March Madness brings April showers and April showers bring ... springtime menus! Thus restaurants that actually bother to acknowledge the world's turning are themselves turning to warmer-weather fare. In other words, it's a great time to scan for asparagus, peas and ramps in high-achieving local eateries.
I found all these things and more morel mushrooms than I had a right to eat at the price on the Burgundy Room's just-released list of seasonal gems. And every hot-off-the-press dish I sampled at this smart, wine-centric Short Norther delivered full-throttle flavors and is easily recommended. Some are even outstanding bargains, especially if you eat them (as I did) at the bar during happy hour, when tabs are slashed - slashed, I say! - in half. (The still-reasonable prices given below are undiscounted.)
A B-Room new addition that quickly drew my attention was their Asparagus Consomme ($6.50). It was a beefy-flavored broth with a blast of black pepper that held toothsome chunks of asparagus and a mini-treasure of morel mushroom pieces. Though I didn't pick up much of the menu-promised local ramps, I didn't much care owing to the lavish splurge of wonderful fungus.
Four big ravioli stuffed with smoked mozzarella ($10 - with a ricotta-like texture and basil grace notes) were topped with a terrific and colorful al dente little saute of chopped asparagus, cute fun-sized pattypan squash, baby zucchini and threads of radicchio. Making the dish really sing was an underlying rich and buttery madeira wine sauce.
The herb-roasted Half-Cornish Hen ($9) was a particularly excellent deal. Its tender and succulent meat was showcased by a crispy, herb-crusted skin. Gilding the lily were more of those magnificent woodsy morels, a sprinkling of sweet peas and a rich "onion jus."
A single Pan-Seared Scallop ($10) was perfectly singed and perched atop a marvelous mound of collard greens and a meaty hoppin' John (a black-eyed peas and rice melange). Delivering a righteous bang of tang was its Tabasco butter sauce.
Yet another unqualified new-menu winner was the Hickory Smoked Beef Brisket ($9). Sort of a small plate of backyard barbecue with a gussying-up Mexican spin, it had a mole-like Guajillo chile sauce, a slaw made with cilantro and stubby strands of cabbage, a slightly sweet potato pancake and tender, juicy, low-and-slow-cooked, smoke-scented brisket.