Bras.se.rie: (n) An informal restaurant, esp. one in France or modeled on a French one and with a large selection of drinks. French, from brasser, to malt, brew, from Old French bracier, from Vulgar Latin *bracire, from Latin brace, malt, of Celtic origin
I was recently invited to this soft-opening *snickers because she just can’t help herself* of a new restaurant in our ‘hood called Brasserie Central. My friend Aaron Fraser is managing this new place, and invited me, as well as at least thirty others to come and check out the new digs, have some drinks, and sample some of the wares prepared by chef Thierry Rouyé. I headed to the resto for a 9 PM seating after a long day of regular life of house, home, and kid shenanigans.
First of all, the place is arrestingly beautiful inside, holy balls. I mean, really. It’s a complete transformation from the darker walls that had graced the restaurants in it’s place before this. Now, the brick walls are all painted an excellent shade of creamy-white, there’s a stunning sputnik-style flush-mounted ceiling fixture in the centre of the room, and the banquette seating along the long wall has a run of mercury glass above it. Mounted on the mirror are vintage sconces with brass arms bent downward at right angles, with those cool, narrow Edison-type bulbs inside them, akin to test tubes. Over the bar hang their sister fixtures, clear globe pendant lamps, that have a vintage/modern appeal. White marble countertop marry well with the white, open shelves that house all the spirits. Nothing is too polished… everything has a bit of a satin patina. Eye-candy to the max, this place. Wowza. Me likey! The place does feel more upscale than your average bar, but it’s totally relaxed – I wore this outfit, and felt perfectly comfortable, but dressed-up-something-something over jeans would be acceptable for sure. It’s all elegant and whatnot, but wear what you want to.
I won’t even get into how gorgeous all the waiters were too. One lady amongst the gents, and she was just as pretty as they were, all in their dark-washed denim and crisp white shirts and aprons. Knowledgeable, attentive, and charming (without being overly familiar) is my favourite combination when it comes to wait staff. Best of all is the owner, Paolo Oliveira, who is probably one of the loveliest people I’ve met in a long time. He’s passionate about his new place (he also owns Café Méliès on St-Laurent) and his resto-love shows in his face and manner, which is warm, friendly, and smiling.
I sat at table with three of my foxes, and one of the fox’s super-sexy man-fox. As it was late, we all opted to share a few plates of things, so we could sample more of the gorgeous plates we saw coming out of the kitchen. By the looks of things, the lobster caesar salad was a big hit that night, but we all agreed it was a dish that really couldn’t be wrecked, so we chose other things instead, starting with a dozen oysters. Nothing says summertime like fresh oysters on the half-shell on a platter of crushed ice, with lemon wedges, sauce picante, and shallot vinaigrette on the side. We should have ordered some bubbles to have with, but the sauvignon blanc we ordered was refreshing enough. So refreshing in fact, we ordered a second bottle tout suite.
We sampled some Serrano ham served on a rectangular platter studded with chunks of parmesan, drizzled with olive oil, honey, and truffles. I could have eaten the whole thing by myself. YUM! We ate delicate beef carpaccio on an olive tapenade, with artichokes, arugula, and a parmesan sorbet. What the hell is that, you ask? It is divine, and it is made of Awesome, I say. (Actually, it’s made from parmesan rind, cooked down soup-style, and the “broth” is used in place of the cream in ice cream.) That thing? Was ridiculously good tasting. Order some when you go.
We also tried a tasty pea gazpacho laden with crisp vegetables, soft cheese, and some smoky chorizo sausage. As gorgeous IN MY EYES as on my tongue. The little bucket of fries we ordered (with homemade mayonnaise on the side) were perfect too. We tried the seafood pot au feu which is like a stew, in this case made with salmon, some whitefish (cod, maybe?) and sea scallop, cooked in the tastiest broth of tomato and herbs. It was dirty. I think it was my favourite taste of the night. I soaked up all the juices with the tiny bread rolls brought to us by the bread-boy, with his brown-paper sac and tongs at the ready. Adorable.
The whole aesthetic of this place, from the striped linen tea towels used for napkins, to the rustic miniature chalkboards the waiters have for note-taking are truly stellar mini-points that make up the spectacular whole. Brasserie Central seats about fifty people, with maybe another ten at the bar, and it feels cozy in the way only a great “joint” can. I get to go back this Saturday night to celebrate a fox’s birthday. Lucky, lucky me.
Oh! And though I almost never have desserts (only because I’m all full from the other yummy things I gorged on) this time, we all shared this dessert X 2: the Kouign Amann, which is some kind of baked salty-sweet puff pastry thing that gets all caramalized on the bottom of the pan, served on a smear of salted-butter caramel, with a tidy spoonful of buttermilk sorbet on the side. I DIE. Seriously, you’ll want this in your belly. Go. GET. SOME.
When you go? Have the Serrano ham. Wait, no… have the pot au feu. No, wait… have whatever you want – it’s ALL CRAZY GOOD. (I kid you not – I don’t joke when it comes to food.)
Brasserie Central is located at 4858 Sherbrooke Street West (corner of Victoria) open for lunches and dinners, and closed Sundays.