January 11, 2008

First Visit: Good Eats in Point Breeze

Not that it needs my approval, but, even after a single visit, I can highly recommend visiting Point Brugge Café in Point Breeze (real close to Shadyside).

Now, the two kids were in tow, which can skew the experience at any restaurant. Even though the restaurant bills itself as a “a neighborhood gathering spot,” it’s perhaps not the best choice if you’re bringing along children 5 and under (e.g., no kids menu, a chic, dimly lit interior).

This isn’t a criticism, as most so-called family-friendly joints, well, aren’t very good. Which is why we rarely take the kids out to dinner. In other words, why spend a lot of money at a fine restaurant on a meal you will have a hard time enjoying because you’re so busy begging one kid to sit down or fishing out Star Wars figures from under the table or entreating a child to drink his root beer more slowly? And, on the other hand, why spend money at all on barely edible food at a restaurant just because it has dinosaur-shaped chicken tenders and crayons on the table?

That said, this evening we just wanted to get out of the house and have somebody cook something for us for a change—something delicious. So we settled on the much ballyhooed Point Brugge.

To be quick about it, we had

  • Delirium Tremens on tap;
  • tender mussels in a creamy white wine broth;
  • thick but perfectly crispy frites with a tarragon-laced mayo for dipping;
  • a large salad with a mellow dressing, some creamy goat cheese, and surprisingly tender greens; and, to keep the kids at bay while we finished our entrees
  • a truly perfect piece of a Belgian chocolate cake and some ice cream with a velvety chocolate sauce – neither of which got the respect they deserved from a 5- and 3-year-old (although the 5-year-old did an excellent job of sculpting the ice cream into a chocolate pond before devouring most of it).

All of it, including my son’s grilled cheese, minus the roasted red peppers, on a baguette, was truly enjoyable.

The lone disappointment was my entrée, a pan-roasted grouper resting atop a salad of artichokes and hearts of palm with a side of pilaf with sun-dried tomato. The fish was tender and flaky, but, with no sauce of any kind, was rather boring, and the salad underneath seemed to be an afterthought, as if whatever was supposed to be under the fish was a casualty of an inventory order gone wrong, and this was what the kitchen wrangled up in a pinch. The pilaf was very tasty, but seemed like a stranger on the plate, a side for the sake of a side.

This entrée was one of the specials for the evening, and specials are supposed to be, well, special, not something I could make at home, probably with better results.

Despite being the only couple with young kids, the service was excellent and we never felt rushed, and the restaurant truly is cozy – fairly intimate, warm colors, not too loud even when it’s packed – the type of place where you could sit at the bar, downing some Chimays and various small plates (does everybody have small plates now?), and not even realize 2 or 3 hours had passed.

Overall, it’s clear that Point Brugge knows how to do things well and, despite the occasional hiccup, keep customers returning. Next time, I’ll stick with some of the more traditional Belgian dishes – I'd be exhilarated with just some more mussels and frites – and hopefully be there long enough to get a second beer and a piece of chocolate cake all for myself!

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