The slight jolt that recently sent seismologists rushing to their labs was not caused by a natural movement in the earth’s crust, but by a planet-shaking alteration in Isaac Becker’s culinary makeup.
For the first time, the James Beard award-winning chef/co-owner of three of the Twin Cities’ top restaurants — 112 Eatery, Bar La Grassa and Burch Steak and Pizza Bar — is going to be serving Sunday brunch at one his establishments, Burch. There’s a first time for everything, right?
“I know,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve never done it, and actually, I hate brunch. But I asked Danny [that’s Daniel del Prado, executive chef at Burch], and his response was so positive that I thought, ‘If I have a chef who wants to do brunch, then I should do it.’ Particularly since it has been my experience that, when it comes to brunch, chefs are generally not on board.”
The last time Becker (pictured, above, in the Burch kitchen in a Star Tribune file photo) worked a brunch service was during his tenure at Campiello, the former D’Amico-run Uptown restaurant, in 1999.
“And it was never that busy,” he said. “It’s hard to not be busy. It’s actually easier being busy. But since then, there has been this resurgence in brunch. People go out for brunch all the time now.”
Becker said that the restaurant’s Lowry Hill address played a role in tipping the brunch/not brunch scales.
“The neighborhood feels like a really good walking-to-brunch kind of neighborhood,” he said. Another draw? The restaurant’s long stretch of east-facing windows, which flood the two roomy dining rooms with plenty of sunlight, a brunch necessity.
As for the menu, Becker is promising straightforward classics, including Belgian-style waffles, buttermilk pancakes and french toast, eggs Benedict and a steakhouse natural -- steak with soft-cooked eggs.
“But it’s not a steak-themed brunch,” said Becker.
Hardly. Instead, Becker and del Prado (pictured, above, in a Star Tribune file photo) will offer an eclectic mix of a.m. and p.m. dishes, many with fried eggs, serving them over grilled bread with either crab and sautéed spinach, or with spicy salami and a celery salad. There’s a veal Parmesan with a fried egg, and a 112-like fried egg sandwich built using excellent Beeler’s ham and zesty harissa. Oh, and eggs scrambled with Parmesan and topped with fried oysters and pickled shallots.
Sandwiches will include a shrimp roll, a brioche-style banh mi with foie gras and chicken liver pate, and biscuits filled with fried chicken. Entrees range from a crab-shrimp étouffée to a crab linguine to braised pork shoulder with sauerkraut.
As for side dishes, look for fresh oysters, fried Taleggio rinds dressed with chimichurri, Georgian-style pork-veal dumplings (a holdover from the dinner menu) and zucchini fritters. Also expect to encounter a wide array of baked goods, from pastry chef Shawn McKenzie.
“That’s one of the parts that I’m really excited about,” said Becker. “It’s really traditional stuff — plain croissants, ham-and-cheese croissants, bacon scones, coffee cake, an incredible quiche — and I couldn’t be more pleased.”
The bar is climbing on board, too, with four bloody Mary options. “They’re almost like gazpacho, in a way,” said Becker. “One has a tomatillo purée, another is called the Caesar, it uses boquerones.”
As for seeing brunch at the 112 or Bar La Grassa, well, never say “never,” but don’t count on it.
“I think I’d break a lot of hearts among the staff if I implemented brunch at the other restaurants,” Becker said with a laugh. “We’ll see how this one goes. It’s a big deal for us to start a brunch. We’ve been running tests for weeks. It’s like opening another little restaurant.”
Burch’s brunch will debut Sept. 20.