Restaurant Review: Frix's Fire Grill
Mar 27, 2015 09:47AM
● By Cate Reynolds
All Frixed UpAnd Only One Place to Go…the Chesapeake for Lava Rocks Cuisine
By Gail Greco
Frix’s Fire Grill
1533 Postal Road, Chester
Bubbled and cuddled and especially, sure-fired. Hey, these are descriptive conjuring words, we don’t use everyday unless we’re talking effervescence and excitement, romance and pampering, confidence and cache. But in a “must-visit” new neighborhood Brazilian restaurant on Kent Island, they are blabbered often in the talk of the town, Chester—where not just the tall and tanned, and young and lovely go walking, but so does just about everyone else—to Frix’s Fire Grill.
It didn’t take long—less than a year for Frix’s and its lava rock cooking to become a local favorite. The big grilled, even-cooked, and strong flavors are due to the va-va-voom flare of the more natural lava rocks, an ubiquitously primordial culinary draw.
I was hesitant when I first set eyes on Frix’s. Now I want to go back again and again. Located in a nondescript strip mall, the restaurant’s storefront exterior is unassuming. But the iconic logo of a dancing flame in shades of yellow and orange with black lettering was hip, chic, reassuring, and suggested something different and intriguing. Inside, red wood-tone tables and chairs, and some etched and stained glass, warm up the small dining room and intimate bar, and also stimulate the Brazilian modern-bistro vibe.
Plates whizz by from the kitchen and you can’t take your eyes off these strutting foods, overflowing lithely like tropical waterfalls and fiercely like fiery volcanoes. So if you haven’t ordered yet, you may be inclined to use some lingo like this, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
It’s hard not to order nearly everything bubbling on the menu at Frix’s, even if you can’t pronounce some of the names with a proper Brazilian or Portuguese accent. How about this for my pre-dinner drink, the national cocktail of Brazil. It’s called a caipirinha (that’s something like kigh-peer-ahna). I only had one of the icy sugar-cane distilled spirit cachaca drinks and was already doing the bossa nova in my head. Bartender Dan used a muddler on fresh limes by pushing the pestle-like wooden bar tool in the bottom of the glass to release the piquant citrus’ essence.
Frix’s Brazilian food is fun and delicious, banishing all blandness and adding a cultural sashay that widens the net of ethnic foods on the shore. “On the rocks” takes on a whole new meaning beyond something slurped up from blocks of frozen water, or the boulders on a Chesapeake river riprap. We’re talking food blazed over a high heat grill that never sleeps as so-called lava rocks fuel the embers from underneath rather than briquettes.
Espentiho, a dish of skewered meat or vegetables is served with farofa (looks like quinoa) and hot sauce and you can start your dinner there. Many of the restaurant’s meats are cooked tender, moist, and with flavor embedded from the umami of earthy charred stone. I indulged with the filet mignon cooked pink inside with a crusty Brazilian rock-salt char on the outside. Asparagus, grilled just enough to flavor them smoky, but tender them crisp, and all topped with a flash of chimichurri accompanied my steak that had been trimmed and cut in the Frix kitchen, as they custom-butcher all their meats.
I had already eaten more than I had intended of a shrimp entrée that I selected as one of a few appetizers, expecting to bring most of it home. No chance, as I ate it all in a buttery broth of coconut water and more of that cachaca spirit. It was served in a bowl of fresh green coconut, the kind that looks more primitive than brown coconuts, and certainly like they could have come from a part of the dense Amazon of northern Brazil. I did ask to have the accompanying mango rice wrapped for take-out. They also do something in an avocado as an edible bowl calling it the Abacate Marajá with shrimp, tomato, and cilantro. And chicken, ham, cream cheese, and corn is also served in a natural food casing—a classic Brazilian tapioca crepe called Panqueca de Frango. The Mandioca e Linguica is traditional, too, containing fresh (agave plant) yucca in a spicy aioli with smoked pork sausage I enjoyed, while spooning up a canja or chicken soup.
From meltingly flavorful flatbreads, breaded plantains, hand-cut fries, and salads to a charming house special of stuffed pastries with beans, cheese, and meats and served in a wire basket, you can eat your way through Frix’s appetizer menu and stop there if you want to. But for me, the word got out I was here to sample the menu for a review. It wasn’t long before a lamb chop appeared, as well as a rib eye the house said I just had to try, and a chicken stroganoff with a mushroom flambe. All mirrored the care and quality of ingredients the earlier dishes embodied when I was served incognito.
No one had to suggest I try dessert. I ordered the chocolate mousse with a petal-soft texture, and the fire-and-ice pound cake—even the cake hits the grill to caramelize and brown into sweetness—appearing with a mélange of coco dusted fire and lava-cooked pineapple, contrasted by a chill from the ice cream.
Who was behind all of this Brazilian rhythm? Not surprising, someone with a heritage from Latin America, Carina who hails from the little town of Espirito Santo, Brazil and the big city of Sao Paolo, and her American born chef-husband Derek Frix, who now make Kent Island home. The Frixes surprised me even further at their young 30-something age, running a restaurant so professionally and with such mature attitude and creativity already tossed into their food and service. Carina managed a Brazilian steak house in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, before the couple opened Frix’s. They even know how to price the food right, so you do come back often. They’re doing just that, with patrons returning time and again, from as far as St. Michaels and over the bridge from Annapolis, if you read the reviews.