Is it really 11 p.m. on a Tuesday night in downtown Lenox and we are sipping a craft beer and a crisp Cava, staring at a menu of delicious things that we can actually order at this time of night? Bruschetta with jamón
and white anchovies? (Yes, please!) A salad of arugula with dried apricots, almonds and Manchengo cheese? (Yes, indeed!) A small bowl of meatballs in San Marzano tomato sauce? (Yes, yes, yes!) Since late June, Whitney Asher has been offering those of us who like to dine after we've seen a movie, play or concert a place to eat well and unwind: a wine bar in the European tradition where you can nibble on marinated olives or Marcona almonds ($3 each) or more substantial fare like fragrant grilled lamb chops with
minted yogurt ($15) or shrimp with garlic ($12). You can build your own cheese and charcuterie plates ($17/$28) and select from a menu that features several raw cow's milk cheeses made in the USA. Located in the Housatonic Street storefront formerly occupied by the sushi joint Fin, Brava has a coziness that seems especially suited for late-night dining in the Berkshires. "When the location became available, all the pieces seemed to come together," says Asher, who moved to Lenox from California this spring to live closer to his father and sister, Jamie Berg, who runs the nearby Winthrop Estate
(aka the Lenox Athenaeum) with her husband, Ethan.
When he gave up his career in commercial real estate a few years ago, Asher decided to explore the professional possibilities in the food and wine worlds of San Francisco and Los Angeles, eventually landing a job in the wine department at Whole Foods in Venice, CA. "I learned a lot there," says Asher, who believes he offers "the most ambitious list of wines by the glass" in the Berkshires. Bucking the locavore trend and embracing a global point of view, most of the wines he offers comes from Europe. Although Asher favors beers from Beligum and Germany, he has several American beers on draft too, including Jack' D'or by Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project
from Massachusetts and Cockeyed Cooper by Uinta Brewing Company
To make sure Brava was not seen as elitist or precious, Asher cleverly put hearty hand-made pizzas — with combinations like prosciutto, fontina, ricotta and arugula — on the menu ($13 - $15), that make the bar a family-friendly destination in the early evening as well as a great place for a near-midnight snack. "Who doesn't love pizza?" says Asher, who keeps the kitchen open until 12 a.m. (and the bar open until 1 a.m.) seven days a week. While those hours made sense in the summer with Tanglewood
and Shakespeare & Company
offering a steady stream of late night diners, the schedule is daring for Lenox during the off season. "Staying open late was always part of the concept," he says evenly.
Besides, he doesn't find running a restaurant as risky as the high-wire world of commercial real estate, where people sometimes default on multimillion dollar mortgages. "In the restaurant business, you hand someone a bill for $35 and they leave you $45, and they say, 'We'll be back tomorrow'," he says, chuckling. "It's very satisfying. It's nice to make people happy." — Dan Shaw
27 Housatonic Street, Lenox, MA
Open daily 5 p.m. - 1 a.m. (kitchen closes at midnight)