It was a major coup when chef Kent Monkan transformed the upmarket Heirloom into a down-to-earth gastro pub. At The Brass Rail, food, mood and prices are all about comfort.
Gotta love those adorable little cocktail franks in blankets. The hearty, generous short-rib quesadilla is soulful fare; so, too, the ingenious oxtail sloppy Joe sliders. And how about that crock of zesty chili? In sprightly counterpoint is an endive salad with walnuts, apples, roasted beets and blackberry vinaigrette.
Our waitress recommends the king crab salad "small plate." It turns out to be a knockout, virtually all crab and hardly small. A lime-enlivened tuna tartare is another kick, as is the superb Cajun seared shrimp with mango. Lamb chops "Wu" style are tender and hoisin-glazed.
Add the sirloin burger au poivre to the list of the Island's best burgers. It's topped with caramelized onions, mushrooms and Swiss, served with a peppercorn dipping sauce and a side of ultra-crisp shoestring fries. Monkan also makes a mucho marvelous Cubano sandwich, a smoky layering of pork loin, ham, Gruyere, pickles and mustard.
An entree of linguine with clam sauce is sparked with plum tomatoes and baby spinach, deriving a haunting smokiness from toasted garlic and red pepper flakes. Roast chicken is crisp outside, moist within, even though it's an all-white-meat "Frenched" skin-on breast. Sharing the plate is a lovely truffle-scented mushroom risotto and escarole.
Finales, such as the homestyle Anjou pear-berry crisp, classic brownie sundae and satiny chocolate crème brûlée, are must-orders.
Among the few flubs are a kiddie-style side of mac 'n' cheese - al dente, true, but drowning in sauce, and an overbaked chocolate chip cookie.
It's the truly gifted chef who can work culinary magic at any price. Who wants steak when there's a burger like this?
-- Reviewed by Joan Reminick, 3/4/09
Dining with kids: At this new gastro pub, chef Kent Monkan puts out a menu with both affordable and exciting dishes- everything from cocktail franks in blankets to tuna tartare. Also, one of the Island's best burgers.