For many diners, there’s a really simple way of telling whether or not you’ll like Baru 66. If you seek out places like Spiaggia in Chicago and French Laundry in Northern California, trust me — you must try Baru 66. But if the very idea of gastronomy — that is, fine dining as art — sends your snob-o-meter off the charts, then this simply isn’t your place.
If you’re on the fence about this kind of food, this is the place to give it a go.
Ambience: Cozy and refined in a very up-to-date way. The unmistakably contemporary paintings of Strasbourg hint at the grounded-in-France — yet utterly modern — focus of the food here.
Menu: With goat cheese salad and steak-frites here and a forestière sauce there, many of French-born (and trained) chef David Baruthio’s offerings ring quite classic. Yet what comes to the table voyages well beyond the expected.
To fully appreciate this place, dine like the French. That is, plunge headlong into a complete experience with one of the three-course menu options: The good-value “plat du jour” brings three chef-selected courses for $29 (Mon.-Thurs. all night, but only until 6 p.m. on weekends). Or choose the “menu du chef” and select three courses from the extensive menu for $45.
What to expect: For a quintessential example of Baruthio’s cuisine, try the foie gras pâté; wrapped in prosciutto and accompanied by a chestnut puree, it’s a study in high-end indulgence — opulent flavors you simply don’t get every day. And yet, its jaunty presentation, with the puree designed to be sipped from a little glass — make the experience more playful than pretentious.
A special one night brought rosy-pink lake trout with a beautiful melding of sprightly black olives, earthy-rich chanterelles and a dark, squid-ink risotto, all brightened by a touch of sweet-tart tomato marmalade. From the rich, deeply flavored Pheasant Supreme to an autumn-worthy but not winter-heavy duck confit/cured pork belly duo, every dish brought strikingly imaginative food, always wrought with precise, high-spirited details: a baby stalk of fennel here, a pink micro-turnip there. Overall, it’s haute-cuisine without haughtiness.
My only gripe: Baru’s all-French cheese course has brought a bummer or two. Must it all be French? I’d rather have a peak-condition Point Reyes California Blue than a past-its-prime imported cheese, any day.
Bottom line: The most gastronomy-focused restaurant I’ve ever experienced in Des Moines.