This past Saturday I found myself consuming said sea bass ($28), a special at Brickhouse that night, described to me as "fresh pecan-crusted Chilean sea bass in a rosemary-thyme reduction." I graciously shared a bite with my friend, who didn't hesitate to summon the first word that came to his head: "magic."
Central Oregon residents who aren't strangers to Redmond's Brickhouse restaurant will be pleased to know that the aptly named steak and seafood restaurant has expanded to another bricked façade in Bend's Old Mill District.
If owner Jeff Porad is worried about the proximity of his new restaurant endeavor to the established shops and restaurants in the Old Mill, he certainly isn't showing it. As Porad led me through the former NW Urban Grill and Fireside Red space, he made sure to pause at the giant wine cellar, practically a carbon copy of the one in his Redmond space.
"I'm not saying this is the best wine collection in Central Oregon," Porad said, "but this is the best wine collection in Central Oregon."
The new Brickhouse location occupies an enviable lot with a large deck overlooking the river and the Old Mill. The revamped interior is elegant but still approachable with large, wavy booths that seem to defy the straightness of the impressively stacked bar.
I began my maiden foray into Brickhouse's cuisine with a Caprese salad and a Ninkasi, although I must say it felt borderline rebellious to order beer in the company of a wine crowd.
The Caprese salad ($9) did not deviate from the norm in any obvious ways, all three key players were present on the plate, and by these I mean the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. A closer look and taste revealed the difference; the heirloom tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil sprinkled with Hawaiian sea salt. This attention to detail seems evident throughout the menu. Not surprisingly, it doesn't come cheap - and Porad realizes that.
"We try to make it affordable for everyone; for some it could be every day and for others it's a special occasion," Porad said.
While Fireside Red attracted a younger set of diners, the Brickhouse's price range might deter much of the early-20s set. But the happy hour menu, available on weekdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., offers appetizers like curried mussels and zucchini tempura for $4-$5.
While I was still skeptical about my $28 dollar entrée, all bets were off when I first tried that succulent bite of sea bass and the sweet crunchy aftershock that followed. Money be damned! I was happy and suddenly this money thing seemed such an arbitrary concept to begin with. The food was taking me into dangerous and unpredictable territory.
Meanwhile, my friend went through his own emotional spectrum; his peppered filet tips elicited a string of pleased expletives in favor of how perfectly the meat was cooked. I seconded his colorful choice of words despite having no real steak-eating credibility to my name.
When I asked Porad what differentiated Brickhouse from other area haunts, he seemed reluctant to draw any comparisons. "We do this because we are passionate about it. We're not just trying to sell food."
While the food that Porad's selling might not come cheap, the passion is very present in every bite.
803 SW Industrial Way. 541-728-0334, brickhouseco.com. Open daily, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.