Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Artisanal Brasserie

A few weekends back, I went to Artisanal Brasserie at the Bravern, Bellevue’s new (over the top) luxury shopping complex. Some friends of my boyfriend invited us out for a friends and family opening type thing, and we had a blast. The space itself is huge but charming, with tile floors, large mirrors and crimson coloring. It's like a big version of Bastille in Ballard.

Our server encouraged us to try pretty much everything on the menu so the kitchen could get the practice. So we obliged, ordering and eating a ridiculous amount of food. We started with cheese tempura as an amuse and moved on to a round of hors d’ourves—perfectly plump oysters on the half shell and a mini mason jar of foie with apricot chutney. Then not one, not two, but three bowls of mussels (provencal, curry and espagnol). The espagnol were my favorite. Then came grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes and paprika followed by a mesclun salad with a tasty little herb vinaigrette.

Entrees came next. We all got one and passed to the left every few bites. I started with the 7 hour lamb shank, which was ridiculously good, if not for the meat itself for the parmesan polenta underneath it. We also got a nice piece of ling cod that came with clams and chorizo (always a plus), a plate of hangar steak frites and diver scallops with a blood orange sauce. The only thing I didn’t go back for another bite of was the scallops because I couldn’t take the too sweet sauce.

And then came dessert. We didn’t choose dessert; they just brought our table an assortment. I should be clear that I don’t eat a lot of dessert, so when I do I tend to think everything is beyond delicious. Most definitely the case in this situation. We again got four plates and passed every few bites. My first bite was an apple tarte tartin with a cheddar crust and crème fraiche. I didn’t want to give it up. But then I looked at the pecan praline cheesecake coming my way and conceded. Same case there. I couldn’t let it go. Until I smelled the fried dough from the beignets with huckleberry sauce next to me and tasted the custard like filling. Le sigh. My last bite was a chocolate mousse with hazelnut and coffee crunch. Good for sure, but the tarte and cheesecake were the clear winners. I’m a sucker for cheese.

The place and service had a few kinks, but the staff fully knew it and the place wasn’t even really open yet (sure a lot of it’s worked itself out by now), so it actually made it a bit more of an experience for me personally. That and when famed chef Terrence Brennan stopped at our table while making his rounds outside of the kitchen. He asked the obligatory how is everything question, we bid him the standard congrats and then we asked what he thought of the ingredients here. I appreciated his honesty when he let on he’s less than impressed with the seafood here. Struck me as odd given I always thought the PacNW was at least somewhat known for seafood (and the sea things we had that night were really good), but evs.

All that coupled with a smile and nod from Thierry Rautureau (the chef in the hat from Rover’s) on our way out made the night. I’ll be back for the number of wines they serve by the glass, the cheese and charcuterie selection that weren’t available before opening and another long, lingering dance with that tarte.

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