Brasserie quietly brings pizazz to pasta, glory to grillwork

RESTAURANTS

July 16, 1993|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Restaurant Critic

The Brasserie

Where: Pomona Square, 1700 Reisterstown Road

Hours: 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. daily

Credit cards accepted: MC, V

Features: Pastas and grills

Non-smoking section? Yes

Call: (410) 484-0476

Prices: Appetizers: $3.25-$3.95; entrees: $6.50-$15.75

*** I have no idea why Attman's Delicatessen decided not to renew its lease in Pomona Square, but I don't imagine it was

because business was great: OK, I guess we've made so much money we might as well close down now.

The Brasserie, which opened in the vacated spot a couple of months ago, certainly isn't packing 'em in. And that's too bad, because it's a nice little restaurant, with food that ranges from decent to very good. You can get breakfast and a deli lunch on one side, while the other is a casual restaurant presided over by Chef Michel Haudebert. He trained in France, but Italian influences predominate.

There are many bargains on this menu, like the imaginative antipasto misto for $3.95, which includes marinated grilled vegetables (thin slices of eggplant, carrot, red pepper and zucchini that were oily but delicious), a buttery-smooth duck liver pate, marinated calamari, olives and capers. With the good bread Chef Haudebert bakes, this would be a nice light supper.

Even better was a first course of grilled eggplant, served hot with strips of portobella mushrooms, tossed with an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing, and garnished with bibb lettuce and roasted red pepper.

Gazpacho may well be the soup of the day if this heat continues; it was on the night we were there. But this chilled salad-soup doesn't have the pizazz of some of the Brasserie's other first courses. It tastes pretty much like every other gazpacho I've ever had.

The heart of the Brasserie's menu is pasta, including a couple of pasta salads, like pasta-mushroom with tomato pesto dressing. Most are vegetarian, and very reasonably priced. But you can splurge a little and get a simple but appealing combination of small shells and generous lumps of fresh salmon tossed with cream. It was even better with the freshly grated Parmesan and freshly ground pepper the waiter brought to the table.

The Brasserie's dinner menu is quite small, with three veal dishes and several grilled fish and meats along with the pasta. A grilled lamb steak, thin but still pink as ordered, had lots of juicy flavor and an elegant little brown sauce. (But the kitchen lost its nerve and served it with green mint jelly out of a jar.) Good roasted new potatoes accompanied it.

Not everything was a success. Broccoli sauteed with fennel seeds -- the vegetable that came with the lamb -- wasn't to my taste. And a grilled tuna steak with a lovely, delicate tomato and cream sauce had been overcooked.

Three of the pastries on the dessert tray were baked by Chef Haudebert, three by a bakery. Homemade isn't necessarily better, as a strawberry mousse cake that simply didn't have much taste testified. A rhubarb-strawberry tart could have been better, with less bright red glaze and a crust that wasn't soggy. But a concoction of moist sponge cake, strawberries and dark chocolate was as addictively good as a dessert can get.

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