I have only gone to Brix in Lexington, Va, about three times; but, even in those three visits, they made an impression. Brix is a small plate, tapas style restaurant, and the menu is strongly influenced by the foods in season—the asparagus soup of the day came from asparagus growing in Hunter’s (the owner) garden.
After hearing the story of the soup, my parents, brother, and I all got a bowl. I was worried because I love asparagus, but have had some pretty fowl luck with asparagus soups. But, I put my faith in Brix and that faith was rewarded. This soup amazed me on two levels. One level was the taste. They maintained the green, fresh, and slightly floral quality of the asparagus, but got rid of the bitterness and muskiness that haunts some asparagus soups. In fact, the asparagus almost had a meaty quality that my mom pointed out and that I agree with, and that fullness was unexpected, but appreciated. The second level was a technical one. This was a cream of asparagus soup that was completely vegan. Even without the cream, it was smooth, delicate, and rich. How you do that without cream baffles me and I really love being baffled by a restaurant.
For the protein, I had chermoula spiced shrimp and polenta with coconut milk and za'atar. The shrimp were cooked perfectly and the grilling gave the shrimp a great smoky flavor that complemented the chermoula. The polenta also had a flavor that starts subtle and then builds to strong Middle Eastern flavors. I had let mine get a little cool and so the texture got a little gummy, but beside that you still got the sense of the texture being a nice balance of grainy and creamy.
|The family got to them before I took a picture.|
As a side, we ordered the glazed turnips. They are more like candy than turnips, but not in a bad way. The garam masala and palm sugar combination lend sweetness while also balancing the sweetness with the warmth of the spices. This is one of my mom and my favorites that I've gotten every time I've gone to Brix.
Since I had gone on my birthday, Brix was nice enough to give me a complimentary birthday dessert. I chose the banana bread which was sautéed in maple syrup, topped with a maple syrup whipped cream, and with a side of cardamom spiced rhubarb. You would have thought that maple syrup would make the dessert too sweet and potentially cloying, but instead it provided a nice caramelization to the banana bread and a hint of warmth. The cardamom in the rhubarb helped bridge from the sweet banana bread to the tart rhubarb, creating a nice balance to the dessert.
|The Bolognese - my mom's |
Brix’s small plate theme works on many levels. One, they are a small restaurant, and so small plates are in good proportion to the space. Two, they are also a small, but dedicated staff that is so enthusiastic about Brix that it shows. They answer questions, make suggestions, and do whatever they can to make you feel welcome. Three, they are mindful about the products they use, they put care in the food they prepare, and they take joy in seeing it appreciated. Brix, like the food, is a small place with a big impact.