Review: Brick 29 Bistro, Nampa, Idaho
Bistros, by traditional definition, are small restaurants which serve moderately priced simple meals in a modest setting, focusing on “home cooked” meals and slow cooked foods like cassoulet (French casserole of meat and beans). That definition has seemed to evolve into any small restaurant with fancy decor serving “The Next Iron Chef” cuisine. I don’t really find any difference in a bistro over any other restaurant. Maybe it’s just hip to call your place a bistro. But regardless of their name, Bistros can be an overpriced waste of time like any other restaurant. That is definitely not the case with Brick 29.
Perhaps they went with Bistro in their name because of their smaller venue located in the basement of the old Nampa Masonic lodge. When you walk in, you don’t see a restaurant at all, and have to follow your nose downstairs to get there. But once you walk in, you hear the clatter of diners happily eating away as you scan a wall full of local awards and rave reviews. Could Brick 29 really be worthy of all this hype?
Brick 29 Appetizers
Brick 29 has a nice line up of appetizers to choose from on their menu. Pan-fried Oysters (panko crusted and sauteed in garlic and lemon. My girlfriend tells me they are fantastic, but I haven’t had them yet), shrimp cakes, swiss-kale dip, jo-jos with blue cheese fondue, and pulled pork pizza, to name a few. All of these sounded fantastic, but we were in the mood for something lite, quick, and simple. So we went with the Mediterranean Sampler.
This sampler was good, and did everything it was supposed to do. Clockwise from top, we had diced tomato tossed in a lite balsamic (menu called it a tomato pomodoro. Pomodoro means tomato in Italian, so that’s a bit redundant). This was crisp and clean, and went well with the crostini. To the right we had a roasted red pepper hummus, which I thought was very good. It was very creamy, and had a nice flavor, subtle sweetness, and was terrific on the pita and the cucumber. Last was an olive tapenade which was pretty standard stuff. Nothing about this appetizer was amazing, but it was tasty and got my eating juices flowing.
Brick 29 Soups and Salads
Brick 29′s soups are supposed to be exceptional, and I look forward to trying them and letting you know. But it was a hot day and soup was not on our mind. Instead, my girlfriend ordered the Southwest Flat Iron Salad. “Flame broiled flat iron steak, spring greens, black bean salsa, chipotle ranch, polenta croutons, tomato salsa, feta, and cilantro.” That sounded delicious, especially the polenta croutons. I’ve been wanting to make polenta croutons in my home kitchen for a while now, so I was excited to try them here. They were awesome. Perfectly crunchy outside, and a touch soft and chewy inside. Very nice, and the corn flavor paired perfectly with the southwest flavors of the salad. The steak was tender and flavorful, and the chipotle dressing was smokey and provided just the right spicy kick. I liked it! Not a mind-blowing salad, by very tasty and worth having.
Brick 29 Entrees
Brick 29 prides itself on using fresh, local ingredients and seasonal vegetables. This was apparent in the quality of their entrees. Fish, beef, pork, chicken, and lamb made up the bulk of the offerings, but they have a couple of vegetable dishes as well, including an eggplant napoleon that made my nemesis vegetable sound actually tempting to eat (freaking eggplant is of the devil!). All of the dishes sound good, and sounded like pretty standard fare. I wasn’t overly excited about any of them. But then our waitress told me about the pork cheek special. “Slow braised pork cheeks, served with a smoked mushroom risotto, garden fresh green beans, and a wine reduction. She had me at pork cheeks.
Now, I’ve never had pork cheeks before, nor have I ever seen them on anyone’s menu, but I know from personal experience that halibut, sturgeon, and salmon cheeks are ridiculously delicious, so I assumed that a land animal’s would be great as well. Holy crap, they were awesome! They were so tender that they literally fell apart under the slightest pressure from my fork. I assume this is from a long and slow braise, which by the way, was done in a delicious flavor compound. That tenderness would have been divine alone, but then they had the most intense and wonderful pork flavor I’ve ever experienced. It was amazing. It was kind of like I was rooting around in the muck with the pig, but in every good and positive way possible. When my girlfriend said Brick 29 was good, I didn’t think she meant I would experience a new item on my “forever glad I ate it” list. Thank you Sadie, and thank you Brick 29!
The rest of the plate was good too. The reduction sauce was good, but very rich. The green beans were cooked perfectly. The smoked mushroom risotto was good, but didn’t have much of a smoky mushroom flavor, and, as with all risottos I’ve had, was not anything amazing to rave about. I really don’t understand why people go all ape shit over risotto. It’s alright, is kind of cool that the creaminess of them is from nothing but the rice, but they really aren’t anything to write home about. Maybe I just haven’t experience a perfect one yet or something.
But the little unexpected jewel, other than the amazing pork cheeks of course, was the pickled cherry concoction served in the corner of the plate. Pickled cherries are delicious. Who would have thought? They were sweet and tart, crunchy and soft, and the acid they brought with them was perfect for cutting the richness of the braised cheeks. Well done chef, well done.
Amazing Bacon at Brick 29
So, you might think this sounds a little nuts, but I had heard how great Brick 29′s bacon is, so for dessert, I ordered up a side of it. Pork after pork. I can’t think of anything wrong with that! Well, that little decision was complete genius.
Brick 29 rubs their bacon with brown sugar and red pepper, then bakes it in the oven. As the bacon fat melts, it mixes with the brown sugar to form a sticky glaze which completely covers each slice. Each bite is a burst of sweet and savory… the food addicts coveted combo. But then there is the slight heat from the red pepper, which is subtle, hits in a flash, and then gone again. What a great ride down pork ally Brick 29′s bacon is. Make sure you order it on your burger, breakfast dish, or as a last thought “dessert” on your way out the door.