Thursday, September 20, 2007

Brabander: Living Restaurant - Brno (Closed)

** This restaurant has closed

"Real life is, to most men, a long second-best, a perpetual compromise between the ideal and the possible."

- Bertrand Russell
In the past, I wrote about what I consider the best restaurant I've tried in Brno, Ristorante Rialto.

And while it is great, it is also the most expensive.

The second best restaurant we've tried is almost as good and far less expensive. I am talking about the Brabander: Living Restaurant in the center of the city.When we are in town, we almost always end up here. Equally good is the sister restaurant in Brno, Brabander: The Art of Culinary.

On this visit to Brabander: Living Restaurant, we took along another couple.

The dining room is below street level, with salmon pink walls, and brick arches.The tables are nicely set with quality stemware and flatware and covered with pink table clothes and cloth napkins. There are often candles burning.The meal starts with a small amuse bouche. It was a small slice of French bread, topped with pesto, cheese, tomato, and basil. The combination was baked in an oven, melting the cheese and toasting the bread. A simple, but tasty little bite.

We all decided to get starters. The Divine Ms. C got the the fish soup, which is called a Provencal bouillabaisse. Perhaps not as complex as a real bouillabaisse, we all liked it a lot and thought it was well worth 55 CZK.Her personal Englishman ordered the aubergine soup with feta cheese and chili peppers. It wasn't bad, but was not as flavorful as the ingredients would lead one to believe. This was only 45 CZK.V got the single scallop served with a sherry sauce and leek and grape marmalade for 145 CZK. The menu, in English and Czech, called it a mussel. Trust me, it was a scallop under that sauce. It was big one and nicely cooked.You don't get a lot of scallop for the money. But we so loved the sherry sauce, we were fighting to soak it up with some bread after the scallop disappeared.

I ordered the beef sirloin carpaccio with 12 year-Old balsamic vinegar and ruccola for 115 CZK. There was plenty of shaved Parmesan cheese on top, along with some mache leaves, and a lemon wedge on the side. The waiter gave me some fresh-ground black pepper.I actually enjoyed eating the meat with some lemon juice separately. Otherwise, it was to indistinguishable from all the other flavors. I can't say the balsamic stood out as extra-special to me.

For a main course, V got the seafood risotto with cuttlefish ink for 179 CZK. She liked it, but wished there was a bit more seafood.It had calamari and chunks of salmon (not her favorite fish). The lemon and lime wedges that came with it helped boost the flavor.

The Divine Ms. C had a spinach salad with goat cheese and cherry tomatoes for 99 CZK. She wasn't terribly impressed.It was simple, with a very light amount of dressing, and the slices of goat cheese were served cold.

The Englishman had venison ragout with caramelized apples and cranberries and spätzle sautéed in butter for 195.The dish was on the sweet side, and the fruit really covered up the taste of the meat, which was a little tough.

I think I had the best dish -- baby double lamb chops in a mushroom-mint crust served with green beans in balsamic vinegar.There were only three pieces of lamb, but there was a nice amount of meat on those small bones. It was incredibly tender, and the mushroom crust was very flavorful. I didn't taste much mint. Three are sprigs of rosemary and thyme on top.

The green beans were fresh, and came with, shall we say, a healthy amount of English-style bacon. The sauce for the beans was creamy, and I didn't taste much balsamic vinegar there. It cost 299 CZK, but I could imagine it costing a lot more in Prague.

Side items are extra, so I ordered roasted potatoes with garlic and sun-dried tomatoes for 40 CZK to go with it. I was happy with my choice.

Desserts looked great, but we didn't have time this time.

I have a few other points of interest regarding Brabander. The original place is called Brabander: Living Restaurant. It was so successful, they opened a second outlet, also in the center of Brno, called Brabander: The Art Culinary. The menu there is almost completely different.

We were told that there is no connection between Brabander: Living Restaurant and Ambiente: The Living Restaurant in Prague.

The name Brabander, we were told, is derived from the Brabant, the area of the Low Countries in northern Europe.

So, now you know.

Sure, Brabander: Living Restaurant holds the second best slot on our list of Brno dining options. But given the mix of quality food, good service, and moderate prices, this choice doesn't require much of a compromise. It is pretty close to ideal.

Brabander: Living Restaurant
Joštova 4
602 00 Brno
Tel. (+420) 542 211 922

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