The English Grill, the iconic restaurant that has been a fixture of the Brown Hotel since 1923, unveiled new menu items to the media on Thursday, while also introducing two additions to the kitchen as part of a prix fixe Chef’s Table event.
Executive chef Josh Bettis introduced chef de cuisine Andrew Welenken, formerly of Buck’s and The Goat, and restaurant manager Troy Ritchie, a well-known sommelier and hospitality professional. Welenken and the kitchen staff then prepared a five-course meal, while Ritchie paired each course with selected wines, which he playfully referred to as “grape juice.”
If it’s possible for the AAA four-diamond English Grill, what was already excellent might have just gotten better. The time-capsule dining room is an iconic place to enjoy a fine meal, but doing so as part of the Chef’s Table takes it to another level, adding a modern twist to the proceedings.
“Our motto is, ‘What’s old is new,’” Bettis said in a prepared statement. “Chef Welenken and I want to bring English Grill guests back in time for a luxurious dining experience while utilizing current ingredients and technique.”
The first course was an eggplant cannelloni with goat cheese risotto. Served atop grilled stalks of both green ad white asparagus, it was topped with delicious macerated grape-tomato chutney and drizzled with balsamic reduction. It represented the perfect way to whet the appetite for what was to come.
Next was the tableside Caesar salad, so called because it is literally prepared before your eyes. The aromas further entice as you watch and wait, right down to Ritchie hand-separating eggs. The view one gets of the variety of ingredients at play in the salad helps prepare the palate for a Caesar with more depth than I believe I’ve ever tasted, even if it doesn’t look like anything more than just another salad.
Of course, the tableside experience also included the fact we could glance over and watch Welenken and his team hard at work preparing our next course just 15 or so feet away.
The next course was the winner of the night: roasted sea bass served on spring pea cream with spiced carrot broth and pomegranate-port reduction. Ritchie noted that in tastings while developing the new menu, it was “a staff favorite” — it’s easy to understand why.
The mild and meaty fish, which can have something of a buttery flavor, is wonderful on its own, but the pea cream brought out a sweetness in the dish, while the carrot broth added an unusual spice to the mix. As a lover of all things seafood, it truly was a treat.
“We think it’s going to be a big hit on the menu,” Welenken told us. I agree.
But he noted that our next course was probably a close second, and once again I had to agree. A cocoa-crusted pork chop with a unique bourbon-blueberry coffee sauce, served atop apple butter, it was both hearty and light.
The pork had just enough bark, while the light meat was tender enough almost to be cut just with a fork. The blueberry sauce was superb. It was served with accoutrements of delicious grilled asparagus, grilled German potato salad and Brussels sprouts, all of which impressed (although I am no fan of Brussels sprouts in general). Honestly, if I had any complaint about the meal, it would be that I found the apple butter to be a bit too forward. But that’s a small complaint.
For dessert, we were treated to sample sizes of citrus coconut baked Alaska and a decadent roasted cherry verrine with dark chocolate mousse, along with chemex coffee brewed on the table, a nice finishing touch.
Other new menu items include a prime-cut Wagyu beef filet with charred tomato espagnole and crunchy mushrooms; Moroccan-spiced lamb loin with mint pesto and white bean hummus, and seared Verlasso salmon with cherry-fennel slaw and blood orange butter.
If you can reserve a Chef’s Table experience at the English Grill, do so. It’s quite a treat, and there are two versions: the seven-course Classic Chef’s Table ($150 per person), and the Theater Chef’s Table, which places diners on the “working side” of the kitchen, just feet from the chef as he works.
The English Grill is located on the second floor of the Brown Hotel, at 335 W. Broadway, and is open 6-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 5-10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.