Tucked away on a side street in the quintessential New England village of Lenox sits Brava, an intimate European-style wine bar and restaurant.
The cozy restaurant features wooden beams on the ceiling, antiqued mirrors, “old world” photographs on the walls, and a wrap-around shelf that highlights some of the over 100 bottles on the wine list. Whether you’re sitting at the bar or at one of the small tables, Brava is a great place to stop in and grab a quick drink and a light snack, or to relax all night with your friends.
You’ll enjoy the myriad libations accompanied by any number of the tapas-style small plates and hand-made pizzas. If you are not sure what wine to try, both red and white wine “flights” are available, which are comprised of a house selection of a half-glass each of three varieties. The night my husband and I had dinner, I enjoyed the flight of Bordeaux-style Reds. As thorough as the wine list is, the way it is organized and categorized makes it very user-friendly, which means Brava is a wonderful place to explore and discover.
I agree with Brava’s owner / manager, Whitney Asher, who believes they offer “the most aggressive wine by the glass program in the region,” with approximately 45 wines in a range of styles. If wine is not your thing, however, they have a rotating selection of 8 beers on tap. Add to that their bottled options, and they offer an impressive selection of over 100 beers, including many domestic and imported craft-style brews. A small selection of ciders and spirits are also available.
Brava is a welcoming restaurant, made so especially by the courteous, friendly and knowledgeable staff. They do not take reservations, and the night we dined we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. We knew we were in for a lovely evening when we were immediately greeted with a smile and were made welcome at the bar. I was impressed that the bartender offered us a taste of the wines we chose before pouring full glasses. This courtesy spoke volumes and relayed how much the staff cared about our experience. Once seated at our table, the staff struck exactly the right balance of attentiveness that is the secret ingredient of any great dining experience.
It was particularly fun to build our meal throughout the evening. We started with Bread, Butter and Sea Salt, Marinated Olives, and the Marinated White Anchovies, which shined as the star of this round. They were bright and delicately cured in a lemony marinade, and were the perfect accompaniment to the freshly baked bread and the olives. While we continued to enjoy our wine and these Cold Tapas, we worked on building our own Cheese and Charcuterie Plate from a handsome selection of cheeses and cured meats. Here is where you can really have some fun with the menu! Everything on this section of the menu is described not only by country of origin and type of cheese or meat, but also with – again – a user-friendly description, so you know exactly what to expect. I love that words like “funky” and “zippy” are among the descriptors found there! We greatly enjoyed the Red Dragon (a “zippy” cheddar-style cow’s milk cheese with mustard and ale from Wales,) the St. Stephen (an American triple cream cow’s milk cheese,) and the Mousse Truffée ( a luscious affair of pork and chicken liver, as well as truffles.) The plate was finished with an assortment of pickles and dried apricots, which offered a nice foil to the cheeses and meat.
Next we ordered a few Hot Tapas, which were all sized for sharing, including the Patatas Bravas (Potatoes with Spicy Smoky Sauce,) the Gambas Al Ajillo (Shrimp with Garlic,) and the Meatballs in San Marzano Tomato Sauce. The Patatas Bravas was my least favorite dish of the evening, only because the deep-fried potatoes were dusted with a peppery combination of spices, and then drizzled with the spicy smoky sauce. I felt they were a bit one-note.
The potatoes were so overpowered by the spice combination and sauce that that they were little more than a “vehicle” for the sauce. However, this one disappointing dish was more than made up for by the shrimp and the meatballs! I have eaten a lot of Gambas Al Ajillo in my life, and Brava’s are quite exceptional. The shrimp were perfectly prepared in a sauce that struck just the right balance of butter, lemon and garlic that we then sopped up with the grilled bread that came with it. As excellent as this classic Spanish-style shrimp dish was, the Meatballs in San Marzano Tomato Sauce was the absolute winner of the night! A house invention, the flavorful and moist meatballs are served in a sauce seasoned with cumin, nutmeg, cayenne and other spices. They are best described as unexpected, rich and satisfying, and I am looking forward to ordering them again!
For dessert, we shared the Gelato from Lenox’s own Chocolate Springs, which was the perfect ending to such a sumptuous meal. I look forward, however, to trying the House-made Bread Pudding, which changes frequently, next time we visit. All told, our experience at Brava was a most pleasant and delicious way to pass a wintry evening!
27 Housatonic St.
Lenox (413) 637-9171
Open Daily 5:00 PM-1:00 AM
Kitchen open until midnight
Bread, Butter & Sea Salt $3
Marinated Olives $5
Marinated White Anchovies $4
Charcuterie 3/$21 or 5/$31
Patatas Bravas $6
Gambas al Ajillo $13
Meatballs in San Marzano Tomato Sauce $11
Rating: From 1 to 5 forks