Eat Your Beer! [Brothers Beer Bistro; a review]
Wait! Don’t count us out yet!
The Ottawa dining scene has never been surrounded by such buoyant anticipation. The “city that fun forgot” is finally wagging an intrepid finger in the face of all the nay-sayers, starting first with a handful of admirable dining establishments in Hintonburg and continuing with the new kid on the block, Brothers Beer Bistro.
366 Dalhousie St, which once housed a routine but somewhat lackluster Japanese restaurant, can now be called home to owners Patrick Asselin, Nick Ringuette and chef Darren Flowers. All gentleman come to Brothers B.B with an accomplished list of experience in and around the Ottawa dining scene and it shows in their attention to every detail.
I was unable to attend the media event Thursday evening, so when I found out Mr. GL had plans to see a show in the Byward Market this past Sunday night, I took it as an opportunity to grab a pre-show dinner at Brothers…and to bring a few friends to share in the experience. After all, more people means more beers and better coverage of the menu so we were able to try a whole bunch of Brothers’ beerfully delightful dishes.
We walked in the door to an inviting fellow with a kind smile. Upon first glance, if industrial design and rustic charm had a spicy rendezvous, Brothers’ would be the resulting love child. Original brick, warm wood, clean white walls and exposed pipe beer taps give the restaurant a welcome, inviting feel, just as the owners had strived for. I found it hard not to feel perfectly at home in one of the 5 cozy booths. Had we not been rushing over to Mavericks to see friends play a show [shameless plug; Black Dogs!] I would have been perfectly happy to stay long into the night tasting beer after beer… which is serious work, guys. And, you know, someone has got to do the dirty work while you all sit around in your suits and boardrooms hogging all the fun. [snicker]
Now let’s get serious. The food. Oh my, the food. Chef Darren Flowers, who comes by way of Play Food & Wine, Luxe Bistro and Beckta, has quite obviously found a niche that he loves, because it truly comes through in his food. You won’t find Buffalo Chicken Wraps (which I shamefully admit that I love) or soggy french fries with a droopy, sad looking pickle at Brothers. What you will find, on the contrary, are artfully prepared takes on some classics.
To start, we each ordered an appetizer which proved a harder decision than I had anticipated. I wanted them all. The Beef Tartare, which was recommended by numerous peers who had attend the media event, was everything I’d hoped and more. Great texture, a lingering bite from the ramps and an ever-so-delicate bitterness from the Maudite. The Tuna Crudo was brightly flavoured with a savoury kick thanks to the pigs ear crackling scattered generously around the plate. Both men ordered the Perogies, unable to resist their porky charm. Served with an ample slab of confit pig cheek and a savoury roasted potato brodo, each bite set mouths ablaze with salty, porky goodness and smooth earthy potatoes. As promised, they were a treat not to forget.
For our mains, we each ordered something different to be sure we got to taste as many items as possible on our first visit. A Kichesippi Fried Chicken (aptly referred to as “KFC”) and Waffles had me lustfully speechless (it was Mr. GL’s dish so I only had two bites…but could have easily eaten 2 servings) with it’s rich, savoury gravy, perfectly crisp fried chicken and tender waffles. The vegetarian dish, which I ordered, was a Parpadelle served with a bounty of spring vegetables, burly sliced olives, oven roasted tomatoes and, the kicker, an incredible smoked Parmesan that married brilliantly with the dish. The Charred BC Octopus arrived, looking oddly alien-like, but boasted an incredible, intense charred flavour that teamed well with the tender gnocchi and delicate fennel. Finally, the Arctic Char. Flawlessly crisp and golden skinned, topped with lemon zest, a welcome addition to fish’s mild flavour, and served with fingerling potatoes and Mad Tom IPA compressed mushrooms.
We drank many a beer, most notably the Coopers Sparkling Ale. Mildly grassy and crisp in flavour with moderate carbonation - I would happily drink this any summer (fall, winter, spring) day.
We came. We saw. We fell in love. What a treat our dining experience was! I am anxiously awaiting my next trip to Brothers Beer Bistro. An entirely welcome addition to the Ottawa dining scene, particularly in the Byward Market where mediocrity seems to run rampant (at least in the area of Brothers). I have no doubt that the beer lovers will find a happy home here, while the generally-beer-impaired will find themselves trying brews they never dreamed existed (banana bread beer, anyone?). There is something for everyone (yes, even a good selection of wines!) and then some. I have high hopes that Chef Flowers will continue to wow diners with his fresh take on classic dishes while expanding his menu slowly.
If I may, I highly suggest you pick up the phone (or go online!), dial Brothers up and set a date to bring your favourite person to dinner - and then come and find me so we can rave about the experience together!