South Side's Bridge Ten Brasserie offers a cross between bistro and fine dining
On Saturday mornings, when Matthew Christie was growing up in Chippewa, Beaver County, he abandoned watching cartoons in favor of cooking shows.
He would switch on public television to watch master chefs like Jacques Pepin, Julia Child and Martin Yan of “Yan Can Cook.” Christie was so fascinated by the chefs and the dishes they prepared, he knew even as a pre-schooler that he'd cook for a living.
At Blackhawk High School, “I told guidance counselors, ‘I don't need that; I'm going to be a chef,' ” Christie says.
Indeed he is: Christie, 29, of the South Side, is executive chef at Bridge Ten Brasserie, a French restaurant that opened July 9 on South 10th Street on the South Side.
Adjacent to the Holiday Inn Express in a space occupied by the former Abruzzi restaurant, the new restaurant named for the nearby Tenth Street Bridge carries on the French brasserie tradition.
Owner Dave DeSimone, 54, a wine columnist for the Tribune-Review, says the atmosphere of a brasserie lies between a casual French bistro and a formal fine-dining experience with white tablecloths and napkins. This is the first restaurant venture for DeSimone, a Squirrel Hill resident who grew up in Arnold, Westmoreland County.
The patio and bar at Bridge Ten Brasserie had a soft opening July 9 with a limited menu. The dining room opened Sept. 10, with blue upholstered banquettes, maroon tablecloths, black napkins and bistro chairs under soaring ceilings — and a full menu that changes periodically.
Large windows in the dining room give views of the South Side and Mt. Washington. Photographs on the walls evoke France. The restaurant has seating for about 70 people in the main dining room, 30 in the bar and 40 outside in warm weather.
“I love visiting classic French brasseries, because you can eat and drink well in a fun, unpretentious and relaxing setting,” DeSimone says. “We want guests to enjoy the same experience here in Pittsburgh at Bridge Ten Brasserie.”
French cuisine is “the basis of some of the best chefs in the world,” Christie says. “I own only four cookbooks, and they're all Escoffier, the bible of cooking.” Georges Auguste Escoffier was a famous French chef, restaurateur and food writer of the 19th and early-20th centuries, who updated and popularized French cooking methods.
Sous chef Bryan Rhodes provides culinary support: “You've got to have a good man under you to make yourself look better,” Christie says.
And, lending Gallic atmosphere is the French accent of bartender David Cesaro, a native of France who was schooled in Switzerland, and has worked in the United States since the 1980s.
Among the dinner entrees are the classic Coq au Vin, a chicken thigh and leg stewed in red wine with pork belly, pearl onions and mushrooms, for $21. The brasserie has featured Magret de Canard Cerises Noires et Porto, a pan-roasted quail with black cherry and port sauce, for $28.
Tableside service for Steak Tartare or Crepes Suzettes is available.
DeSimone personally sets the brasserie wine list, which includes a rotating selection of reds, whites, sparkling and dessert wines originating throughout France. Most wines are available by the glass and bottle, with select wines also available by pichet or pitcher.
“Our goal is to offer wines and beers with lots of personality that taste good with our classic brasserie menu and daily features,” says DeSimone, who works with Christie in setting the menu.
The dishes enable Christie to flex the culinary muscles he began developing at the former Pennsylvania Culinary Institute here, and used at various restaurants including Giuseppi's in Beaver County and the former 1913 Room in Grand Rapids, Mich. At the latter, he learned classic French cooking in the Escoffier-style kitchen. Christie was part of a culinary team that helped the restaurant earn a prestigious Five Diamond rating and cooked for former President Gerald Ford on his 90th birthday.
“I had this old French guy just terrorize me,” Christie says of his experience at the 1913 Room. “He humbled me and made me who I am today.”
Sandra Fischione Donovan is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Matthew Christie, executive chef of Bridge Ten Brasserie, says pork shanks are “nice comfort food for this time of year.”
“The sugar from the apples in the apple cider reduces down and gets into the shank. It's absolutely delicious,” Christie says. The braise helps flavor and tenderize the tough cuts of flavorful pork. Vegetables, herbs and wine in the braising liquid add further layers of savory richness.
Christie says this dish, which makes use of two of his favorite ingredients, shallots and thyme, makes a good entrée for the upcoming holiday season. Indeed, the shank bones that pop from the shanks after three hours of braising resemble celebratory candles.
Braised Pork Shanks in Cider Sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
10 pounds pork shanks
2 cups riesling wine
5 large white onions
1 pound carrots
1 rib celery
4 bay leaves
10 medium-size cloves garlic
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
3 large shallots
6 sprigs thyme
8 stems parsley
½ gallon apple cider
4 cups pork or chicken stock
1 cup demi-glace
A starch and vegetable, for serving as a side dish
Salt and pepper the pork shanks. Heat the pans to smoking hot and sear all sides of the pork shanks to golden brown. Place the shanks in a roasting pan. Use the riesling wine to deglaze the sauté pans. Place the wine in the roasting pans. Dice the onions, carrots and celery in large pieces and place in the roasting pan. Add the other ingredients, reserving the demi-glace for later. The shanks should be at least ¾ of the way covered with liquid. Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil and place in a 400-degree oven for 3 to 4 hours.
The shanks should be tender but not falling off the bone. Remove the shanks from the braising liquid. Take the liquid, place it in a large pot and reduce by three quarters. Strain out the vegetables and herbs. Place the liquid back in the pot with the demi-glace and reduce by half. Place each shank on a plate with the shank bones upright. Place the sauce over the shank. Serve with a starch and vegetable of your choice; Christie serves each shank with a fan of three oversize flat gnocchi and sautéed carrots and green beans.
Makes 10 servings.