Apr 23, 2014 11:43AM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
Brasserie Brightwell brings an enjoyable dining option to Easton. The Brasserie, as local residents call it, comes from a French term for a relaxed restaurant, especially one with a large selection of drinks. And Brasserie definitely delivers. It has quite an extensive beverage program. However this is not the only thing to brag about. The menu is well rounded and perfect for a quick bite at the bar or an elegant sit-down dinner with friends.
When first entering the establishment it feels cozy with a bar and a few tables to perch, which leaves you wondering if this is the entire place. But its outside architecture implies there is much more seating available inside somewhere. Indoors, just past the bar and though a hallway lined with bottles of wine, the room opens up and the mystery is solved.
There is a large dining room with simple circular wooden tables and chairs, an open kitchen, and a semi-circle raw bar, which gets your taste buds excited for what’s to come. The décor is well-placed for the high ceilings—there’s an oversized clock and French-themed artwork that fits the personality of the space perfectly. The room has a sort of cold feeling at first with its concrete floors, but warmth is made up with the glow of small lights placed all around. The openness makes the atmosphere and food feel honest.
After a typical welcoming by our server Anthony we started off with drinks. I had the Lavender Side Car, which was quite warming for the cold evening, and my two guests ordered beer; one had the Brewers Art Green Peppercorn Tripel, while the other had Star Hill’s The Love, a German Hefeweizen, one of the seasonal beers on tap. After hearing the daily specials we were ready to order. We started with a Beet Salad and the Special Soup.
The beet salad was a sizeable portion. It had large thinly sliced discs of pickled beets that lined the bottom of the plate, topped with arugula or as some like to call it, “rocket,” tossed with sherry vinaigrette and crowned with nice dabs of Bucheron Cheese, a goat’s milk cheese native to the Loire Valley in France. The peppery arugula and beets mixed with the creamy tang of goat cheese made for wonderful contrasting flavors and textures in this dish.
The soup special was a smoked tomato with Gorgonzola and a balsamic reduction. Served in a bowl with a small straight handle, the soup had smooth but bold smoke flavors with contrasting sweet flavors from the tomato and the balsamic reduction. The soup was served at a perfect temperature to semi-melt the Gorgonzola, adding a bit of creamy texture.
For our next course we had Fried Oysters, Mushroom Toast, and Angry Orchard Mussels and Frites. Beginning with the oyster dish, they were hand breaded and delicately fried to golden brown. Served atop a circular smear of caper aoli, they were plump and delicious. There appeared to be no salt on the exterior of the oysters but the saltiness of the oysters and capers was well balanced. I enjoyed the presentation with sauce on the bottom of the plate rather than on the side.
The mushroom toast consisted of mixed Duxelle, goat cheese, and Serrano Ham atop a grilled baguette with a Madiera wine reduction. It had a very nice, woodsy-rustic taste, with a great range of textures and flavors. The crispy bread, soft mushrooms, and creamy cheese worked really well with the almost sweet/almost buttery mushrooms, and salty ham. I feel that it could have used more toast, but overall I loved this dish.
The Angry Orchard mussels and frites were a large enough dish to share. Served in a big bowl, it arrived wafting wonderful aromas and great flavors. The briny mussels, with bitter apple flavor from Angry Orchard brand hard cider, some sourness from apple cider vinegar, all mixed with smokiness from some house-made bacon, was a delight. All topped with a hefty portion of frites.
Following the natural progression of the meal, our entrees arrived next. We feasted on Flat Iron Steak and Frites, Organic Semi-Boneless Grilled Chicken, and the Daily Braise. The flat iron steak was to order and served at a perfect mid-rare and topped with Maître d'Hôtel Butter, along with garlic frites. These were same frites served with mussels, crisp and delicious. The organic chicken was an airline breast of chicken, nicely grilled. The texture was a bit tougher than usual, but I feel was to be expected, coming from a chicken that more than likely free-range versus caged; their muscles tend to be a bit firmer. The flavor was quite nice and was complemented with a side of fried cauliflower. The side dish had an interesting sweet and sour flavor using fish sauce, mint, and peanuts.
Last but not least was the Daily Braise, which today happened to be Pork Belly. This wonderful gem of a dish was served with fried rice, pickled cucumber, cilantro, shredded carrots, and peanuts. The pork belly was tender, melt-in-your-mouth, and had wonderful accompaniments. I did find it odd that it seemed to be an Asian style dish, which doesn’t really fit with the rest of the menu, but this dish was delicious.
For dessert we decided on a Trio of Petite Bouchees and Warm Bread Pudding with Gelato. For the trio, the customer gets to select three from a list of four and I selected the chocolate mousse, crème brulee, and the apple crumble. These lovely little bouchees were served on a long rectangular plate with individual espresso cups filled with each dessert. The chocolate mousse was rich, creamy, and light in texture and topped with Chantilly cream. It was not a very sweet chocolate but I prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate, so I was quite happy. The crème brulee had a perfect sugar crust and a wonderful custard consistency. The apple crumble was an excellent contrast to the other two cold desserts. It was warm and full of spice and an excellent end to my meal. Our other dessert, the warm bread pudding, was a sizeable portion cut into two pieces served with Chantilly cream and vanilla gelato. The pudding temperature was ideal, it was not so hot that it melted the gelato, yet warm enough to contrast with the gelato’s coldness. The flavors were rich and delicate without being overly sweet.
Overall I was quite happy with my experience at the Brassiere, our food and our service was excellent. Our server, Anthongy, had extensive knowledge of the menu and was attentive. The atmosphere is welcoming both indoors and out, and the space makes for an excellent evening out, especially in warmer weather when The Brasserie hosts live music.
Eastern Shore native, Diana Jeffra is a professional chef and aspiring food stylist. Her background in graphic design and her culinary degree from the Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism Institute have led her to begin work on her first cookbook. Past adventures have led her to culinary competitions and a summer cooking in Italy.
Lavender Side Car 12.50
Brewers Art Beer 6.00
Seasonal Tap 3.00
Beet Salad 9.00
Special Soup 7.95
Mussels and Frites 13.50
Fried Oysters 10.00
Mushroom Toast 8.50
Daily Braise 24.50
Flat Iron Steak 15.50
Chicken Breast 14.50
Petite Trio Bouchees 9.00
Bread Pudding 8.50
206 North Washington Street, Easton