If the only contribution that Burch Steak makes to local gastronomy is the innovation of half-sized steaks at half prices — an 8-oz. ribeye for $20, for example — then its long-term reputation is assured. Visits to steakhouses are routinely an opportunity to get soaked, with diners compelled to spend high double digits on a gigantic chunk of meat that would be twice a reasonable dinner even before considering the butter-drenched sides and mammoth desserts (if we’re to single out a symbolic offender, Manny’s Steakhouse is a good place to start, but it’s only one of many). A visit to Burch means that not only do you control the cut of your steak and its size (enough or too much), you also control whether it’s grass-fed, Niman Ranch “Natural,” or Niman Ranch Prime. It’s not a steak menu, it’s a steak matrix.
Burch is the project of Owner / Executive Chef Isaac Becker and Executive Chef Daniel del Prado and, as can be expected for a team of this caliber, it’s a doozy. Housed in the former Burch Pharmacy in the Lowry Hill neighborhood, the restaurant includes a large combination bar and dining room, a dining room with a high-drama, high-polish open kitchen, and a stylishly cavern-like basement pizzeria (we’ll review Burch Pizza Bar on Tuesday of next week).
The restaurant, taken as a whole, is either Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde; the way it feels depends largely on your own personal point of view. You take your pick: It’s a loud, slick factory designed to pump out expensive, trendy food for well-dressed, big-walleted suckers or it’s a chic, impeccable nexus of talent, experience, and good ingredients that offers a fine dining experience that could hold its head high in any major metro in the United States. Depending on the visit and how loud the music happened to be pounding at any given moment, we came down on both sides of the fence, but more often on the latter — generally speaking, Burch dished up elegant, balanced bites that evoked the best of 112 Eatery and Bar La Grassa, Becker’s other (justifiably well-regarded) restaurants.
The 8-oz. grass-fed ribeye ($20) that we tried was ordered medium rare and it arrived that way, juicy and rich in flavor, tender without being characterless — a gorgeous steak at a reasonable price.
Oysters on the half shell weren’t cheap at $3 a pop, but you don’t want cheap oysters, particularly this far from either coast. The oysters we tried, Kushi from the West Coast, were light and sweet with a kiss of brine, on par with the best we’ve had locally.
And our major regret after multiple visits to Burch might be that we weren’t able to more thoroughly explore the dumplings section of the menu — the potato pierogi with golden raisins and poppy seeds ($6, above) conjured up a sophisticated take on a cheese blintz, texturally balanced with crunch to complement the soft texture of the dumpling.
Other starters wandered across the map. The sunchoke and goat cheese gratinata ($7) came off as underflavored and bland — it was more like a creamy spread than a proper side. But a preparation of roasted beets and fingerling potatoes with horseradish and dill ($7) was ample in portion, rustic, earthy, balanced, and in a word, wonderful.
The roasted califlower with anchovies and burrata ($9) was an overspiced washout of a dish, the burrata lending little to the overflavored vegetal mass; but the lamb tartare with grilled sheep milk yogurt and roasted fresno peppers ($12, above) was a deeply flavored, subtle, texturally entertaining, compelling delight. Some diners might be put off by lamb, doubly so by the prospect of eating lamb raw, but this dish is a people-pleasing star.
Take the phrase “Mains to Share” on the menu with an oversized grain of salt. The two we tried (grilled pork shoulder for $19 and foie boudin blanc with a scallop for $18) are big enough to share if you’re a dining with an elf, sprite, or leprechaun but definitely single-person affairs for everybody else. Semantics aside, the ultra-rich, profoundly finely textured boudin blanc sausage (above) was a highlight of our visits to Burch, and its supporting elements (a perfectly cooked scallop and a gossamer-fine creamy root vegetable puree) were equally elegant, making for one complete thought on the palate.
As is natural for a newer restaurant of its size and complexity, Burch’s service was marred by hiccups, ranging from a unpleasantly fatty pork shoulder (which was replaced promptly and without fuss with a full-on delicious version of the dish), to a classically condescending waiter (whose uninvited explanation of ginger beer rode the line between “pedantic” and “insufferable”), to, most seriously, a $46-8 oz. filet steak ordered medium rare that came out medium well. The desserts we tried ($7) were largely forgettable. The flourless chocolate torte and lemon tart with Swiss meringue would fit right in at a decent hotel restaurant, but lacked heart, soul, or passion, and stirred no enthusiasm among our tasters (a group that included at least two chocolate fiends and a lemon lunatic).
The steamed suet cake with brandy sauce (above) was more successful; it evoked a smooth, silken, caramel-kissed hunk of gingerbread. The drinks menu was tidy but felt incomplete. The substantial, balanced Manhattan and Laphroaig-kissed, smoky Penicillin we tried were right on the money, but we wanted some non-alcoholic options and the opportunity to order a beer in a size smaller than a full pint. And while the $8 valet option helps with the Lowry Hill neighborhood’s choked parking situation, it’s hard not to wish for at least a little parking lot.
Setting aside these quibbles (which are worth noting at this price point; a mere two of us managed to run up a $175 tab on one of our visits), Burch Steak has much to offer, and it does so with poise and style. Its pedigree, location (accessible to downtown and Uptown alike), and broad but thoughtful array of offerings suggest that this armored dreadnought of a restaurant will enjoy a long, successful tour of duty.
Steak and Small Plates in Uptown Minneapolis
1933 Colfax Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55403
OWNER / CHEF: Isaac Becker / Isaac Becker and Daniel del Prado
Mon-Thu 5pm-1am (kitchen closes at 12am)
Fri-Sat 5pm-2am (kitchen closes at 1am)
Sun 5pm-12am (kitchen closes at 11pm)
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: Yes / Yes for weekends
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Not so much
ENTREE RANGE: $11-46