As it has continued to evolve in the mid-range dining segment, Brio has diversified a bit — moving away from the kind of surf and turf stuff that has classically been its bread and butter and into more contemporary tastes. The restaurant has introduced happy-hour friendly specials and cocktails to drive that younger traffic but it’s gone in another contemporary direction with the introduction of risotto, a dish that has enjoyed more recent popularity.
Good risotto is easy to spot. So how does this one stack up? Another Food Critic was invited to give these dishes a try.
Let’s start with cocktails! The seasonal menu has a few extra things to try. What’s good?
- Maple Bourbon Smash ($9): Maker’s Mark, Monin Maple, lemon juice, rosemary simple syrup, dash of bitters, orange garnish. It’s nice! a little bit warm and not too harsh even if you don’t like bourbon. As comforting as a scented candle.
- Grapefruit Gin Smash ($8): Beefeater Gin, grapefruit juice and a splash of rosemary simple syrup. Spry, and definitely light. Good if you’re wanting to avoid that overly sweet kind of cocktail at happy hour.
Getting started, the seasonal bruschetta ($12.50) is a pretty interesting choice. Pepperoni, black olives, green peppers, basil and cheese top this one. I’m still partial to the roasted red pepper & fresh mozzarella ($11.25) option, simpler and classic. Also good if you’re a red meat lover is the sliced steak ($13.25) with gorgonzola and arugula.
Four basic forms of risotto are on the menu here. All are made with a nice salty cheese, likely something in the parmesan family. This can be a little salty depending on the dish and your taste, but it’s still well worth the taste. What to try:
- Sweet potato Chicken Risotto ($19.95): It’s roasted chicken in this dish with a crispy pancetta, asparagus, and toasted pine nuts. Potatoes and rice? kind of a heavy proposition. This dish manages to balance that heaviness with the chicken and the cheese. Comfort food! Don’t think of this as the low end option, I actually really liked it.
- Salmon Risotto ($22.95): A perfectly-cooked medium rare salmon fillet tops this dish, otherwise stuffed with mushrooms, red peppers, asparagus, and basil. Salmon needs a lighter touch, and in this case I think something light like asparagus does the fish justice.
- Sea Scallop Risotto ($24.95): This one has a heartier flavor — seared sea scallops, ratatouille vegetables, basil, and red peppers — it’s a little sweeter which is nice. The presentation here is beautiful.
- Lobster Risotto ($25.95): The fanciest of the bunch, thanks to a cooked lobster to top it off. Mushrooms, red peppers, asparagus, shrimp and basil are mixed in to this dish. The veggies make the risotto overall a bit lighter, though a little basil can go a long way on that lobster, and that can come off overwhelming. (The staff happily offered to make a new one, but that wasn’t necessary!)
What’s for desert? That would be the Molten Chocolate Cake ($7.95) a rich brownie with lava chocolate filling and topped with a nice scoop of white chocolate raspberry gelato with a mascarpone smear. Huge flavor, but not too sweet! Easily my favorite thing on this menu.
The risotto menu will remain at Brio only through March 25, 2018. Not a bad chance to pay them a visit!