Photo by Katherine Harris
The Harriet Brasserie
Although the term brasserie literally means brewery in French, The Harriet Brasserie opened before it had secured a liquor license. That turned out to be a great move for me, because it led me to first try the brunch. Offered daily, the brunch menu has some brilliant choices. Crawfish and grits was a powerhouse starter with crawdad tails, hearty cheddar grits, spicy andouille sausage, and a perfectly poached egg. Beautifully custardy, with bits of smoky bacon, the quiche Lorraine satisfied, as did a stack of fluffy cocoa nib and banana pancakes cut with nicely tangy whipped crème fraîche. Since this menu is served until 3 pm, it’s also good to note the grass-fed burger is an awesomely beefy cheddar-bacon mess with truffle aioli and mushrooms, sort of an American-standard-meets-French-improvement.
You’ll find that global theme throughout much of the menu, as owners Fernando Silva and Alain Lenne intend a Brazilian-French-American whirl of influence. It mostly works but can sometimes be confusing. A Nicoise-esque salad came with raw tuna poke, not bad but underwhelming and not what we were led to expect. Small plates tend to be a bit more ambitious, to varying degrees of success: Fried chicken was three battered hunks of formed meat with a blueberry liver mousse and a duck heart—not really satisfying or tasty. And yet the chilled pea soup was a summer evening’s best friend. The main plates were best with simple and elegant preparations: poached egg (perfect again!) over charred asparagus and couscous, pesto-touched orecchiette made sprightly with hearts of palm. Whatever you do, end with the tres leches cake, which uses coconut milk and puts all the other cloying fabrications to shame.
True to form, the beer list is well-curated with some great Belgians, interesting ciders, and a few surprises such as the Scottish Skullsplitter ale. The kids’ menu also deserves a mention, if not for the toad-in-a-hole, then for one of the better grilled cheeses I’ve ever stolen a bite of. And given the fact that each time I visited there were more families and neighborhood folk taking up tables, it seems that the simpler dishes might end up winning out over the fussy and overly ambitious ones. What a win-win for the neighborhood.
The Harriet Brasserie, 2724 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-354-2197