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Skewed Brewing: beer and more at Salmon Run Mall

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Now there’s more than pizza, burgers and egg rolls in Salmon Run Mall’s food court.

Skewed Brewing squeezed into a space right next to Regal Cinemas this fall. It’s Watertown’s first gastropub and soon to be the city’s first brewery.

It’s owned and operated by the folks who run the Hops Spot in Sackets Harbor, a fun little bistro with upscale pub food and international craft beers. They’ve put lots of thought and considerable dollars into the décor, which has a sophisticated citified feel.

A few steps past the hostess station, memories of the mall fade away. It’s a long, narrow space, the gleaming, polished stainless steel bar running from front to back being the focal point. Contemporary-looking padded stools invite you to sit and peruse the vast array of intriguing taps and bottles and liquors.

We did just that. On the wall behind the bar, liquor and wine bottles are set out in rows by type and cost, the rows stretching to the high ceiling. There are even a couple of those library rolling ladders that the bartenders use to reach the upper shelves.

While several shiny vats on a loft toward the back will eventually house their own beer, that’s still a few months away, according to our pleasant and chatty seasoned bartender. So we sampled some of the roughly 25 craft brews available.

Stone’s Arrogant Bastard was dark and hoppy; Brooklyn’s Sorachi Ace, a citrusy saison; Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat, as labeled.

Left Hand’s Nitro Milk Stout is a dark stout, the tap powered by nitrogen rather than CO2; Bosteel’s Tripel Karmeliet was one of the foreign choices, a Belgian Tripel priced at $7 for 8 ounces. The other beers were around $6 for a standard pour — all were good.

We started our food exploration at the bar. Beer requires pizza, so from the dozen or so selections we ordered a small “Sophia Loren” ($11), dressed in Gorgonzola and pecorino cheeses, a few olives and diced roasted red peppers, some fresh arugula and a swipe of balsamic glaze. (The menu mentioned basil, but we didn’t detect any.)

The thin crust was perfect — crisp but not tough. For the price, we could have used a heavier amount of toppings.

Eventually we moved to the dining area that faces the food court, a rather tight squeeze with 15 or so tables, most of them occupied by the time we got there.

Floor-to-ceiling glass separates the space from the din of the mall.

Again the décor was thoughtful and un-mall-like: cloth napkins, a vase of flowers and a small candle on each table. Katie, our server, was young and vivacious, efficient and knowledgeable. She recited the specials and took our drink orders.

Rather than order from the small selection of entrees, we decided to stick to the shareable dishes that make up the bulk of the menu. We chose brick oven pretzels, perogies, duck wings (how could you not order those?) and a cheese/meat board.

Brick oven pretzels ($6.50), two of them shaped like fat bread sticks, were warm, soft and just salty enough, served with beer cheese (like fondue — real cheese melted and thinned with beer) or spicy mustard. We didn’t notice the “or,” so the kitchen made the choice for us, and it was a good one — the beer cheese.

These were yummy and disappeared in a hurry.

Perogies ($9.50) appeared to be a commercial product, six of them, advertised with bourbon-bacon jam. They were lightly steamed and had a nice toothsome texture.

A dollop of crème fraiche accompanied, the blob sprinkled with bacon bits.

But where was the jam? Or was that it? Not quite what we were expecting, but tasty nonetheless.

Who ever heard of duck wings? Well, I guess ducks have wings, but I’ve never had them.

They come five to an order ($9.50), all drumettes, not quite as meaty as chicken wings but just as crispy. They’re offered with one of three sauces. We chose Buffalo maple, which proved to be sweet and sticky; more maple than Buffalo.

Expensive? Perhaps, but you get to tell all your friends that you had duck wings, and you’ll get a lot of mileage out of that.

The cheese board was fun. From the Chopping Block portion of the menu, featuring a selection of meats and cheeses, we ordered French Blue D’Auvergne cheese ($7) and Pate de Champagne (duck confit, ham, herbs, $8).

Our choices were presented on a square wooden cutting board with a good-sized chunk of sliced baguette along with a little pile of pickled carrots, some pickled onion, whole almonds, candied pecans, a small ladle of local honey and a smear of mustard.

We also added an order of warm olives ($7.50) to complement our meat and cheese choices. They came in a trendy long, thin serving dish with fennel and mushy marinated peppers. Nothing special here.

While the slices of the cheese and the pate were decent slabs, I have trouble paying for something that took little or no effort in the kitchen other than to slice and plate. And for the price of the slabs, I could have bought a wedge of the cheese and an entire hunk of the pate down the block at Price Chopper.

Add in the underwhelming skinny dish of olives (for the price I could have gotten a giant jar of olives) and you’ve got a munchie board that cost $22.50.

But my three reviewmates at the table commented: “The cheese and the pate were great” and “Boy was it good” and “It was the highlight of my night.”

Overruled.

At this point, we realized we weren’t going to move on to a full meal of entrees, but we weren’t willing to call it quits either. So we ordered mac and cheese ($10.50) from the entrée list and a small Italian salad ($4.50) to share.

The mac and cheese was made with their signature beer cheese and the addition of bacon, and served with a cup of tomato soup.

While the mac and cheese was pretty standard, maybe even a bit greasy and actually could have used more gooey cheese, we all loved the tomato soup. If you’re thinking Campbell’s, think again:This was thick and chunky with assertive tastes of tomato and onion.

The salad was fine, featuring kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, red onion, fresh basil (according to the menu — again, there was none to be found) and romaine dressed with a light Italian vinaigrette, topped with croutons and shaved Parmesan.

Although we decided to bypass the dessert menu, we did see two little ladies eating two huge desserts which appeared to be tiramisu and molten chocolate cake. We went back to the bar for a cordial. Each of us had Chila Orchata, a cinnamon cream rum liqueur, on the rocks. If you like Bailey’s give it a try.

Food for four cost $82.45 with tax. Tip and beverages were additional.

Skewed Brewing is a welcome addition to the mall. It’s onto a good thing with its upscale, imaginative menu and chic ambiance amid the generic-ness of the mall.

Check it out if you’re going shopping, or going to a movie — or just go for a good lunch or dinner.

You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: wsiebel@wdt.net.





Skewed Brewing

Salmon Run Mall

Watertown, N.Y.

788-BEER

www.skewedbrew.com

A hip, new gastropub in the middle of Salmon Run Mall’s food court.

HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday

11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday

10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday

Bar stays open later each evening

OUR PICKS: “Sophia Loren” pizza, brick oven pretzel, duck wings, “Chopping Block” selections, Chila Orchata liqueur

RATING: 3½ forks

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