“Location, location, location,” goes the real estate manta. Brenner Pass restaurant in seriously on-fire Scott’s Addition has got it.
You’ll find it nestled among the area’s breweries, around the corner from The Lofts at 1723, sharing the block with clothing store Jackson & James and close enough to The Diamond that you just might hear the cheers of the crowd.
It also has a 2017 James Beard Foundation semifinalist in the kitchen. That would be executive chef Brittanny Anderson, who opened Brenner Pass in June with some of her partners from Metzger Bar & Butchery in Church Hill.
On a recent Friday night, Brenner Pass, which specializes in the food and drink of the Alpine region, was packed.
We started with a lovely viennoisserie ($8), a selection of house-made breads served with wildflower honey and tangy cultured butter.
Parsnip soup ($10) was slightly sweet and served with earthy chestnut milk. Milk was layered over half of the parsnip purée, giving the soup a yin-yang look, and then the milk half was garnished with African blue basil.
Tartiflette croquettes ($6) were crispy on the outside and light on the inside, with a potato-cheese filling infused with bacon. A drizzle of green herb mayonnaise provided a bright contrast to the savory croquettes.
The strozzapretti (spinach dumpling) entrée ($16) came with a story from our server: “Strozzapretti” means “priest stranglers” in Italian, and, according to lore, a gluttonous priest once strangled himself by swallowing the dumplings whole.
Unfortunately, the story was more interesting than the dish. While the ingredients — spinach, ricotta, eggs, breadcrumbs, Pecorino and nutmeg — sound heavenly together, the dumplings were a little heavy and not as flavorful as we’d anticipated.
The omble chevalier entrée ($26) featured delightfully crispy Arctic char accompanied by barley and chanterelle mushrooms. (While Arctic char is generally described as having a milder taste than salmon, on this night it didn’t. In fact, it was definitely on the “pungent” end of the flavor scale, so order it only if you enjoy potent fish.) A cream sauce with bright orange trout caviar provided an appealing “pop” on the tongue and made the dish visually stimulating.
We ended with the Bavarian chocolate dessert ($10), a sweet mousse surrounded by a milk chocolate shell. It was served with a tart Concord grape sorbet and garnished with candied rose petals for a pretty effect.
On our second visit, on a Wednesday night, the place was just as busy. The only seating to be had was at the bar. This time, we ordered the dry aged New York strip ($34). It was fantastic — tender, deeply flavorful and a perfect medium-rare as ordered. The accompanying tartiflette — a version of scalloped potatoes — was smoky and creamy, with thinly sliced potato and thick chunks of bacon.
Next came honey budino ($10), which paired honey-flavored custard with pear sorbet and a caramelized almond cookie. The dessert was garnished with a single orange nasturtium petal. Pastry chef Olivia Wilson uses the flower petals in most of her desserts and changes them with the seasons.
Wilson is one of Anderson’s partners in Brenner Pass as are wine director Nathan Conway, operations manager Brad Hemp and bar director James Kohler. Together, they’ve created a space that feels modern and industrial-chic with dark walls, white painted brick, exposed HVAC ductwork and chunky metal lighting. The place doesn’t have an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work, but take a spin through the back parking lot and you’ll see them in the heat of the moment through a big plate-glass window.
All in all, Brenner Pass is a welcome addition to an area that doesn’t need another thriving business but gets better with each new one nonetheless. I’ll be back to see what Anderson and company have waiting for us next.