Barbrix is one of the latest restaurants to follow the small plates trend. On a Saturday night, it was crowded, loud, and there were several parties waiting for a table. Luckily, the BF made reservations, so we didn’t have very long to wait. Our party of four was seated at a small table that would be cozy even for a party of two. It was a full house that night.
We ordered the spring farro salad, which could be made vegan by leaving out the cheese. I’m by no means a big fan of peas, but the fresh peas in this dish were delicious. They didn’t have the unpleasant starchy taste that frozen peas have. The farro was cooked well with the ideal amount of chewy plumpness. The BF commented that the salad needed more oil because it was a bit dry, but I thought it was fine.
We also got in an order of mixed Spanish olives, which were fantastic. These olives were briney without being overly salty. Each bite was like a powerful flavor explosion in my mouth. I’d rank these olives in my top 5 list of good olives. I’m also a garlic fiend, so I appreciated the sweet cloves of garlic thrown in.
I ordered a goats milk cheese, which was tasty but nothing to rave over. I did enjoy the dried fruit and jam-like spread that came with it.
The next dish, fried sweetbreads, were ordered on accident because one member of our party didn’t actually know what sweetbreads were. It was a happy accident for me because I happen to like all sorts of strange offals. These were small tender pieces, battered and fried. To the unknown eye, they could easily have been mistaken for small chicken tenders or even fried calamari. The fried sweetbread tasted good and was extremely tender, but at the $6 price, the serving could have been larger.
I thought it was funny that we ate about three larger pieces before the server came by, about to take the dish away, thinking we were done. I guess the server thought the remaining pieces, more aptly called crumbs, were too small to eat.
Next came the farmer’s plate, which was presented wonderfully. The baby carrot, endive, and broccollini looked like pieces of art. What I thought was odd was that considering that most people share small plates among the table, this dish was hard to divvy up. What if three people really liked carrots? I guess they’d have to cut the already small carrot into tiny pieces.
The shrimp and chickpea flour tortillas were an interesting combination. It tasted like shrimp was cut into small pieces and then mixed into the batter. These should be eaten as soon as they’re made because they were quick to go soft and soggy. I’m always a fan of chickpea flour flatbreads (also known as socca), so I thought this was a good way to dress it up.
One of my favorite dishes of the night was the roasted Alaskan halibut with tomato salsa and capers. The strong flavor of the capers and salsa was a good pairing to the white fish. I’ve never had capers with fish before, but it’s a good match. The fish was even cooked to a perfect done-ness, which is something that I’m unfortunately picky about. I believe the fish was served on a bed of asparagus and Israeli couscous, but really, the star of the dish was the fish.
The duck confit was a disappointment. The duck was spiced well and the scalloped potatoes it was served on were decadent and delicious. The leg just didn’t taste like a duck confit. There was no richness from fat that’s characteristic of a good duck confit. The meat was just kind of dry. If it had been called another name, it wouldn’t have been such a let down.
The roasted cauliflower salad also could have been better. The roasted cauliflower had a great sweetness from roasting. The green beans were crispy and sweet, but I’m still not used to eating them so undercooked. The chickpeas were what dragged this dish down. They tasted like they came straight from a can. The salad would have been better if the chickpeas had just been left out.
Luckily, the skirt steak was miles better than the canned chickpeas. It was cooked to my preferred medium, although others at the table thought it was too pink for a medium. The meat was tender, juicy, and just plain delicious. Nothing more needs to be said about a perfect piece of steak.
The lamb chops we ordered came plated with a pleasant presentation. One piece was tougher than the other, which is a consistency issue, but if the restaurant could always serve lamb that tasted like the better piece, I’d call that a success. The artichoke chips worked well as garnish, but the pieces were so small, I don’t know if I even tasted them. The eggplant caviar on the bottom of the meat tasted good, but didn’t look good. We had a hard time figuring out what it was because it looked like someone chewed up meat and just spit it in a wad on the plate. I’m not sure where the caviar part came in because it didn’t have the consistency of caviar.
The treviso salad was a dish that both looked good and tasted good. The colorful red, green, and orange components made me glad that summer was here. Some people don’t like the bitterness of radicchio, but it’s not really that bad once you get used to it. Having a bite with a piece of grapefruit and avocado also helps because the sweet acidity cuts down on the bitterness and the buttery finish makes me want more. This dish was a good example of how different textures and flavors can play in harmony with each other.
Dinner at Barbrix was good despite a few shortcomings. It’s so loud and crowded in there that it’s not a place I’d recommend going to on a weekend night if you want to have long conversations with people. The food quality was what I expected although some of the portions were smaller than I would have liked. It’s good that the restaurant offers vegetarian and vegan options on the menu, but omnivores get a better deal on the dishes. It’s nice to have this place so close in the neighborhood, but I think for small plates, my favorite place is still AOC.