Sherman's Food Adventures: Bruno


There are many fine dining destinations in the Lower Mainland that cover a fairly wide gamut of cuisines.  Sure, some are more represented than others, but that is another story for another day.  In terms of location, the majority of these spots are, not surprisingly, located in the Downtown core.  So when we have spot opening up in Richmond at the new Versante Hotel, it is a relatively big thing. Ophilia and I ended up checking the place out recently.  This post will encompassed 2 visits as the first was marred by inattentive service, so we were invited back with a few comped items.

So the food will be a bit out-of-order (mix of meal 1 and 2) since I want to do a natural progression rather than jumping around.  Whether one is order a-la-carte or doing the Bruno Experience (tasting menu), it is recommended that you try the Scroll Loaf with foie gras butter.  This round "croissant" was crispy on the outside while soft and buttery on the inside.  It was spiked with rosemary and pecorino which made it tasty on its own.  However, the side of bruleed foie gras butter made this a decadent starter.  It was sweet, creamy and complimented the loaf well.

Finished off tableside, the Oysters on the half shell were sauced with a motoyaki and topped with ikura marinated in sake and yuzu.  As you can see in the picture, the oysters were torched, where the ikura were charred.  So beyond the buttery and briny oyster, it was complimented by the classic Japanese flavours of a motoyaki.  It was creamy and slightly tangy with spice as well as smokiness.

Now Crispy Brussels Sprouts aren't a new thing as they have been a menu staple for quite some time.  However, the version here at Bruno was very good.  Not only was every sprout indeed crispy, the seasoning was on point.  Beyond the saltiness of the parm, there was a noted spiciness from the calabrian chili crunch.  However, it wasn't just one note, rather there was a smokiness to the flavour profile as well.

One of my favourite dishes was believe it or not, the Truffle Potatoes.  These were a study in texture as the outside was crispy while the inside was creamy and moist.  Beyond that, the flavours really popped consisting of garlic truffle butter, parmesan herbs, green peppercorn aioli.  So the first 2 flavours to hit were the salty and nuttiness of the parm then giving way to the aromatics of the truffle butter.  Finishing off was the subtle pepperiness of the aioli.

Normally, pork belly can be hit and miss.  Sometimes, it is so fatty, it is a bit cumbersome to eat.  Other times, it can be too dry where it defeats the purpose of eating the dish.  For this version, we found Kurobuta Pork Belly with black garlic balsamic glazed peppercorn lime aioli.  The belly itself was mostly meaty with some buttery fat on the top layer.  Moist and melt-in-our-mouths soft, the meat portion of the belly was perfect.  Loved the fermented and rich salty flavours of the black garlic.  The balsamic and lime helped cut through the heaviness.

Onto some bigger plates, we thoroughly enjoyed the Dungeness Crab Croquettes with Iberico Ham, baby green artichoke hearts, marinated sicilian olives and nduja sausage remoulade.  First and foremost, these were large and stuffed with fluffy crab.  There was very little filler, if at all.  The fact they kept the filling from drying out while the outside was crunchy showed good precision.  There was plenty of complimentary flavours here including the umaminess of the savoury remoulade.  Added the necessary flavour without taking away from the delicate crab.

One dish that was a little hit and miss was the Halibut Uni King Crab Risotto with ikura, burrata cheese, uni cream and lemon zest.  On one hand, it was beautiful to the eye and indeed the halibut was perfectly cooked.  It was flaky and buttery, indicating that it was also fresh.  Flavours were on point with the creamy seafoodiness of the uni accented by the further creaminess of the burrata.  Nice balance provided by the lemon zest.  However, the actual risotto itself was undercooked.  It wasn't by a little bit either, the aborio rice was hard.  Too bad really.

Now both times, we ordered the Truffle Wild Mushroom Gnocchi because it was so darn good.  Loved the soft pillowy gnocchi that also had a certain appealing chewiness.  This was perfectly contrasted by the fried sunchoke crunch on top as well as the bottarga.  Again, the truffle was restrained where the other ingredients did get to announce themselves.  Mushrooms were tender and of course provided another hit of earthiness.

Prepared beautifully, the Grilled Wagyu Flank Steak was accompanied by tomato, avocado, grapes, shishito peppers micro herbs, rustic bread and chimichurri.  Being a flank steak, we weren't expecting any melt-in-our-mouths texture.  Although it wasn't, the tenderness of the meat was still apparent.  Furthermore, the natural fats in the meat afforded a intoxicating aroma.  It also helped that the meat was well-seasoned too.  As for the peppers, they could've been cooked through more and the bread was a bit too chewy.  Loved the grapes and tomatoes though - kissed with just enough heat but not overdone.

Now we loved the gnocchi, but the Ndjua Tagliatelle was equally good.  To begin, the pasta was firmly al dente while bathed in Cortez Island basil pesto, smoked bacon, heirloom tomato, fennel, grana padano and calabrian chili crunch.   There was a quite a bit going on here and ultimately, there was plenty of impact from the ingredients.  There was a nice spiciness to go with the smoky meatiness.  Brightness occurred in the form of the pesto and tomatoes as well as the shaved fennel on top.

Served with a good amount of forno bread, the Saffron Cream Mussels were money.  What the description does not say is that in addition to the mussels, we found clams and wild pink scallops as well.  These were all open and cooked just enough so that they were still buttery and delicate.  The saffron cream was balanced with an aromatic essence.  Dipping the well-seasoned (maybe a bit salty) bread into the broth was enjoyable.

Now getting to the much bigger plates, we had the Truffle Lavender Duck with foie gras, flambe apricots, confit duck croquettes, candied hazelnut crumb, summer figs and duck glace. Don't let the picture fool you.  Each slice of duck was huge, easily enough protein for 2 people on this place.  It was prepared medium-rare where it was juicy and tender.  Loved the glace as it was silky, gelatinous and full of depth.  The apricots and figs were a nice sweet compliment to the duck.  I found the croquettes to be crispy, but the duck confit was a little dry.  I didn't really get the lavender and that is possibly a good thing as it can be too floral if over-used.

Something even bigger was the 52oz Bone-In Ribeye with gorgonzola horseradish butter, chimichurri and red wine jus. This was massive piece of meat that was thick and still prepared perfectly medium-rare.  However, despite the promise of sharp flavours, the meat was rather bland.  Now don't get me wrong, it was tender and moist, but just lacking seasoning.  With that being said, the chimichurri and red wine jus did help the cause, but there needed to be much more of it.

Onto dessert, we had the Stone Fruit Pavlova, Rustic Tiramisu and also the Bruno Honey Lavender Soft Serve.  I thought the pavolva was pretty good with plenty of fresh fruit.  Definitely fruity and refreshing.  Only thing is that the whole thing was a bit too sweet.  The same could be said about the tiramisu, but ultimately, the flavours were apparent and the ladyfingers were properly soaked.  Soft serve was creamy and also sweet, but it did taste good with the crunch from the pistachio brittle and freshness from the preserved berries.  So as you can see, we had nearly everything on the menu save for some salads, flatbread and 2 of the bigger share platters.  From this, we were pretty sure the food was quite good at Bruno.  Nice to see something of this caliber in Richmond.

*2nd visit had 4 dishes comped as well as dessert*

The Good:
- Proteins were properly prepared
- Very few issues with the food
- Nice dining space

The Bad:
- Service the first time was aloof, but second was much better (albeit they knew we were there)
- Self-parking is a bit troublesome with only one pay station far away from the actual level you need to park


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