Good Enough

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

I tried a great many pastas at Brix, trying to make up my mind about them. Some were undoubtedly good, the best being the lobster strichetti ($20.99), in which tender noodles—some squid-ink black, some pale—were glazed with a sweet and light vodka tomato cream sauce, then adorned with seared scallops, lobster chunks, and lump crab meat. It was light, it was creamy, it was comforting—it was a solid, well-executed, enjoyable plate. More typical, however, were pastas which were neither strictly good nor actually bad: House-made sausage agnolotti ($12.99) were large, egg-sized rectangles of undercooked pasta filled with a hot-pepper-laced sausage filling and served lined up in a long rectangle of a plate filled with a fiery, spicy sauce. There was about 15 times more meat than pasta in this thing. It was an ideal dish for someone who wanted to eat sausage and sauce, but calling it a pasta dish seemed like calling a garnished hamburger a lettuce dish. I tried these agnolotti twice, and both times they were distinctly undercooked, not merely al dente. Meanwhile, the kitchen sent out a tagliatelle Bolognese ($13.99) that was mushy as baby food, though the casual meat sauce tasted just right, loose and flavorful in an ideal way. Curious. Potato gnocchi ($10.99) were neither here nor there—a little grainy, a little heavy, but the Gorgonzola cream sauce was zesty and likable. I could neither recommend nor condemn them.

I'm less ambivalent about the bigger meat entrees at dinner, which need help. The house osso buco ($25.99) was salty, greasy, and metallic tasting. The too-dry pork tenderloin ($18.99) came with, said the menu, a black fig demi-glace; I'll have to take their word on it, as I thought the sauce's only recognizable qualities were salty, thick, and a little sweet. The chicken Parmigiana ($15.99) is the only thing I can wholeheartedly recommend from the meaty part of Brix's menu. When I tried it, I got two large chicken breasts given a light coating of seasoned flour and pan-fried, served beneath a little dollop of fresh-tasting tomato sauce and melted fresh mozzarella. If you're an East Coast refugee who's lived a life of pining and sadness without a good local chicken Parmigiana, now you know: Here's one! Set a salad, a bottle of $20 wine, and a chicken Parmigiana on the table, and Brix is a great restaurant. Have a carpaccio and lobster strichetti, and you're leading the high life. Keep visiting Brix trying to assess the breadth of their offerings, and you will come to grief.

Or, worse, you will come to the tiramisu. Here, a pretty hard chocolate cylinder was filled with alternating layers of cake and creamy stuff—layers of cake and creamy stuff that tasted like a box of baking soda that's been sitting in the back of a refrigerator absorbing odors, and then a chicken died. I don't know how old this tiramisu was, but it tasted like it had been aging in place for months, and had everyone at my table grasping for coffee to drive the taste from their mouths. The cappuccino semifreddo ($6.99), a half-frozen custard dessert which should be distinguished by its light, airy traits, was toothachingly, painfully, searingly sweet—a single bite was like getting knifed in the face, with sugar. On a second visit I tried both of these offending desserts again, willing to discount the first disaster if they were any better, but the tiramisu was still gruesomely stale, the semifreddo mostly a sugar headache. "Well, at least we don't have to worry about these calories!" chirped my lunch date, pushing the plates away with remarkable verve and spirit.

Again, the flamethrowing hawks of competing thoughts swooped down. The first: I must speak truth, I must stand up and fight! I must defend the weakest among us, for their creamy centers are under attack by unpleasant refrigerator odors! If I do not give voice to the tiramisu, who among us will? And then the second thought: Oh, for heaven's sake! You call this living? How much of a pain in the neck do you really want to be to a suburban trattoria? It's the best restaurant in St. Louis Park, they've got a great wine list, cut them some slack. If you don't, I will peck you to death with my tiny little hawk machete.

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