If you post up at the room-spanning bar in the old Rice Paper building on Seventh Street, now home to Bri, you will notice ducks hanging in the kitchen. Suspended, they slowly cook. They drip juices and steadily lacquer over the wood fire, taking three or four hours to finish.
And finished, duck appears in three ways. One: simply roasted legs. Two: coated in fiery chile sauce. Three: as half-bird platters with various sides.
At Bri, opened two months ago, Vince Mellody cooks whatever he wants.
The menu ranges from duck to lychee in carrot curry; from kimchi string beans to ramen. Bri is not an Asian eatery, though there is a profusion of Asian ingredients and dishes. There are plenty of plates without ostensible nods to Asia, such as crostini with radish butter. And Bri, too, is not a South African restaurant, despite the similarity between the restaurant's name (long "i") and "braai," South African barbecue.
"It's small plates, shared plates," Mellody says. "I wouldn't say it's any style of cuisine or any region, just anything that fits into that profile of small, shareable items."
Before opening Bri, Mellody spent some time doing catering and consulting. Before that, he cooked at Otro Cafe and Gallo Blanco. Mellody gutted the interior of the old Rice Paper building, hung string lights, and put together a comfortable bar that intimately connects diners/drinkers to the bartender, kitchen staff, and each other.
The restaurant has just 24 seats inside, many of them at this bar.
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Michael Brown is the bartender. He pours a mean whiskey ginger. The selection of spirits is tightly curated, one of the smaller selections you'll see in town. Drinks have excellent names, such as That Thing You Do.
Bri is an exciting opening. Whenever somebody is doing whatever the hell they want, fun things happen. Expect to order three or so plates to get full at Bri. There is a forward-looking, communal feel to the eatery. If I were you, I would post up at the convivial bar sometime soon, catch some Twilight Zone on the corner TV, and roll the dice with a few of Bri's groovier dishes. That lychee in carrot curry is no joke.
Bri. 221 North Seventh Street; 602-595-8635.
Tuesday to Saturday 5 to 11 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday.