Cafe Reviews > Brewer's Art

Brewer's Art

By GREG MAFFETT
Published: June 12, 2011


I had no difficulty at all walking past this building twice. Details, deets, never my strong point. No, no they aren't. Across the street from this building is the towering Monumental Life Building.

There is nothing about this building that says 'fine dining' but that is in fact what it houses. I found the places after my usual process of intensive research into the local culinary scene. That is to say I had no idea what I was doing, got lost, found a parking space, parked and opened google maps. The map showed a place called Brewers Art. I headed down the street and saw zero dining establishments on my first pass. Second time through I did a little better finding a place on the opposite side of the street. Third time was a charm. I checked the address. Verified the address. Walked up the steps still unsure that this was an eatery. Yeah, that is marketing charm city style.

And in truth this place does enough business that they don't need to bother with the walk in trade. They are coming up on their 15th year in business and are at no risk of shuttering thier doors any time soon.

They make their own ales. Belgian style. These are hit and miss with me, but I found three hits my first day there. The Ozzy is the lightest, then it ramps up a bit to the Sublimation and they top out with the Resurrection. They had seven ales on tap and these three were on the high side of 7% alchohol. Each one was excellent in it's own right. Each was served in a 12 oz tulup due to the high gravity of the ale. The pint ales were probably fine also, but I never tried them as that would have involved 33% more sipping. I know, this is a sign of unparalleled laziness on my part. But I'm OK with that. And I was really OK with the ale.

On Sunday I paired the Ozzy with their White Tuna Tartare. Perfect.

On Sunday this dish was flawless. The sauce in the upper left corner of the photo went perfectly with every other element on the plate. The Tuna, the Salad and even the little cubies of gelatin. Perfectly integrated and executed. I was on to something here.

Although this photo didn't come out quite as well, this dish was also executed perfectly on Sunday. I paired it with the Sublimation and it was also off the charts. The Roast Pork belly was cooked to perfection and it melded blissfully with the fresh strawberries and the cornbread.

Though I'm not always a dessert guy, I'd run a duathlon Sunday morning and was in the mood for a bit more. I added the Meyer Lemon Tart to the list and paired that with the Resurrection.

The first two plates were both rated A+ on my scale. This was good, but it only rated an A. I had some issues with the dough they used, I'd have liked it a little thinner, a little less dominant so the flavor of the tart would have been showcased a bit more. Small quibble with an excellent meal overall. I was hooked and was on the verge of adding this to my list of can't miss places. I had it a notch below Empire Small Bar in Norflok, VA as my idea of an East Coast bistro that knew small plates. But I needed more data. And I'd cherry picked the menu. I'd be back.

And I was. Came back the next night and picked the Sausage Plate and the Artichoke Bisque with truffle oil. The sausage was fine, but I have the Linkery in San Diego as a reference there. They did fine with the potato salad. But the Saurkraut? It missed. Granted, I've had the best Germany has to offer while I was in Berlin. This did not match up. But the portions were generous and other than the kraut it was fine. I gave it an A-. Same for the Bisque. Nice, but it seemed to lack the depth I'd have liked to push it over the top.

I backed off a bit on Tuesday and opted for the burger. It was a very solid effort. Granted, I just came back from Colorado where they absolutely drill burger's, but this was not an A-, this was a solid A. They were locking themselves in as an A eatery, but maybe not A+. I did take a show at dessert again and whoa, A+. This was a soft cake with strawberries and two sauces. The name escapes me, some Leche. Paired it with the Sublimation and yes, it was sublime. I don't expect a lot in the way of desserts from a place that drills the mains, but this place was showing game. Nice.

Wednesday I decided to back track. This was my lesson learned from my last trip to Norfolk when I saved my favorite dish to revisit on Thursday and the place was closed due to a water main break. I couldn't take that kind of chance again. I went back to the Tuna and the Pork Belly.

Different chef, different dish. They had dropped from A+ to A. Granted, I changed my pairings and that could have been it. Still very good, but...not earth shattering. So I have to think Wednesday is not the day they have their A team in the kitchen.

Thursday was my last day in town. I had idea about looking into their salad offerings as it was 104 degrees outside. But I went in open to anything, and it turns out they had a special. Soft Shell Crab Sandwich. Ok, I was game.

I think I had a soft shell crab about 40 years ago after a day at the track where Jimmie Durgan won big and treated us all to dinner. I didn't remember much of that as I was barely 13 years old at the time. But being a gamer, I tried to eat it then.

I wasn't sure what I was getting into. I love crab cakes. I saw this was covered in cornmeal. Ok, I'd be able to at least look at it. I gave it a go.

It arrived and I looked it square in the cornmeal. "How quant!" I thought. They shaped the meat just like the original crab!

I ate around the outside in my continued state of denial. Eventually, reality intervened. I was bordering on eating an ortolan and I knew it. Rather than an endoskeleton, there was a definite exoskeleton going on here. In fact, this particular crab had evolved from soft shell to moderate shell, prolly a week away from being a hard shell. Well, the fries they served were fine. And I figured that with the amount of shells I'd eaten already, I was good in terms of roughage for the week.

I had the offending carcass dispatched and decided to fill the rest of the void with a Chololate Torte. Another fine effort here. Thinner crust and solid flavor throughout. For the week, this brought the overall rating up to a solid A.

I'll certainly come back the next time I'm in town. I only sampled the bar menu and they do have a full dining room menu that I've yet to investigate. I expect there are a few more home runs buried in that line up.

Until then, Cheers!

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