Tuesday, March 31, 2009

BrenArt - 02/13/2009

For a friend's birthday we decided to try out BrenArt, a wine bar in Pasadena. The restaurant places a heavy emphasis on food, serving "French-European cusine with a touch of Asian influence". The chef, Yi-Fan Chu studied at the California School of Culinary Arts and worked in a Michelin starred restaurant in Germany before recently taking the helm at BrenArt.

The bread came out piping hot and stuffed with a bit of cheese. A very straightforward presentation but still quite satisfying.

Escargot - Tarragon Butter, Puff Pastry
I was expecting the escargot to be integrated into the pastry. As it was, the dish was clumsy and difficult to enjoy properly. There was a great deal of labor involved in shelling the escargot and cutting a proper sized piece of the puff pastry. For best effect, the snails should be taken out of the shell and served each on their own bite of pastry.

Crispy Frog Leg - Baby Greens, Sauce Gribiche
The frog legs were easily the largest I ever had and on the tough side. I typically favor sparing use of sauce but this dish definitely needed more as the leg was very lightly seasoned and didn't taste like much by themselves.

Mushroom Risotto

The risotto was done using a short grain rice similar to sushi rice. Short grain rice tends to have more amylopectin than the medium grained rices typically used for risotto. Amylopectin is one of the two starches in rice and tends to gelatinizes when cooked. The effect was an overly sticky soft almost mushy risotto.

Braised Pork Belly with White Truffle Risotto - Wild Mushroom, White Truffle Essence, Parmesan Cheese
Probably the best of the entrees. The pork belly had a nice balance of fat and lean meat giving everything a nice richness. The risotto was similar to the mushroom risotto above. I didn't detect any of the aforementioned white truffle, but that didn't really detract from the flavor of the dish.

Rib Eye Steak Topped with Gratin of Mushrooms - Caramelized Onion, Spring Mushroom, Shallots, Spring Veggie, Chef's Au Jus
The meat came virtually encrusted in mushrooms, onion and cheese which dominated any natural flavor the beef might have had. I didn't mind the gratin or the onions but I would have liked to taste more of the meat. Texturally the steak was a bit tough for my tastes surprising given that this was a rib eye.

"Smith" Burger with White Truffle Essence - Smoked Bacon, Butter Lettuce, Tomato, Red Onion, Bleu Cheese, White Truffle Oil, Fries
The worst course of the night. The burger sounded good on the menu but when it arrived, there was no lettuce, tomato, or onion. I asked a waitress to bring the condiments but with 20+ people in the party my request must have gotten lost in the shuffle. After waiting 15 minutes I proceeded to try what was probably the worst burger I have ever tasted. The meat and bacon were both horribly dry and burnt, without any vegetables to provide some liquid I could barely even get a bite down.

I sense the restaurant has yet to find its place. The menu has some interesting courses but the execution needs more work. I imagine part of the lackluster experience stemmed from the fact that we had an especially large party. Given some time the restaurant might be able to establish a niche for itself.

Sadly the current economic climate doesn't allow for that kind of generous learning curve. I read that BrenArt had closed since my visit and Chef Yi-Fan had moved on. I tried calling the restaurant and the line was disconnected. Farewell BrenArt we hardly knew ye.


Anonymous said...

ouch, I'd been curious to try this place out but I guess it is no more. the braised pork risotto didn't sound too shabby but sounds like there were misses all over the place. eek. au revoir, brenart.

Food, she thought. said...

wow. I was excited to see a review for something so promising so close to my office. wrong. thanks for the heads-up.

Tangbro1 said...

The pork belly wasn't bad. The website is still up and it looks like some of the courses have changed... I wonder if it would have made a difference.

Haha no problem... I took the bullet for you this time but I'm sure your blog will save me from a bad experience and return the favor.

Yifan chu said...

Hanks for the review and it really helped to rethinking of my menu and things that I did wrong. I am curenly in Germany and retrain my cooking will be travel around Europe and improve my cooking skill. My nex project will be in east coast NY in about 5 years of time and I will be updating with my infor. Once again thanks for the review and will be better next time.
Yi-fan Chu