15 October 2013

A great meal w/ friends at Burch Mpls.

I kinda thought that I was all done celebrating retirement. But when the offer came to host a dinner in my honor, I didn’t hesitate to accept. When asked for suggestions about a venue, I offered a couple of tried and true favorites and then added Burch Steak & Pizza. I hadn’t been to Burch but wanted to give it a try. So I was pleased when the host picked that as the restaurant.

As the date approached, I asked a few acquaintances about their opinions. I discovered an interesting division of opinion. There are some people who are totally unimpressed by Burch. It’s not that they think it’s bad. But the attitude is that it’s an expensive meal and the steaks are not that special. On the other hand, I talked to others who really loved the place.

My observation is that those views are not really as divergent as they may seem. The main area of agreement is on the sides and starters. Most of the people I talked to raved about them, even to the extent of (the naysayers) suggesting that the starters and appetizers were the only thing worth the fuss. DSC00542

Our group certainly enjoyed the starters. Now, I wasn’t in charge of the meal. So I didn’t pick the starters and I didn’t get to taste everything that was ordered. What I do know is that they disappeared very quickly. Three items that I tasted and particularly impressed me were the fish starters – salmon tartar, ahi tuna, and marlin crudo.

I tasted the salmon tartar first. It’s served with shallots and kalamata olives and is dressed with a citrus-infused olive oil (called agrumato on the menu). I thought the flavors were sublime. Next I tried the ahi tuna, and it was as good as I’ve had anywhere else. Then came the marlin crudo. It was was very unique, served with peppers, onions, and pine nuts and was excellent.

One item that was in high demand was sea beans with crab. I actually didn’t get to taste any, but the consensus around the table was that they were fantastic.

Not everyone ordered a salad, but my wife and I did (and we shared with others). I thought mine was excellent. It was hearts of palm and frisee (also called curly endive) with avocado and smoked trout. I particularly liked the smoked trout – moist and delicate with a delightful smoky flavor. My grandfather used to smoke trout, and I truly loved it. But it’s a difficult thing to make without letting the trout get dried out.

As far as the sides go, Burch is known for its dumplings. Our table ordered a variety of them. They all were good. For me, the most noteworthy were the ‘Schupfnudel’ with walnuts and gorgonzola.

So at a restaurant called Burch ‘Steak’ you might wonder if they put much effort into non-beef items. Well a few at our table had fish, and they raved. In particular, the tuna that was on special that night drew big praise from those who tried it.

I opted for steak, however. Burch offers quite a variety of steak options. The menu presents multiple cuts of meat in three categories – grass-fed, prime, and Waygu. I was leaning toward the 7-oz. prime New York steak, and that is what my wife had. But one of my friends really wanted to split the 32-oz. prime rib eye. His wife said she wanted fish, so I agreed to split it with him.

The rib eye was excellent. But it reminded me that I really do prefer a leaner steak. My wife let me taste her New York steak, and I thought it was better. They do serve a small sampling of sauces with the steaks, including sautéed mushrooms. I thought they were good, but the steaks really stood on their own and didn’t need a sauce to enhance any flavors.

So going back to the views that were offered by other people, those who were lukewarm about Burch felt that it was expensive for what you got. Well since I wasn’t paying, I can’t really provide an assessment of overall value. But comparing Burch to downtown steakhouses, I would compare it favorably to any of them, and would recommend the sides and starters as truly distinguishing components of the meal.

I’d go back in a minute.

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