Those uppity English cucumbers think they are all that, with…
On a weekend night, there is an amazingly robust and dynamic atmosphere at Brü Restaurant on Lakeshore Road East in Oakville, and it’s a restaurant vibe that I love: loud but not too loud; active but not too active. There’s live music, too, which adds greatly to the dynamic.
On those busy nights, Brü will serve between 180 to 250 people, and the bar will likely be packed–so plan ahead if you want to visit for A Taste of Oakville that runs January 23 to February 6.
Co-owner Tammy Weiss says it’s vibe she also loves. Weiss started in the food and hospitality business when she was a teenager. Today, along with business partner George Couto, she also owns Seasons, which has operated for 21 years. They opened sister restaurant Corks about eight years ago.
All three restaurants are participating in A Taste of Oakville and are planning to add new dishes for the event’s lunch and dinner prix fixe menus.
Beer–and the play on the sudsy word in the restaurant’s name–always plays a big role. It was something that inspired Weiss to add the restaurant to the Oakville food landscape.
“From travelling in the States, I was really interested in the craft beer aspect of restaurants, and I love protein and things that are smoked. We thought Oakville needs this. We had a couple of sous chefs and we were all talking about what we wanted to do,” Weiss says.
Brü was born about seven years ago.
There are about 30 different beer labels and 16 taps to choose from. Three of them are always Collective Arts Brewing, Bench Brewing and Cameron’s Brewing. “They bring in what they want and rotate the taps,” Weiss says.
Head chef Oliver Nyholt sees to the beer selection and purchases at the 132-seat restaurant (with 20 or so at the bar) which Weiss says has a loyal following of beer lovers but which is still accessible to a wide demographic, including customers wanting vegan and gluten-free drinks and food.
Nyholt is London, Ontario-born and moved to Oakville when he was five years old. He attended Georgian College for culinary management and hospitality management and made his way to England after graduating where he was a bar manager and sous chef at a hotel.
“I came back to Oakville about five years ago and have been at Brü ever since,” Nyholt says.
Nyholt, 27, oversees menu design and Brü and balances it given the beers that are at hand. “We’re going for upscale pub fare,” he says. They’ve got that right with lots of crispy and nicely seasoned and salty choices that go perfectly with the wide range of beers they serve. “There are a lot of items that you might do at home, but we do them a lot better,” he says with a laugh.
The crispy cauliflower ($15) is one such dish that fits the bill–and one that is among the restaurant’s best sellers, says Nyholt; it’s delicious.
Nyholt says they break down the head into florets and soak them in water. “Before we fry them, we dredge them in a mix of corn starch and crisp film (a bit of corn starch modernist cooking technique to get extra crisp on food) and fry until crispy.”
That’s followed by a dousing of General Tso sauce, a chili-honey sauce. “Then it’s garnished with sesame seeds and scallions,” adds Nyholt. The chicken wings are also deep-fried in corn flour, so they are gluten-free.
Among the most interesting dishes are Brü’s roasted peanuts. “They spend time on the stove top and then they go into the oven,” Nyholt says. “They get a good dosing of flaky Maldon salt.” With a slight bit of delicious char and the salt, they are simply a great bar food for beer.
For their fries, the kitchen cuts russet potatoes and blanches them before their final fry. “We make it a three-day process to get the best fry,” says Nyholt. “We soak them for a day to reduce the sugars and starches, then we blanch them and cool them in the fridge for a day. When we fry them off, it’s a crispy, fluffy fry.”
Indeed it is.
Nyholt says he loves the octopus and the pork chops on the Brü menu. The bone-in chop is 12-ounces and brined for a week in a white wine marinade. “I’d say have it cooked just to medium,” says Nyholt. The octopus is enticing: “We do it on a cast-iron skillet to sear it and then it’s butter-braised with rosemary, thyme, garlic and shallots.” It’s served with a romesco aji-amarillo pepper puree and arugula salad.
Beer as an ingredient is there, but Nyholt says Brü also serves customers who want gluten-free (as well as having a number of ciders to drink). “Except for a few dishes, our menu can be gluten-free. There’s a vegan butter chicken and the cauliflower can be made vegan too,” he says.
“We’re casual and there’s lots of good beer,” Nyholt adds. “The food is made with love. We all care about what we do here and make everything ourselves.”
[Banner cauliflower photo/Oliver Nyholt]