Primary author – Amy

The last two Sundays we have stopped into La Brioche for brunch and lunch.   What you say?  The bakery? This is NOT your old La Brioche.  A marriage and a location change have meant a new birth for the company and a complete overhaul of their menu as well as their intentions.  The new La Brioche True Food has a focus on organic, fair trade and as much as possible local food.  That’s just the intention for the menu, the space has its own mission.

Jackie Patricia, half of the restaurant owning team, is a Feng Shui master.  Every color, fabric, sconce and brick was chosen with a specific goal of how it will contribute to the energy of the space.  The result, is a richly colored, heavily patterned space.  It looks like you walked into the Victorian home of your dotty great aunt who never met a pattern she didn’t like.  I don’t necessarily like all the patterns chosen as it looks a bit much for my taste, but the results of her work are palpable.  On the first occasion we sat in a space which was built for fast flowing chi.  I didn’t think about the feel of the space.  The second time we sat in the medium chi section in deep cushy wing back chairs.  I sat listening to classical music, looking out on the sunny day and natural setting of the park next door,  I was so at peace I found it hard to leave.  This vibe seems to extend to the way the staff and customers feel and interact in the space.  Its something you have to experience to believe.

The kitchen space also stands out. Gray tile and stone marry the dining room and the kitchen. Generally, you just feel welcome in the space. There is a wonderful painting of apples on the wall that obviously beckons you to the food.

What about the food you say?  On the first occasion Jim ordered the French toast with Creme Anglaise and fruit.  He felt the french toast was a bit dry but the balance of fruit and toast was good.  I had a pepper and avocado omelette with gruyere.  My omelette was light and airy, perfectly cooked and with great balance.  There were roasted red peppers folded within the omelette, but there was also a red pepper sauce dotted on top.  The avocados were fresh as well.  It was the perfect size-no plate and a half Perkins special, and it came with fresh greens.

The use of brioche to make the french toast would seemingly make it a better french toast, but apparently lead the chef to believe he/she didn’t need to soak the bread in the batter as long. This resulted in very dry texture, but rich flavor.

On our second visit, we were both ravenous and started out with a soup.  Coconut milk, miso with shrimp.  It was heavenly!  Silken and sweet, but not cloying and with subtle ginger notes.  It had a warm fullness owing to the richness of the stock.  There were a few shrimp, which must have been braising in the soup because they were so tender they melted in your mouth.  I don’t think I can eat shrimp cooked any other way now…I am spoiled!  We agreed it could have used a splash of an acid to add a spark and perhaps green onion or chive for a finish.  It was perfect on a cold winter afternoon.

This was a killer soup. Miso and coconut done another way could have become somewhat cloying, but the ginger cut the sugar enough to balance the sweetness, but still offer enough richness and silkiness to give weight to the soup. As for the acid, a splash of lime juice would have made the soup a 10.

For lunch I ordered the beef burger and Jim, a sucker for a good pulled pork sandwich, went that direction.  The burger ordered medium and with aged cheddar, came medium on a toasted Kaiser roll.  It was seasoned only with salt and pepper to let the beef flavor come through.  Jim felt it could have used an aioli, but I felt the simplicity was good.  Burgers can be many things, tired, dry, heavy, greasy… light and moist.  Hold up, yes light and moist.  You could tell from the moisture and the texture of the grind that they grind their own beef here.  We confirmed this with a cheerful staff member who seemed happy that we noticed.

More freshly ground beef has uneven texture about it. You will occasionally run into slightly chewier pieces of meat. It is a wonderful way of showcasing excellent beef. In this case, the beef was local from Fountain Prairie Farm, once of our favorite vendors at the Dane County Farmers Market.

Jim’s pulled pork sandwich was a little less impressive.  The quality of the pork was good, although is seemed a little dry.The sauce was both too tomato -based and too vinegary for me, but I’m looking for a St. Louis style molasses or brown sugar BBQ sauce anyway.  The bread held up, which rarely ever happens with pulled pork.  The oddity was the vinegar soaked vegetables stacked on the sandwich.  A two inch chunk of celery, some onions and a couple of three inch chunk of carrots.   It wasn’t the idea of vinegar soaked veggies on top that was the problem, but rather the method.  A pickled slaw would have been easier to bit into and given the same effect. 

Both sandwiches came with fresh greens.  You will not find fries here.  Also not found here, ringing cell phones or lap tops.  The food and the space is meant to nourish you mind, body and soul.  It is a place to shed the burdens and pace of modern existence and simply feel and connect to those around you.

La Brioche True Food indeed makes you briefly lose track of time and place. Remarkably, it is in a typical 80s style strip mall on a busy University Ave.. But you don’t feel like just another patron of the typical  strip mall. Making the best of a constrained rectangular space is a difficulty task for a restaurant owner, but they have succeeded at True Food.

In my attempt to stay longer in my chair looking into the woods I suggested Jim order a dessert.  He went with the carrot cake, because it is a good test of a restaurant and also because many of the cookies and other bars looked over cooked.  Something we noticed on both trips.  The carrot cake was rich and flavorful.  Jim found it a bit oily and I bemoaned the lack of frosting on it.  We sat and thought about how much restraint is shown in the preparation of the food here.  There is not too much of anything really.  There is a moderation in play and an intention in everything they do.  We pondered what makes a restaurant great and at the heart we realized it is about passion and intention, something La Brioche True Food has in spades.

La Brioche True Food is located at 2862 University Ave. in Madison, WI.