Short Rib Meatloaf and Other New Delights at BRC

I swear to God, there was a period (2009? 2010?) during which BRC Gastropub never changed its menu. I loved the food, but after a handful of trips I had developed a "regular" order, and that's a behavioral practice I want to reserve for my late eighties.

Now, however, the team at BRC always seem to keep us guessing, in a good way, as to how their menu will evolve to reflect changing tastes and seasonal products. After sampling multiple dishes from different menu iterations, I can say that a few ingredients stand out as trademarks (eggs, oysters, blue cheese, house-made condiments). In between there's a lot of creativity and diversity. In other words, sufficient familiarity for comfort but enough variation to keep you coming back.

Their current fall menu, for example, incorporates a host of new appetizers, salads, and entrées that fit perfectly with their American gastropub-style of cookery, sophisticated spins on down-home favorites that still push the boundaries of the category.

On a recent balmy Tuesday night, I tried a number of the restaurant's new offerings, beginning with the Puget Sound mussels. This dish refutes the assertion that the fare at BRC is heavy, artery-clogging, and gut-busting. Ensconced in a bath of white wine, butter, stewed tomatoes, and fried garlic, the mussels are an aromatic starter that serves as an "appetizer" in the true sense of the word. The supple mollusks and rustic broth soothe and satisfy the palate, but also prepare it for richer, more complex dishes to come. (Not that you should restrain yourself when eating the mussels. By the way, they come with two toasted and buttered crostini that contain insufficient starch to soak up all the juice, so best order some of the delicious biscuits and wipe the bowl clean.)

My main course, the "smoked" short rib meatloaf, came with a lovely surprise. Or, more accurately, two lovely half surprises in the forms of a bisected hard-boiled egg. The sunny yolks beamed from the middle of the loaf and provided a terrific contrast in texture to the darker, brooding meat. A mild, house-made banana ketchup, along with the juicy, earthier brisket, kept this meatloaf from being (as so many are) cloying sweet. A side pitcher of brown mushroom gravy may at first seem nothing but an accompaniment for the chunky hill of Yukon mashed potatoes, but if you reserve it solely for the spuds you'll miss out on the wonders it does for the meatloaf. The savory vegetable notes it adds to the loaf are exceptional.

There's more to sample off BRC's fall menu, but I quit while I was ahead (though a part of me did want to order the foie gras poutine for dessert). As always at this restaurant, I found myself picking off the plate of my dining companion, whose flat iron steak had a slightly charred finish that belied a tender, bloodier center. She also was kind enough to share her macaroni and cheese, the oldie-but-goodie favorite that I hope never disappears from the menu.

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Joanna O'Leary