Food & Drink » Food and Drink

Don’t Pass These

Our critics' favorite dishes from Brenner Pass

comment

Steak au poivre
If you're feeling indulgent, you can't go wrong with the steak au poivre ($34). The New York strip steak is cooked to order and served sliced, and to increase the indulgence factor, it's covered in a classic rich, buttery sauce made with both green and black peppercorns. Tender beef complemented by a luxuriant and mildly piquant sauce comprises French comfort food at its best.

What makes this dish one of the best on the menu, however, is the combination of a fantastic steak with one of the best sides in all of Richmond: the tartiflette. This classic French Alps dish is a sophisticated take on the potato gratin. Thinly sliced potatoes are stacked and flavored with bacon and cheese. This perfectly decadent meal of meat and potatoes showcases what's best about Brenner Pass: European classics consistently executed, beautifully plated, and most importantly, always delicious. — Matthew Freeman

SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Fritto Misto
Brenner Pass is ambitious. The cheese boards and charcuterie plates boast offerings unique to Richmond dining. Fondue floats out of the kitchen in primary-colored saucepans, sending welcome wafts to nearby tables. Gelato is made in-house. Other desserts are rich, inventive and, in some cases, topped with solid buttercream that's carved into mountain peaks. Everything here is memorable — even the little things.

Hidden on the snack menu, a small flap of paper in Brenner Pass's robust menu booklet, the Fritto Misto ($8) might seem like a throwaway. Still, simple dishes are sometimes the most revealing. Order something basic and you can witness a familiar comfort food suddenly elevated by exquisite tastes and creative ingredients. You can see the chef shine. Fritto Misto is typically a fried smattering of things that an Italian cook might have leftover in the kitchen. This kitchen tosses thin lemon slices, rings of fennel and onion, and white anchovies into the fryer. The result is fresh, crispy and unapologetically salty. The sharable portion fills a silver, paper-lined pot, with a lemon-garlic aioli — that can really only be described as otherworldly — on the side. The golden batter coating is thin and crunchy, keeping each bite together until it reaches your mouth. You will be tricked into eating anchovies and fennel and you will love it. And if you're snacking, the warm, glowing, round bar that anchors the restaurant is the place to be. The lemony salt of the Fritto Misto pairs perfectly with a glass of white wine or a fizzy cocktail. Try the top-notch Tito's lavender pineapple cocktail, the Snow Bunny ($8 during happy hour). — Nathalie Oates

SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Salad Lyonnaise
I love the Salad Lyonnaise at Brenner Pass for its simplicity and assertive flavors. This French classic makes for a pretty dish: bright yellow-green frisée topped with a soft poached egg and dotted with crispy chunks of bacon. Cut open the egg, and the rich melty yolk tempers the bitterness of the greens and tang of the vinaigrette, made better, as most things are, by bacon.

But I also love this salad for the sheer audacity of calling it a salad. This is not a gentle mix of diet-friendly spring greens. The Salad Lyonnaise is just bigger, bolder, better.

The real Brenner Pass between Austria and Italy is a spectacular drive through the Alps that wows you from view to view. That's kind of how I feel when the food at Brenner Pass restaurant hits the table. — Phaedra Hise

SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Fondue Burger
It's a burger, all right? Just don't expect to eat it with your bare hands. That's why the hefty wood-handled steak knife accompanies its arrival. And as long as you're in for a penny, you may as well go for a pound by ordering the burger "tres epique," which means it's gussied up like a steak with veal demi-glace and sauteed mushrooms.

I can practically guarantee that your first fondue burger at Brenner Pass will be memorable. Oh, it's not going to be a traditional burger-eating experience, but how could it be when it's made from ground short rib and brisket and accessorized with fried speck — so much more chichi than mere bacon — frisee and cornichons? Further setting it apart, the fondue burger won't ooze juices when you bite into it, but it will deliver a deeply meaty flavor that almost makes the house-made sesame seed bun superfluous. Almost. Cutting through so much richness is the piquancy of the fondue, a reminder that even the lowly burger gets the upscale Alpine treatment at Brenner Pass. — Karen Newton

Add a comment