New brasserie offers world of cuisines

January 25, 2012 9:46:17 AM PST
BLT American Brasserie is a casual, yet elegant restaurant with a wide array of choices that recently opened in the historic Montgomery Ward building.There are definitions aplenty to be deciphered at BLT American Brasserie, which took over the old Brasserie Ruhlman space in the Montgomery Ward building. Do they serve BLTs? And is the menu American, or more French, owing to its brasserie title?

"For me, a brasserie is somewhere you can go have a casual, yet elegant experience, you can experience a wide range of food," said chef Aksel Theilkuhl.

He's not kidding about that "wide range" claim. There's a raw bar, featuring sushi and ceviche - this version contains citrus juice cured red snapper and bits of cilantro and celery leaf for garnish. There are also entree-sized salads, like this butter-and-cream-poached rock shrimp, embedded with bits of avocado and vibrant pieces of pink grapefruit and marinated mushrooms; a truffle-lemon vinaigrette dresses it without being overbearing.

"Really it comes down to the food and the wide spectrum of what is available, especially in a brasserie of our nature.. an American brasserie were we pretty much tackle a little bit of everything," Theilkuhl said.

Meatballs are as simple as any Italian grandma's: made from veal and pork, they sit above a shallow pool of herb-flecked polenta, then get a salty shower of grated pecorno cheese. From the sandwich section of the menu, a fried piece of Chatham cod that's as good as anywhere on the East Coast: a crispy beer batter coating, topped with pickled red onions, avocado and watercress.. along with a homemade tartar sauce colored by red peppers - the same creamy spread is used as a dip for the hot, thin and crispy fries.

"I think the menu is very well versed for sharing. I think it's ideal, honestly [you know], with the amount of stuff we have and all the pizzas and the sushi. I think that sharing is something that I will recommend to many people that who come in, who have a few people in their party for sure," said Theilkuhl.

Dessert is a no-brainer; get the steamed banana pudding and call it a day: the caramelized bananas, candied kumquats and rum sauce, paired with the warm, soft, vertical pudding, form a combination that is irresistible.

"Even if you're not a huge banana fan, I will challenge you to try this desert and you might be very impressed by it," he said.

Something for everyone is a pretty good mantra, and I would take the chef's advice when it comes to dessert. Even if you're not a banana person, try the steamed pudding. You're gonna like it.

The restaurant is only open for dinner, for now -- but does serve brunch on the weekends.

BLT American Brasserie
500 W. Superior St.