Ambition and effort deserve some credit Restaurant: The decor at Brewer's Art is elegant and the menu sophisticated. But the food was uneven, and the service did not measure up.

November 03, 1996|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN RESTAURANT CRITIC

When a restaurant is one of a kind, you have to give it credit for simply being there. If the kitchen is attempting much and not always succeeding, you have to cut it a little slack. But when the missteps are as basic as cooking lasagna to a square of sludge and a waitress who avoids your table like the proverbial plague, you have a right to yelp.

The restaurant is the Brewer's Art, the most spectacular brewpub you've ever seen. The elegant rooms of a Charles Street townhouse have been transformed into a sophisticated bar, a lounge and several high-ceilinged dining rooms, with marvelous woodwork, comfortable furnishings and a pleasing edge of funkiness. It reminded me a bit of the now-defunct Vanguard Cafe, only it has more polish.

(As of my visit, the brewing hadn't gotten under way, but that was OK with me. I'm not a beer drinker; I was there for the food. Aficionados can look for specialty brews by the middle of the month.)

If you think of brewpub fare as burgers and fries, think again. The closest you'll get here is a grilled marinated chicken breast on a kaiser roll with havarti cheese and roasted red pepper. Matchstick fries seasoned with a little garlic come on the side.

Other possibilities are an arugula salad with fresh pear, slices of pecorino Romano cheese and a vinaigrette dressing, and steamed clams with a fresh-tasting tomato and balsamic vinegar sauce. Rockfish with a hazelnut crust and a bit of sorrel sauce was also worth ordering again.

The grilled tenderloin wasn't bad, but it didn't have much juicy flavor. Good mashed potatoes and garlic gravy, though.

The only truly dreadful dish we had was the wild mushroom lasagna with homemade pasta, which had been baked (or reheated) to a fare-thee-well.

But we weren't happy with the bread -- a sort of soft rye that was too strongly flavored to go with anything but itself. Not a good choice for a dinner bread basket.

And we were disappointed in the tapas platter for two. It included marinated squash, a vegetable with too subtle a flavor to benefit from being marinated. A creamy sherry dip on the platter had an odd off-taste; no one at our table liked it. Better were the imported olives, slices of a good, hard sausage and a crostino. (Although for two people you might expect to get two of these crisp, cheese-dusted toasts.)

At the end of our meal both the coffee and the tea water arrived at body temperature. Desserts, however, saved the day: particularly a creamy cheese and pumpkin tart and an apple and pear confection topped with puff pastry.

Brewer's Art

Where: 1106 N. Charles St.

Hours: Open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Prices: Appetizers and light fare: $3-$9.50; dinners: $8-$16.25; major credit cards

Call: (410) 547-9310

Pub Date: 11/03/96

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