Taste Test: Battle Brussels Sprouts

Are the popular veggies best fried, shredded, or sauteed?

By | Chowder |

In Taste Test, Chowder contributor Fiona Coxe compares buzzy dishes around town — and finds out which ones are worth the hype.

From left: Bristol Lounge, The Gallows, and Coppa. (Photos by Fiona Coxe).

Over the past couple of years, humble Brussels sprouts have undergone a major transformation. After spending decades as the sad vegetables that were more likely to be fed to the family dog than eaten, they have since fought their way on to menus everywhere and, some could argue, have become the most popular veggies in local restaurants.

Since Boston has fully embraced the Brussels sprout, I set out to see who is serving up the best ones in town. The three varieties I tested couldn’t have been more different: buffalo-style at the Bristol Lounge, jazzed up with horseradish and pecorino at Coppa, and smoky-sweet with bacon and raisins at The Gallows. Get the Brussels breakdown — and find out the winner — ahead.

Buffalo-fried Brussels sprouts, $14, Bristol Lounge
I have long been a fan of the fried, slightly spicy beauties at the Bristol Lounge in the Four Seasons Hotel. They’re lightly battered, with a crispy exterior that’s coated in a traditional buffalo sauce. The heat from the sauce is a delicious pairing with the distinctive, slightly bitter flavor of the sprouts, and a quick dip in the accompanying blue cheese dip creates an incredible combination of textures, temperatures, and flavors. The only downside? They ring in at a steep $14, a bit pricey for a bowl of fried veggies.

Brussels sprouts with horseradish and pecorino, $9, Coppa
The sprouts are artfully trimmed to small spheres, sauteed to tender perfection, and tossed with a blend of horseradish and pecorino cheese. The flavors here are bright and pungent, with the horseradish taking the lead. Those looking for more cheese may be disappointed, but horseradish lovers will appreciate the robust flavors.

Shredded Brussels sprouts with bacon and raisins, $8, The Gallows
Bacon and Brussels sprouts seem to be a natural pairing, with the smoke of the bacon balancing out the sprouts’ bitter flavor. Here, the green veggies are shredded down, simmered in cider, and served with golden raisins and bacon. The combination is sweet, smoky, and salty, and the plump raisins and crisp bacon provide great textural contrast. I had a difficult time not licking the bowl entirely clean.

The winner: Battle Brussels Sprouts goes to The Gallows. While there wasn’t a bad preparation in the lot, The Gallows brought it home with their varied flavors and textures. Of course, what this Taste Test really proved was that Brussels sprouts have come into their own, light years away from the steamed horrors of years past — and we’re all the better for it.

(Bristol Lounge, 200 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-351-2037, The Bristol Lounge website)

(Coppa, 235 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-391-0902, coppaboston.com)

(The Gallows, 1395 Washington Street, Boston, 617-425-0200, thegallowsboston.com)