Big buzz about brassaii has beenbuilding for weeks. The King West spot's gonna be so hot, the likes of you and me will be lucky to gain entrance.As at all these new joints, there's no sign outside except for a small, obscure nameplate. Beyond a wrought iron fence, a former laneway's been transformed into a cobbled courtyard. At its far end, stone steps rise to an airy warehouse space. Think Crush without the crush. The room soothes, all beige accented by chocolate brown and stainless steel. But if impressive digs were all it took to be a good restaurant, Monsoon would be packed with more than Mamma Mia! bus tours.
For its inaugural Friday lunch, Brassaii buzzes with excitement. Thick slices of delicious house-baked multigrain start things off admirably but are immediately undermined by stone-cold butter pats that rip the bread apart. Served in a bowl five times bigger than required, Jerusalem artichoke soup ($5/$6 dinner) seems like lots of cream and little nutty root veg. A College-style salad -- arugula and radicchio with a crumble of chèvre ($8) -- elicits yawns despite the presence of a few pieces of dried fig.
Starter-sized, three small, near-blue slices of sushi tuna ride a middling mound of couscous studded with cubes of sweet beets ($10/$11 dinner). Either it comes straight from the refrigerator or it's been spending a lot of time outdoors lately. Adding some sliced duck confit does little to improve macaroni and cheese ($10), penne topped with melted Havarti and Jack that tastes assembled, not baked.
Since Brassaii opens early and closes late, we're back for a business breakfast. I settle on the house's very good multigrain toast slathered with overly sweet tomato jam and more chilled chèvre. By the time I'm digging into the second large slice, it's gone soggy. On an August morning on the terrace, it'd be lovely. But deep into winter, couldn't it be quickly grilled under a broiler or served at room temperature?
Substituting a soft-boiled egg for hard in the Café Completo breakfast, we find more great toast alongside sugary marmalade, plain yogurt and an OK espresso ($7). At least it was hot.
A side of paprika-spiked home fries offers hope for the kitchen. But the saddest display of its ineptitude arrives with the ballyhooed house-baked bialy (both $2), a doughy bagel with caramelized onion in the hole. Cold! Anyone heard of a toaster oven?
Here's something Brassaii can't possibly fuck up: cornflakes and milk ($3).
We won't be back for dinner. email@example.com
BRASSAIi (461 King West, at Spadina, 416-598-4730) When a restaurant opens with this much splash -- semi-secret locale, cool decor, cutting-edge clientele -- shouldn't the food be equal to the hype? Alas, not here. Complete dinners for $60 per person ($30 at lunch, $15 at breakfast), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open Monday to Friday 8 am to 11 pm, Saturday 5 pm to 11 pm. Licensed. Access: 10 steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NN