Monday, October 6, 2014

Hitting the Brick(s) in San Clemente

216 N. El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672

This must be what if feels like to cheat on someone. It's probably not shocking to you, but since it was hard for me to even get one girl, let alone two, I have never cheated, until now. To make matters worse, I cheated right in front of the other, restaurant.

There it was, one of our favorite restaurants, right across the street. We love Vine Restaurant, but I had heard some good stuff about Brick. We had our friends Sabrina and Anthony over, and usually we would want to show off one of our favorite places, but for some reason I made online reservations at Brick. Part of the reason for this is that I have already written about Vine twice, and I did want to share a new experience with you readers. So please forgive me Vine, we will be back, but for now we hurried into Brick before Russ and the boys at Vine could see us.

Brick has been open for over two years now. Owner and Executive Chef David Pratt is no stranger to OC restaurants. He was General Manager at Studio at the Montage Resort in Laguna, and before that he was the chef and owner at Mirabeau French Bistro in Dana Point. With Brick, he is serving up what they call, "rustic Italian cuisine," made with hand-picked produce from farmer's markets. Chef Pratt also gets one or two pigs a week, butchers them up, using everything from the snout to the tail, for sausages, meatballs, sauces, and daily specials. I was very excited to see what Brick had in store for us.

We arrived to this very busy area of San Clemente at about 6pm on a Saturday night. Parking is always a challenge, but we didn't mind the short walk. We were sat at the very front of the restaurant, near the bar. Predictably, the walls are brick, with lots of dark woods throughout the very comfortable dining room. I'd describe the dining space as, "beach comfortable," with high tops, and a few communal tables scattered about. Since this is near the beach, there's no air conditioning, so if you are here on a warm day like us, be prepared for it being a little balmy inside. I was pretty excited to eat, and of course once the food hits the table, it limits the amount of words that we have to hear our good friend Sabrina speak, so let's enjoy the silence and see what we thought of the cuisines at Brick.

There were not a ton of options as far as starters go at Brick, but the four of us wanted to try their Pizza Bread Antipasta ($12). I thought this was a little misnamed on the menu. It should have been called, "do it yourself pizza bread." This came with sliced pizza dough, some prosciutto, burrata, and marinara sauce. I liked this, but was not in love with it. Splitting this between four people was tough because you want to make sure you split everything evenly, and that was hard to do with this appetizer. The components of this were definitely fresh, but not nearly enough burrata or prosciutto for the four of us. We would probably skip this on our next visit here if we had more than two people splitting this.

We must have been in a sharing mood, because the four of us also split a Family Sized Caesar Salad ($16). I'm always a little leery when splitting a family sized salad, but this was more than enough for the four of us. This Caesar had all of the usual suspects included; fresh romaine lettuce, a generous amount of parmesan cheese, croutons, and a liberal amount of a very mild tasting Caesar dressing. They also added some little cherry tomatoes to this salad. We all felt this salad was pretty good, and the farmers market fresh produce was definitely in full effect with this.

I have had some really good luck with pork chops recently, and this held true at Brick as well. In fact this could be one of the best I have had. When I heard that Chef Pratt gets a whole pig each week, and makes specials out of it, I hoped that they would not be out of them when I came to eat here. Lucky for me, they still had this limited availability item. These House Butchered Pork Chops ($20) come three to an order, and are served above a casserole of cannellini beans, kale, and pork belly, then it's topped with a lemon-calabrian chile arugula salad. I liked this dish so much, I didn't even mind that it had kale and arugula in it. The pork chops were a little on the small side, but there were three of them, and more than enough meat on them. They were tender, and went well with the delicious cannellini bean casserole. This is a very hearty dish, that all four of us enjoyed, but probably none more than myself.

The entree portion of the menu at Brick is divided into pizzas, pastas, and plates. I always enjoy a little nice alliteration. Katie selected the Orecchiette ($16) from the pasta section of the menu. Along with the freshly made orecchiette, this plate featured house made sausage, broccoli, mushrooms, and pecorino cheese. Katie really enjoyed this earthy dish. The mushrooms were plentiful, the sausage had a great flavor, and it had just the right amount of cheese on it. Katie would totally get this again when coming back here.

Our good friend Anthony was feeling like a pizza on this night, and he selected the one I would have tried, if I did not order my fantastic pork chops. The Carne ($17) predictably has a lot of meat on it. Pancetta, salami, sausage, and bresaola, which I learned is an air dried, salted beef, are all included here. The pizza is cooked in their 750 degree Valoriani pizza oven, and the edges did get a little charred, which some people think just adds some character to the pizza. Anthony felt this was a good sized pizza, with a crunchy crust, which he really enjoyed.

The only miss of the night as far as our entrees were concerned was Sabrina's pick, the Khorasan Wheat Pici ($16). To be honest with you, I have no idea what was in this, but we all agreed this was not very good. Of course I am not a fan of whole wheat pasta, so take my opinion for what you will. There appeared to be tomatoes, olives, and artichokes in this. The pasta was much too thick, and had a weird texture to it.

Even though we ended on a low note with Sabrina's dish, we all really enjoyed our time at Brick. The pork chop I had was more than worth the trip from anywhere in OC. The menu is not going to blow you away with its variety, but from our experience here, almost everything is worth trying. We had the bartender as our server, and he was pretty solid service wise. It's usually hit or miss when you have a bartender as your server, but he kept checking on us, and even the food runners were very attentive. We still love Vine, but now we have another great option down in San Clemente.

Out of five devils, (because hockey season is upon us, and the New Jersey Devils play in Newark, which is nicknamed, Brick City), five being best to zero being worst, Brick gets 3.5 devils.

For more information about Brick, go to their website here:
Brick Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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