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The dish/What's new in city dining


May 2012

I felt juicy anticipation after several conversations with friends who had already dined at Braise, a new restaurant on South Second Street. Every bite exceeded expectations.

After our server explained the resident butcher, Dan Bolton, deconstructed a pig every Monday for the restaurant, I ordered Crispy Pig and Creamy Polenta, with Mascarpone and Sorghum Syrup. "Would that be pork belly?" I asked our friendly, attentive server. I hoped Crispy Pig would satisfy my curiosity about the belly and show me why anyone would choose to eat pork fat.

The answer arrived on the plate. The sweet-sour sorghum syrup was a perfect complement to the crisp, yet tender bacon that covered the belly. The belly was creamy, like the bone marrow in osso buca. Taken together, the syrup, the tender-crisp bacon, and the fat, added up to that overused, albeit appropriate word, "umami."

We found the Veal Tenderloin with Celery Root Puree and Anchovy Butter another perfect mash of flavors with just a hint of anchovy. My caramelized Onion and Potato Tart came drizzled with vinaigrette and a sprinkle of sunflower sprouts to heighten the individual flavors.

In addition to the butcher board and the small plate, Braise serves entrée-size dishes. We passed on the daily specials, Seared Trout with Fingerling Potatoes and Winter Spinach Hash, Roast Chicken with Gnocchi, Grilled Ribeye with Mustard Spaetzle, and Seared Duck Breast with Scallion Risotto Cake.

It takes a small village in the kitchen at Braise to prepare those dishes. Along with owner and head chef Dave Swanson, there are three line cooks, one prep person, a butcher, a pastry chef, and someone in the brick oven department. In addition to running the restaurant, Swanson in his words is the "Peapod of farm home food delivery." He works with about 200 farmers to bring their products to local restaurants and into homes. "I want to get local food to people," Swanson says. Farmers drop off their products at a warehouse and Swanson and his team take care of the rest.

He also understands the design aspect of the restaurant. We loved the laminated pages from cookbooks on the wall, the bar where people sat to watch chefs at work in the open kitchen, the barn wood in the lounge, our table made from the floor of a bowling alley and our extraordinary meal.

1101 S. Second St.
(414) 212-8843


This story ran in the May 2012 issue of: