It is an understatement to say my dinner at Briq was a culinary marathon. We began with a slow start. I arrived a little after my reservation time, only to discover that our table was not yet ready. About 40 minutes later, we finally relocated from our refuge at the bar to a small table near the front of the restaurant. With flickering candles and brick walls, the space, long and narrow, reminded me of a more pleasant (and lively) interpretation of the “Cask of Amontillado,” except this cavern had food, drink and company.
Glancing at the menu, we rejoiced to discover that Briq’s unique “table-style” dining encouraged us to share plates among ourselves. Although less than enthused by another 20 minute wait, we quickly placed an order for several table plates (appetizer courses), a main plate, and dessert to finish it all off.
First came the skinny fries ($7), which seemed like a hollaback to Miya’s Sushi’s Tokyo Fro. This crispy mass of perhaps too skinny potato sticks came drizzled with secret sauce that made for a messy but savory dish.
The caramelized butternut squash ($6) followed, a collection of cubes sautéed over maple ginger soy sauce and topped with panko crumbs and pomegranate seeds. I was perplexed by the addition of pomegranate seeds, which added a powerful, sour punch to an otherwise balanced dish. The butternut squash, however, was too firm and this particular take on the fall vegetable favorite was off from the comfort I expected.
Next, the shrimp salsa ($9.50) presented a playful take on the average taco. A crunchy, corn tortilla complemented airy, whipped avocado with fresh shrimp, followed by a delightful peek of spice in the aftertaste.
The lobster mashed potatoes ($12), a dish I initially ordered with skepticism because of its description of “simply, ‘amazing!’” turned out to be the winner of the night. While I’m uncertain who was actually quoted in the menu description, it might as well have been me because this table plate single handedly won over my heart. This dish managed to preserve the subtle, sweet taste of lobster amidst a rich and creamy sea of mash.
The next courses, however, began to suggest a downhill trend. Mike’s Italian beef tartare ($12) fell short on presentation and taste. It was as if the beef tartare was so shamefully salty that it had to hide under a thick layer of shaved grana padano cheese. The tartare also arrived with two measly slices of slightly burned garlic bread. But their merits (nonexistent) I will not delve into here.
While generous in portion, the burrata pasta pillow ($18), our main dish, offered no redemption. Although I don’t know what a “pasta pillow” should look like, this dish had none of the characteristic fluffiness that its name might suggest. The overdone pasta to sauce and cheese ratio left me confounded. At the outer edges, it was a poorly made thin crust pizza; at its center, a ravioli lacking filling.
After being left sorely disappointed after an incredible high, I looked forward to dessert. Despite being informed that they had run out of the Adult Birthday Cake we had ordered earlier (what), we compromised and ordered the Nutella and Banana Crepes ($7). The sliced bananas came under-caramelized, and missing that extra crunch, but the crepes themselves were traditional and homey, ending the night on a pleasantly cozy note.
While Briq might have its fair share of service and supply issues to iron out, its repertoire remains competitive among the set of contemporary American restaurants around campus. Despite the unpredictable sizes of their table plates, Briq can prove to be a worthy culinary venture for those willing to share. Just make sure you’re ready for the wait and, no matter what you do, order those “amazing!” potatoes.