I had a wonderful meal with Paul and friends, Jim and Diane at Brasserie Zentral on Friday night. I had never been there before, but was expecting great things because our friends are foodies of the “go to” sort. They read, experience and remember restaurants, chefs, locations and, most importantly, food.
I’ll give you the bottom line first. If you’re looking for a great dining experience, try Brasserie Zentral. The wait staff is extremely well trained, head Chef Klein as well as Chef de cuisine Unruh were both in attendance and over-seeing the kitchen, they have a wide-ranging menu with a kitchen staff that supports creating each dish independently for each diner and their facility gives intimacy while keeping an open concept from dining to kitchen areas.
For me the evening started out with a very nice beer…Founder’s Dark American Porter. There were, of course, other more sophisticated, drinks, of which everyone else participated, but this is my blog, so this is the picture.
After we visited over drinks for a little while, discussing the menu as well as water issues with the excessive rainfall we’ve experienced, we ordered a couple of starters. I am a huge fan of Foie Gras, a taste I acquired from time spent in France, and Brasserie Zentral features Foie Gras in several of their starters. I tried to talk the table into the whole roasted Foie Gras, which serves 8-10, but I was shut down on that suggestion. We went for the two next best things: Classic Terrine of Foie Gras with Tokaji aspic and brioche and a second starter that was layers of Foie Gras and Ahi Tuna with crispy phyllo, extra virgin olive oil and chives.
I must say that the classic Foie Gras was phenomenal with a thick, creamy flavor offset and complimented by the aspic that would have certainly rivaled anything I ate in France. The Foie Gras and Ahi Tuna layer starter flavors were much more centered around the Ahi Tuna and the light, smooth extra virgin olive oil glaze.
We had a very attentive, but not invasive, waiter that was always at our table when we were looking for him, but didn’t butt into our conversations. Diane had requested a table that was open to the kitchen because she and Jim had sat at the counter the last time they were there and they so enjoyed seeing the action associated with creation. They let us sit facing the kitchen and the combination of this arrangement, along with the great service made our experience even better.
The soup course followed with folks trying the duck consomme, white asparagus cream soup and the paprika cured Spanish mackerel. All were excellent, but my opinion was that the asparagus cream soup had the richest, most delicate and interesting flavor.
Moving on to the main course, the four of us chose three different items. Of course Diane and I chose the same entree – Stuffed Loin of Minnesota Rabbit. This came with a variety of interesting flavors, including rock shrimp, prunes, asparagus and flava beans. The shrimps were cooked in a tender ravioli pastas and the rabbit was in the form of both tender meat chunks, and delicate sausages. I have a soft spot for rabbit as I used to raise rabbit when I was in high school and won several county fair 4H ribbons. Other than coming from the same food family, this rabbit had nothing in common with the rabbit I used to eat as a kid. The tenderloins were melt-in-your-mouth, the sausages were spicy and succulent and the rest of the flavors were fresh and delicate.
Paul had the Alaskan Halibut Strudel which came with Morel mushrooms, spring vegetable melange and red ver jus sauce. The halibut was done in a straight forward way so as to maintain the simplicity and cleanliness of the fish. The Morel mushrooms, a Minnesota favorite in early summer, and the sauce, added flavor, texture and interest to each bite. The low quality of this photo doesn’t do the plate justice.
I saved what I considered the best entree for last. Jim chose the Honey and Lemon Thyme Glazed Breast of Minnesota duck with salsify-horseradish, roasted beets and duck crackling dumplings. Salsify is a root vegetable that has snow white flesh and the flavor of artichoke hearts. These flavors, mixed with the rich, dark tenderness of the duck, won me over with just the little bites we traded across the table. I also love beets and who would not like duck crackling dumplings, which uses the fat of the duck to make tender, rich delicious dumplings.
About now I would like to tell you that we were pretty well sated, but I must instead tell you that we went on to have coffee, dessert, as well as a selection of petit fours that Diane seemed to somehow scare up for us from our marvelous waiter.
The desserts consisted of sorbets of cherry, plum and pear. All the flavors were great, but the pear was spectacular and so fresh. There was also a pistachio and lemon seed cake with pistachio meringue dessert and a Linzer torte with strawberry and rhubarb and a strong hint of cardamom.
Finally, our selection of petit fours. Unfortunately I didn’t take good enough notes to have all the names down. The tiny dark chocolate disk with the gold leaf was the most interesting, but I am here to tell you that if you thought you knew what marshmellows tasted like, you’ve never tasted a fresh, homemade marshmellow. It is the pink square on the right and was soft, sweet and flavorful. It melted on my tongue and was my favorite from this plate.
I would eat here again in a heartbeat, except my manly figure will not allow it again until next month. Luckily July is coming up next Tuesday!