Chef Drew Sachau and his staff had a goal as they worked on the new menu at Evil Czech Brewery in Mishawaka.
“Kind of what we’re always looking for is a flavor bomb,” he said.
The risk they’re taking is removing items people love from the previous menu and replacing them with new ones, but it’s a risk they’re taking starting Monday night when the new menu launches.
Based on on a preview a few days ago, they shouldn’t worry too much.
Since opening in March 2014, the brewpub has been known for funky food and been extremely busy. Evil Czech is one of a number of emerging brewpubs with beer-centric food in the region. It’s a different take than at Iechyd Da, Crooked Ewe or South Bend Brew Werks and it works.
Sachau’s new menu, put together with the approval and tweaking of owner George Pesek, pulls in fall and winter ingredients, but treats them in unconventional ways.
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Take the Charred Brussels Sprouts ($9.95). Yes, they’re black. Yes, they looked burned. And yet they have this deep, rich flavor because, as Sachau says, the charring lowers the alkalinity. That’s a fancy way of saying it doesn’t taste like boiled broccoli or sprouts that so many people react to negatively. The dish also gets bacon from Smoking Goose in Indianapolis, pomegranate molasses and nuts.
Brussels sprouts also star in the Chinoise Salad ($9.95/$4.95 as a side). They’re shaved and combined with savoy cabbage, lettuce, apples, walnuts, raisins, a spiced cider dressing and Manchego cheese. Smoked duck breast goes alongside. It’s a heart salad that’s crisp and pleasant. It shows how Sachau is “trying to keep it fresh with the seasons,” as he put it.
The popular Asian taco at Evil Czech has gotten a makeover that I think the Asian Komax Taco is even better. The pork braised and served with sweet hoisin has been replaced with pork shoulder smoked for 12 hours and coated with housemade Korean barbecue sauce. A chive kimchi is assertive enough to balance the flavor, but doesn’t take over the taco. “This is reaching out further with a bolder statement,” Sachau said.
The popular Stockyard dish has been replaced with one named El Chapo ($16.95). It’s a big sandwich named for the man who created the big news story when he escaped, Sachau said. Garlic torta bread is stopped with a marinated hanger steak, avocado, fried egg and tobacco road onions, among other Mexican toppings. It’s a big, open-faced sandwich that fits Sachau’s definition of a “flavor bomb.” The meat was tender and the flavors were bold, but it’s not overly spicy.
At dessert, the monster cookie is still on the menu but is joined by the Peanut-Butterfinger Pie ($7.95). It’s essentially a cookie and two candy bars crammed into a piece of pie. An Oreo crust is topped with Reese’s peanut butter, topped with a custard into which Butterfingers are incorporated. It’s all topped with white chocolate mousse and drizzled with the housemade caramel.
It’s incredibly rich. Perhaps too much for one person. Yet Sachau is probably right that it’ll sell well and perhaps even become the top dessert.
3703 N. Main St., Mishawaka
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 to midnight Friday and Saturday, 11 to 9 Sunday
Don’t get a stout with it. Get the pilsener server Joshua VanderMolen recommended. He was right, the dessert was so rich it needed a crisp beer to cut the sweetness.
VanderMolen paired the other courses with brewmaster Simon O’Keeffe’s brews and I hope that Evil Czech will list the pairings somewhere, even alongside the dishes on the menu. The Indiana Pale Ale worked well with El Chapo. The Dunkel Sam was gold with the charred sprouts.
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The new items were nicely prepared. The question will be whether the kitchen can replicate that on a busy night.
About 40 percent of the menu is new to reflect the changing season. The new items will be available on the Lightning Lunch featuring small plates, Sachau said. The new menu isn’t available during brunch, which is served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
If one of your favorites is gone from the menu, it may not be gone forever. Sachau said it could return with the warm weather next spring or summer.