30 years ago…3/1/2017
Trostel’s Greenbriar celebrates an anniversary in style
When Paul Trostel moved his brand from Ingersoll (Colorado Feed & Grain, Rosie’s Cantina) to Johnston in 1987, there wasn’t much variety in the local dining scene. In fact, Trostel introduced the appetizer menu at Colorado Feed & Grain. Before that, appetizers in Des Moines consisted of a choice of tomato juice, fruit cocktail or shrimp cocktail. The idea of a Nepalese restaurant in Des Moines might as well have been a dream. French food here meant fires or toast. As Trostel’s Greenbriar celebrated its 30th anniversary in Johnston, Nepalese cuisine quickly picked up fans on the south side, while David Baruthio opened a French café across the street from his other French café.
Greenbriar offered a weeklong celebration with a specially priced menu that drew waiting list crowds every night. While waiting one night, I spied a new memorial portrait of the founder. It was titled “Culinary Gunslinger,” a nickname that Cityview bestowed upon him long ago. Greenbriar remains one of the best fine-dining establishments in Iowa. It doesn’t call itself a steakhouse, but it is as good an example of that genre as Iowa can offer. For old-time sake, I tried a bone-in gunpowder ribeye with Bearnaise sauce, a recipe created by Troy Trostel, and Boursin stuffed mushrooms, a dish Paul Trostel brought to town in the 1970s.
On another occasion, I tried newer specialties — a classic escargot in puff pastry and a short rib special. The first is a good answer to the question, “Where to go for escargot now that Bistro Montage is gone?” The second was the best version of short ribs I have found in a town that now offers a lot of excellent versions. Greenbriar’s was “English cut,” meaning that about 7 inches of bone stood up with rib and brisket meat attached. They were glazed in a Burgundy sauce, braised and served on mashed potatoes with Brussels sprouts slaw. Dishes like this make winter bearable.
Fifteen miles across town, I visited Kathmandu. Nepalese food is a hybrid of Indian with Chinese or Thai. A Nepali food stand has won “best vendor” several times at CelebrAsian Fesitval by specializing in momo’s, a Nepali dumpling resembling Chinese shu mai. Kathmandu offers three types of momo — vegetarian, chicken and mutton, though the latter must be pre-ordered. There are two dhals (curried lentils) on the menu — black and yellow — and both were marvelous. Also something called “Nepali curry” impressed me with “Nepali spinach” in broth. This is a very different green from American spinach.
Most of the north Indian dishes one expects to see in Des Moines are represented. Nepali cuisine offers more meats than typical Indian, with tandoori-and curry-style cooking. A daily lunch buffet is spectacularly priced at $8.
Halfway between Greenbriar and Kathmandu, Saison Kitchen & Pub opened across the street from Bau66. The bar and café space are completely separated so people who come to drink need not deal with children, and family diners can avoid drinkers. It’s impossible to visualize what Mustards, the previous tenant, looked like. The remodeling is dramatic.
Partner David Baruthio said he does not want this place to be confused with his classic Alsatian Baru66. He has nothing to worry about. The menu here is casual, and not all that French. The special lunch on week one featured tacos. The dinner menu has a section for sliders. Coq au vin, lamb ragu and beef au poivre are on the dinner menu, but so are mac and cheese, fish and chips and grilled pork chops. The most expensive dish is $26, and half the entrees are priced less than $20. The house curry carrot soup tasted like the same one served at Baru66. The fries were sensational and were priced as low as $3, with dip.
Joe Tripp (Alba) made the semifinals of James Beard Awards Best Chef Midwest for the second straight year. He was Iowa’s only semifinalist this year in any category. ♦