Burch: Steak & pie, oh my

RICK NELSON | Updated 7/17/2013

Burch Steak and Pizza Bar takes its two focuses to new heights.

The hanger steak at Burch.

The last thing Minneapolis needed was another steakhouse. But then along comes Burch Steak and Pizza Bar, dramatically shifting the paradigm. This multi-platform Lowry Hill venture — by spouses Isaac Becker and Nancy St. Pierre, business partner Ryan Burnet and chef Daniel del Prado — studiously avoids so many tired steakhouse trappings. So much so that even referring to Burch by the steakhouse moniker seems inaccurate. Goofy, even.

That said, let’s tackle the steaks first. The menu offers a remarkable range of options, with five or six cuts (New York, sirloin and more) sold at three grade levels (grass-fed, choice and prime), usually in small (6- to 7-ounce) or large (12- to 14-ounce) sizes. There are nearly 30 selections.

Differences between the three grades are nuanced but apparent. Lean and mineral-ey, the grass-fed cuts have an intensely beefy bite and a firm, dense texture. In contrast, the prime cuts — and, to a lesser extent, their choice counterparts — sport the plummy, mouth-melting characteristics that steak-lovers seek.

Not surprisingly, the kitchen treats this prized inventory with finesse. Embellishments-wise, the well-sourced beef requires nothing more than salt and pepper. It’s fired under the broiler and then finished on a grill over white-hot white oak, that intense heat enrobing each cut in a crusty, slightly smoky and teasingly salty char. Garnishes — pickled mushrooms, a Sriracha-kissed steak sauce and a small pitcher of silky béarnaise — arrive at the table, but they’re almost unnecessary distractions. Yeah, the steak is that good.

Becker and Del Prado defy the genre’s expectations at every turn. For starches, the two reject potatoes — there isn’t a hash brown or sour cream-topped Russet in sight — and concentrate on a delectable series of dumplings. They’re a joy.

Divine gnocchi-like corks, lightened with ricotta, are finished with a savory lamb stroganoff. Rolled noodles, thick as a pinkie finger and browned on the stove, are dressed with traces of walnuts and a rich Gorgonzola cream sauce. Brown butter and fragrant sage are pitch-perfect finishing touches for the firm, scallop-shaped semolina dumplings. Oh, and there’s a pierogi of the gods, filled with a decadent spin on mashed potatoes, crowned with sour cream and sweetened with golden raisins.

Side dishes also nudge diners in exciting new directions: a runny egg mellows the marvelous tartness of a cold sauerkraut, and glazed carrots rival Jeni’s salted caramel ice cream on the addictive-substance charts.

Like so much of Becker and Del Prado’s work, the raw dishes manage to be both crowd-pleasing and food-forward, most notably the pristine, meticulously garnished seafood items.

Is everything perfect? No. But klinkers have been proven to enjoy a brief life span — and near-klinkers are improved in short order — both marks of a highly self-aware operation.

Downstairs, the main event is pizza. Truly excellent pizza. Once again, Becker and del Prado set themselves apart by fashioning a singular crust, marrying an underlying crispness with the soft pull and blistered finish (courtesy of more red-hot white oak) found in the best Neapolitan-style pies. Toppings are worlds away from the nearest Domino’s: truffled cow’s-sheep’s milk cheese, Mornay sauce, creamed leeks, gorgeous marinated octopus, hazelnuts, smoked pork shoulder and lobster. But even the most basic Margherita sings with uncompromised promise.

A dozen or so small plates (grilled asparagus dressed with a soft-cooked egg and anchovy vinaigrette, savory lamb meatballs) complete the impression that the basement half of Burch is a next-generation neighborhood hangout.

Burch Steak & Pizza Bar

⋆⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Where: 1933 Colfax Av. S., Mpls.

Recommended: Steaks, marlin crudo, lamb tartare, crab salad, dumplings, pork shoulder, scallops, creamed leeks pizza, octopus pizza, speck pizza, lamb meatballs, baba rhum.

Info: www.burchrestaurant.com.