Isaac Becker, The Baron Of Beef
Chef Isaac Becker’s trio of restaurants are among the most popular, original, and accomplished of local eateries. They mix an edgy vibe with boldly flavorful cuisine that is inventive without taking too many “chef-y” liberties. But 112 Eatery and Bar La Grassa are simpler to pigeonhole than newcomer Burch Steak, a head-to-toe renovation of the historic Burch Pharmacy space at Franklin and Hennepin.
The restaurant, heavy on brick walls and picture windows, attracts a broad amalgam of ambitious diners to a minimalist room with trendy round pendant lighting, concrete floors, and wood tabletops. The eclectic rock soundtrack amps up the din; this is a very loud restaurant. The menu is an intriguing if incongruous array of creative small plates, dumplings, and red meat—most of it excellent, some of it outstanding.
But of all of Becker’s restaurants, this is the one I feel least at home in. I can’t say it’s because of the food, which is uniformly lovely. From a beautiful and simple salmon tartare flecked with shallots and olives to salads of roasted beets or Bibb lettuce and ranch dressing, the familiar is elevated to the sublime.
Appetizers of whole broiled prawns in lime and brown butter tasted like the Gulf Coast on a plate, delightful in presentation and taste, while chocolate-braised rabbit in a pastry crust was a pasty taken to its highest form.
The dumpling course was a mixed bag: a cheese dumpling with a lamb “stroganoff” proved ethereally light and delectable, while a veal and pork kinkhali brought to mind a sloppy joe in a gummy, doughy wrapper.
Side dishes are incredible—grilled button mushrooms with bacon; roasted cauliflower with anchovy and bits of burrata; thick, crispy fries; sautÃ©ed kale with ricotta salata—wow; avoid the poutine mashed potatoes and soupy risottos. And many dishes, even good ones, tend to the salty side of the continuum.
As for the main event, steaks are offered in small and large portions, grass-fed, natural, and prime cuts, priced from $11 to $60. If you feel local steakhouses bludgeon you with portion size, Burch is your new best friend. Though I enjoyed all three styles of beef, the prime section of the menu is the difference-maker. A New York strip was so beautifully marbled and flavorful it reminded me of Wagyu beef. The peak of the dessert options is a delicate lemon tart; a baba au rhum underwhelmed.
Perhaps I am prisoner of expectations of steakhouses past, but I found Burch to be less than the sum of its excellent parts. It eschews a steakhouse vibe for a kind of generic modernity. The menu is a mix of complex and simple cooking; I’m usually in the mood for one or another. The decor is spare, the ambience is loud, but it’s not cheap. Don’t mistake me, this is a technically proficient restaurant. But I wonder if enough thought’s been given to how these disparate pieces jell as a dining experience.
Amazing prime steaks and side dishes; top-tier service.
The mix of the loud and informal setting with nuanced, occasionally fussy cooking makes for a uneasy marriage.
1933 Colfax Ave S., Mpls., 612-843-1515, burchrestaurant.com