Eclectic fare is executed well at Bricktop’s

Bricktop’s. Photo: Yana Hotter

By Margi Lenga Kahn, Special to the Jewish Light

My idea of a culinary adventure is seeking out a family-run restaurant featuring genuine ethnic fare. Thus the prospect of dining at a chain restaurant on the parking lot of an upscale shopping center didn’t exactly get my heart racing. Shame on me.

The first thing that gave me pause was a brass plaque anchored to the stone wall at the entrance to Bricktop’s Restaurant at Plaza Frontenac. The plaque read “Bricktop’s, 66 rue Pigalle, Paris, 1926-1936.” Intrigued, I discovered that the restaurant gets its name from Chez Bricktop, a legendary club in Paris during the Jazz Era.  Founded by the redheaded African-American jazz singer Ada “Bricktop” Smith, the club was a favorite haunt of Cole Porter, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway.  Suddenly, the prospect of dinner at this chain restaurant seemed more intriguing.

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While you won’t find haute cuisine at Bricktop’s, its cabaret-style menu offers something to please everyone. You can dine al fresco on the idyllic outdoor patio or in a booth or table indoors that comes complete with a buzzing New York steak house vibe and a view of the kitchen.  Or you can choose to dine at the expansive bar.

We began our dinner with an appetizer of grilled artichoke ($10), which consisted of three large artichoke halves bathed in olive oil, seared on the grill, and served with a light, garlicky aioli. They were both crisp and tender and tasty.  From the flatbread options we selected the margherita ($13), a thin crust with whole basil leaves scattered over a stingy shmear of tomato sauce and disks of melted fresh mozzarella. While attractive, the flatbread was, frankly, meh.

The Paris salad ($5), along with a small Caesar or wedge salad, is an add-on option with all entrées. The Paris salad was lovely. It consisted of a generous portion of field greens topped with chopped avocados, cucumbers, tomatoes, and croutons. We opted for the house dressing on the side, a light and delicious mustard-garlic-based vinaigrette flavored with fresh herbs.

I have a hard time passing on a fresh tuna burger and Bricktop’s Ahi version ($16) ranks among the best. It was beautifully seared on the outside and rare inside, and simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic. Topped with a hand-cut sweet ponzu (a tangy citrusy Japanese soy sauce) slaw, it was served on an egg bun. As my side, I requested the sautéed spinach, which was ever so lightly wilted in olive oil. If you appreciate the flavor of spinach, you won’t want to miss this preparation. Though the serving was quite generous I wished there was even more.

 The special fish of the evening was a succulent oil-basted swordfish steak ($24) seared on the grill. It was accompanied by a tarragon-spiked tartar sauce, a mere dab of which provided just the right herbal flourish for the fish. The ample side of steamed broccoli was cooked to perfection: crisp and bright green.

I never understood the gantseh megillah over fish tacos until Bricktop’s. Here, at last, the fish is the main attraction. The Bricktop’s version featured a delicious filet of blackened mahi mahi topped with a scoop of fresh chunky guacamole. That perfect duo sat atop a bed of crisp, sweet slaw on a flour tortilla.  A dish of house-made salsa accompanied the entrée. Each component of the dish shined. Together, they made for a stunning gastronomic chorus. I finally got it. This was a fish taco worth the hype. The fries, which accompanied this masterpiece, were overshadowed by the taco.

For dessert, we were offered three dessert options, which, as the server explained, vary each day. Options may include a variety of sundaes, bread pudding, berries, and Key lime pie. Rumor had it that the Key lime pie ($8) was not to be missed and, lucky for us, it was an option on this visit. The rumor was true. A crunchy graham cracker-macadamia nut crust held a heavenly creamy lime filling that was topped with a mountain of fresh whipped cream. The large serving of pie, seemingly more than enough to share, had us all pining for every last morsel.

The wine list, while not extensive, offers a little of everything, with a number of selections available by the glass ($7-$13). There is a full bar with all the classic cocktails and $6 martinis, along with seven beers on tap served in chilled mugs.

Bricktop’s proved to be a great dining choice. And whether you prefer dining inside or outside, the variety of menu options and the consistently well-executed dishes are sure to please. Along with service that is both pleasant and efficient, a meal at Bricktop’s—yes, on the parking lot of Plaza Fronenac—is, as its namesake might say, tres bien.