Agustin Brasserie Gives Finishing Touch to Mercado San Agustin
March 5, 2012
By Teya Vitu
Agustín Brasserie is what the folks at Mercado San Agustín, 100 South Avenida del Convento, came up with for their restaurant anchor.
The simple but refined French bistro is expected to open March 20 at the emerging public market in the Menlo Park Neighborhood.
“We’re sticking with everything that is super simple,” said Glen Stosius, the brasserie’s proprietor in partnership with the Gadsden Companies, which built the Mercado San Agustín.
Don’t let the word “simple” fool you. We’re not talking diner food here. We’re talking offerings like trout muniere with potato gaufrette (wafers) or duck confit with Roquefort mashed potato or steak frites with green peppercorn sauce.
“It’s casual, simple food very well done,” Stosius said.
That, in essence, is the very definition of the French brasserie, an informal establishment where the bar carries as much, if not more, weight than the food, which is usually simpler but no less fantastic.
Stosius said the menu will likely stick to 10 entrees and 10 hors d’oeuvres in the spirit of keeping things “simple.”
On the hors d’oeuvres side, you might find a sea bass carpaccio with basil and mint, vichyssoise or grilled octopus with spice potato.
The centerpiece with hors d’oeuvres is the raw shellfish bar with Blue Point Malpeque oysters from the East Coast, other oysters from British Columbia
“We’re doing a whole shellfish display,” Stosius said.
Other than seafood, Agustín Brasserie strives for local provenance. Beef comes from the Walking J Ranch near Amado, baguettes come from right across the Mercado courtyard at La Estrella Bakery, and ice cream will come from Isabella’s Ice Cream, which will soon base its Model T Ford ice cream truck at Mercado San Agustín, and make ice cream at the mercado’s commercial kitchen.
The menu falls under the inspiration of executive chef Kevin O’Neil, who came to Agustín from Brio Tuscan Grille.
“He’s known for his grill work. That’s a big part of our restaurant,” said Stosius, referencing the custom-built, wood-burning parilla grill at Agustín.
Behind the bar the master is Peter Hoge, recruited from Kingfisher Bar & Grill, where he tended the bar for 18 years. The signature drink he is creating for Agustín is the Tartlet with St. Germain elderflower liqueur, aperol apertif, lemon juice, prosecco and a lemon twist.
There will be a daily Riesling tasting where you get three 1.5-ounce samples of German and Austrian wines. The tastings are available all day.
“I don’t know of anyone doing Riesling tastings,” Stosius said. “In my opinion, it’s probably the most versatile grape.”
Table service will include 20 wines, all available by the glass. The wines are coming from the Rhone region of France, some from California, Italy and Spain, and two wines from New Zealand.
Agustín Brasserie is as much about setting as it is food and drink. Architect and interior designer Klara Valent created a timeless Old World atmosphere with black walnut and white Carrara marble. Classic wood-bent Thonet chairs and Edwardian-inspired settees fill the black dining room, contrasted by the sparkling white bar. The room is decked with a wide white lacquered beam ceiling.
“As a relaxed but refined setting, with a metropolitan outlook, it is a perfect venue for date nights, business lunches, relaxing after work, or a family treat for children to freely hop around in its enclosed courtyard,” Valent said.
Agustín adds the biggest draw yet to the Mercado San Agustín, which has been ramping up in the past year or so. Later in the year, you will be able to pass from the brasserie into the Cabinet Bar and then continue to the 4 Mile Market, named after the 3.9-mile streetcar terminus destined for just outside the door. The brasserie, Cabinet Bar and market fill the mercado’s Congress Street frontage.
“This is the big anchor for us,” said Adam Weinstein, chief executive of Gadsden Companies. The brasserie is a separate Gadsden asset from the rest of Mercado San Agustín. “There’s nothing of this type in Tucson. It’s going to be more of a destination base for us. The Mercado is doing fine but it needs the next step. This will bring a bit more traffic for lunch and dinner.”
Agustín Brasserie is just the latest addition to Mercado San Agustín, which has been evolving over the past four years.
Holiday Bazaars started on the construction site in 2008. The courtyard has been open for occasional events since mid-2009, surrounded by Mercado construction.
The mercado’s Market Hall opened in May 2011, followed in June 2011 by the Santa Cruz River Farmer’s Market, which holds court every Thursday afternoon in the courtyard.
The economy had stalled Mercado construction in mid-2008, delaying its opening by nearly two and a half years.
The economy aside, the restaurant now christened Agustín Brasserie had more than one change in direction before going the French bistro route. A year ago, it was looking like an Argentinean restaurant would be going in, but Mercado Executive Director Kira Dixon-Weinstein decided to keep the restaurant, bar and market in the Gadsden fold.
The shift to French came in the fall. The ultimate name stared them in the face as they pondered what to call their eatery.
“Literally, it took us three months,” Stosius said. “Finally, wait a second, why don’t we just call it Agustín.”
Thoughts from Klara Valent, the architect and designer who designed the interiors at Agustín Brasserie:
“As an architect and interior designer of European upbringing, I always strive to create timeless atmospheres, which don’t run the risk of being dated after just a few years. Especially in the hospitality industry, I find it irresponsible to build environments of a short lifespan, not only from an ecological and value perspective, but also from a sociocultural point of view.
“We all love old places that have grown over time and exhibit traces of hosted generations. Our nonstop newness and changes we are experiencing on so many fronts in our daily world has induced a nostalgic gaze to the old and established, with the longing for immersion into the familiar of past use and past stories. There is a comfort in milieus that have personal connotations of the inhabitants cultivating and loving it. They are destinations to go somewhere or to somebody, they are real and unique.
“The owners of Brasserie Agustín were all about that. Together we designed an interior backdrop to evolve into a place to stage these stories, the daily rituals and memorable events. It carries connotations of the old European brasserie culture, with the tall wall claddings steeped in the old, which at the same time feel crisp and of clean aesthetic.
“The black walnut and white Carrara marble are designated to age and patina, to show that they are being lived in. A wide white lacquered beam ceiling encloses an open bustling hall, where the guest is free to dander between bar room, dining room and soon to come Cabinet Room – each distinct in character, yet consistent in detailing and material pallet.
“Depending on the time of the day, one can wind up or wind down in the sparkling white bar with antique floor tiles and iconic bar stools, while the glossy black restaurant with classic wood bent Thonet chairs and Edwardian-inspired settees offers theatrical viewing of the central grill and open fire behind an oyster, crustacean and charcuterie display.
“As a relaxed but refined setting, with a metropolitan outlook, it is a perfect venue for date nights, business lunches, relaxing after work, or a family treat for children to freely hop around in its enclosed courtyard.
“Agustín is set up to mature into a location of distinctive flair for connoisseurs and frequenters, especially attracting downtown-ians due to walking distance.”