paul that poisoned me last week. Right? Right! Four stars! Then, the second thought swoops in, aflame, bearing a machete. That thought is: If a girl holds in her mind impossibly high standards—remembering, say, the mozzarella squeezed practically straight from the udder of the water buffalo and into a girl's high-living mouth—then a girl will lead a life of both endless disappointment and increasing irrelevance, as everyone reasonably decides to ignore her since she is never happy. Soon, she is shudderingly alone, isolated, abandoned, bitter, and eventually dropped into the ground in a plain casket with no one much attending.

Yes, yes, I have been eating in an upscale suburban trattoria. Of course I have. What else would bring on flamethrowing hawks of relativism, mozzarella, and lonely graves?

It's Brix, the classy Italian joint that has taken over the old Mojito space in St. Louis Park, that's done this to me. I can faithfully report that the place is good enough, in every sense of the phrase. The soaring space of Brix is taupe, beige, tiled, carpeted, wood-floored, inset with stained glass, ringed with banquettes, clustered with booths, bedecked with flat-screen televisions, garlanded with wine and liquor bottles, and generally made into as much of an expensive, inoffensive version of now as possible. Brix serves lunch during the week and dinner nightly. It opened last summer and is, as far as I know, the best restaurant in St. Louis Park. So there's something simple and nice for their press kit. You and I, though, we must muddle on with more complicated, competing, flaming hawks of thoughts.

Another one: The wine list at Brix is admirable. Almost 150 bottles long, it is a beautifully chosen array of the unusual, the delicious, and the worthy of greater attention, largely culled from small local distributors. The list starts out with a "20 bottles for $20" section, and everything I tried from it was a delight to encounter: A St. Gabriel Piesporter Michelsberg was light and lemony, the Chateau Elysees bubbly was sprightly and refreshing, and I know a few of the others in the group, such as the Manyana Tempranillo, to be some of the most food-friendly bargains around. More obscure wines, such as one made by Otella from the Lugana grape, and another made from the fruit of hundred-year-old California Mourvedre vines, will make Brix attractive to people who keep cellars of their own—it's not easy to please all of the people, the masses and the massively well-drunk, but here we have it.

(Brix is actually named after a technical winemaking term: "Degrees of Brix" are what you use to measure the total dissolved compounds, and thus the grape sugar, and thus the probable amount of alcohol, in the grape juice destined to become wine. I imagine that A.F.W. Brix, the 19th-century German who invented this scale, must be ghosting about and pumping his fist in the air. Name on a building in St. Louis Park! Achtung! They didn't see that one coming in chemistry class.)

To go with that wine, Brix offers a variety of salads, handmade pastas, Italian American classics such as chicken Parmigiana, Italian stalwarts including osso buco, and American restaurant classics like a beef tenderloin served on the bone, and a New York strip steak. Most of what I had at Brix was pretty good. A Caprese salad ($8.99) featured tender mozzarella and fresh, pretty basil leaves interwoven with slices of lackluster (of course) winter tomato—I'll let you decide whether this is a dish that should be served after first frost. Other salads, like the one topped with thinly shaved slices of duck, or another made with crumbles of fresh goat cheese and squares of roast beet, were clean, fine, cold, and likable.

The best appetizer I tried was a version of carpaccio ($10.99) in which a large platter was papered with both thin slices of raw beef and gossamer sheets of good prosciutto; mounded above the meats was a tangle of baby arugula dressed with saba, and on that salad rested a trio of figs stuffed with Gorgonzola. Saba is a syrup made from cooking down and then oak-barrel-aging the same "must" (grape juice plus grape solids) used to create balsamic vinegar, and it's famed for pairing better with wines than vinegar does, so this was a particularly thoughtful and nice touch to find at a wine bar.

Other dishes, which require cooking instead of just assembly, were less satisfactory: Seared scallops in a brown butter sauce ($12.99) arrived not so much sauced as swimming in a soup of what looked like clarified butter. They tasted greasy and salty, and the dollop of butternut squash puree that accompanied them was all but inedible from its swamping in butter sauce. Fried calamari ($9.99) were sodden and uninteresting. I didn't get the sense that there was anyone with veto authority looking at the plates as they left the kitchen.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Loading...