Shortly after announcing their plans to open a restaurant, Brut, in Minneapolis next year, chefs Erik Anderson and Jamie Malone organized a series of pop-ups at the recently closed Lynn on Bryant. We assumed the purpose of the dinners ($50 for five courses, $25 for wine pairings and coffee) was to create buzz about Brut. After talking with the chefs and tasting their food, we realized this was only partially correct: As Malone puts it, the main goal is “to have fun.” Anderson agrees: “Yeah, the biggest thing is to have fun, to hang out and have fun. That’s it really.”
“Fun” is a good description of the dishes we sampled at the pop-up. But this is a refined playfulness, not silly, over-the-top wackiness. While inventive, each plate made sense and tasted great. Take, for example, the opening act, an amuse bouche called simply, “scallop cooked and raw” — impeccably fresh, sliced mollusk and fresh dill folded atop a dehydrated scallop cracker. Both novel and familiar, the delicious little bite highlighted the chefs’ expert technique and creativity.
A terrine of chicken liver pate and chanterelle cream served with charred corn charmed us with its eye-popping beauty, velvety mouth feel, and umami sweetness. But the undeniable star of the evening was perfectly pan-fried monkfish, a juicy clam, yellow beans, fresh pea tendrils, and peppery nasturtiums. Sporting a handsome golden crust, the moist, sweet fish made us stupid happy. And the sauce! Clam juice, wine, butter, and garlic: so simple, so good. After mopping up most of the liquid with rustic bread, we seriously considered going full-on tacky and lapping the remainder from the plate.
The final two courses displayed Anderson and Malone’s breadth and imagination. An attractive, punchy plate featuring a pastry cigar stuffed with Grayson cheese (a little like a Taleggio in flavor), pickled cherry, and walnut mustard captured our attention and didn’t let go until dessert. A bowl of blueberry semifreddo, pillowy yogurt cake (like a richer, less sugary angel food cake), hazelnut crumble, and ice-wine sauce was a refreshing, delicious ode to late summer in Minnesota.
It’s truly impressive that Anderson and Malone kicked out such great food in a borrowed kitchen. As Malone says, it’s a bit “like having your office in a hotel.” We can’t wait to see what they create once they have their own space and staff, likely in spring 2015. In the meantime, keep an eye on Brut’s twitter feed (@brutMN) for information about future pop-ups.