Brown’s Social House

December30

Manitoba has long been home to the “social” and so I think that it is befitting that Brown’s Social House has finally arrived. I say “finally” because the venture started in Langley BC (home of my friend and The Keg originator George Tidball) in 2004 and has steadily made its way east. D has visited the concept in Yorkton and Moose Jaw and has had good things to say. A group of my fellow bloggers visited just before Christmas while I was in the middle of a teaching gig, so I had to pass on the invite.  Needless to say, I had been long anticipating my visit and I as not disappointed.

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We hadn’t made note of the exact address before we left home and thought for sure that the Transcona restaurant would be on Nairn or Regent Ave., failing these, we guessed Lagamodiere. So we were surprised to find it tucked away on Plessis Ave. D grew up in Transcona, yet we haven’t made the little trip out there in quite some time, so we were surprised with how much the neighbourhood has changed with new businesses popping up all over the place.

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The location of the restaurant was intentional by Brown’s. They typically gravitate to smaller cities or suburban neighbourhoods rather than “destination” restaurants. They’re strategy is paying off. We did not expect to find the room busy on a frigid evening, the Monday after Christmas with a Jets game being played at the MTS Centre, but the place was almost full when we departed at 6:30. The space is wide open with high ceilings and may have a tendency to get noisy, typically the kind of place that the “grey set” might avoid. Given the showing last evening, this is not the case as there were many couples and groups, sharing pizzas or plates of dry wings and ribs (their early bird special). I predict that the demographics of the crowd grow younger as the evening wears on. This is a brilliant marketing strategy, ensuring that the place is always operating at capacity.

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Many years ago D and I were in Boston and became familiar with the location of the bar that inspired “Cheers”.  If you recall, there was a central bar near the entrance so that bartenders and servers could greet Norm when he walked through the door. This is precisely the atmosphere that Brown’s is going for calling their barkeeps “hostenders”.

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We enjoyed a couple of the bar’s most popular cocktails: a Traditional Mojito and a Bourbon Smash, the latter concocted with Woodford Reserve (which I am told is an exceptional bourbon), raspberry and cranberry juices.

But, onto the exceptional food. Here’s’ a quote from the founder of Brown’s: “We serve fresh, lively, flavourful food in a room that is fun, energetic and designed to be as comfortable as my living room…but without the dog hair”. Fresh, lively, flavourful is spot on. We started by sharing a couple of appetizers:

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1) the Dynamite Roll which we enjoyed but were trying to save our appetites so I took the leftovers to my Mom who loves sushi, but not before I removed the spicy lemongrass dip which would have proved to be a bit much for a 87 year old and

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2) Lime Pepper Grilled Halibut which was really sensational. Many menus shy away from serving halibut now a days because of its dear price.  Browns’ respects the product by surrounding it with a taco that is made with a blend of flour and corn so that it is firm and slightly crunchy but not too gritty. The tomato cumin rice doesn’t typically go with the appetizer portion but was a taste treat in itself. The premise-made salsa, pico de gallo and chunky guacamole placed the dish at a precipice, the liberal use of freshly squeezed lime juice in this (and many other dishes) put it over the top!

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I am glad that we paced ourselves as my favourite dish was yet to come. D and I shared the Hollywood Burger and the Dragon Chicken Bowl. The latter was an intentional contrasts of flavours, colours and textures-the sweetness from teriyaki sauce with the smooth but spicy cayenne yoghurt, the luxurious jasmine coconut rice and crunchy wok vegetables, the gorgeous purple pickled cabbage and the fire-engine red peppers.

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I enjoyed the old-school taste of the burger and was really impressed by the butter glazed brioche that it was served in. The glistening surface of the bun was like biting through satin. Inside was a burger of ground chuck and cheddar cheese placed on top of crunchy iceberg lettuce and tomato, so that it didn’t slide around as you took a bite.

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For me the piece de resistance were the “HCDC” fries-hand cut, double cooked! Made from the very best potato for frying, that is Kennebec potatoes, they are cooked once to bring out the natural sugars and starches and then a second time to ensure that the treat is crispy on the outside but soft and fuzzy on the inside. 529 Wellington also serves this potato variety, so that says something about the quality of Brown’s choice.

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I was perfectly satiated when the Oreo Jar arrived at our table. I don’t typically eat desert but batted D’s spoon away so that I would be sure to get a taste. The cheesecake layer was lighter than most with the introduction of equal parts whipped cream with the cream cheese. The little jarful of yumminess was not too sweet either-my kind of desert.

We felt very well cared for by Chef Michael Joss who came in on his day off to look after us. We found out while chatting with Assistant Manager Meagan that she and General Manager Beau are also chefs. This makes so much sense when a “house” is built around great food, lovingly prepared. We’ll be back, perhaps on another Monday to taste the Charred Pepperoni Pizza on special for $9.

Browns Socialhouse on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Brown’s is more than a restaurant, it is a place to be welcomed, remembered and indulged, with a standard for service and food that will leave you feeling exceptional and satisfied, every time.” -Scott Morrison, founder

love

Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

 


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