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Brabo, in the Lorien Hotel in Old Town Alexandria - Chef Sebastien Rondier Assumes the Position


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For those who have not yet reserved for Valentine's Day, a new option now appears in the port city of Alexandria, with bold alacrity of a Roman Emperor appearing at the ancient port of Antwerp to slay a giant named after Greek tragic heroine: BRABO (yes, it's all caps).

According to their website and recent press, Star Chef Robert Weidmaier's first thrust into the Confederacy offers an exciting collection of adjectives, including "engaging," "inspired and meorable," "rustic and refined, timeless and contemporary [a perfect balance between, that is]," "approachable," "casual" "lively," "uparalleled" and "flavorful."

The result of all this is, naturally, a cuisine that that focuses on sustainability and support of regional producers (and how could it not?) and "adhere to traditional technique while speaking to this specific time and place[12:30 Thursday, in my case] and a floor staff run by a Maitre d' with a bloodline as distinguished and well docomented as Ch Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee's: "[Gonzague] Muchery was born in Lille, France to a Flemish mother and a father from Burgundy.

Once one pushes past the purple prose in the press release and on the web, one suspects it may be a decent spot, with benefits including Sunday and Monday hours, breakfast, beer and a menu that parallel's without repeating ('cept the mussels, of course) Brasserie Beck.

Someone check it out and get back to me, K?

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Someone check it out and get back to me, K?
I'll see what I can do.... While I haven't been in yet, I can report that the space, or more correctly, spaces look quite impressive from the street. There are 3 separate structures - the tasting room is flanked on the east by the main restaurant and a market (the as yet unopened The Butcher's Block) on the west.
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My fathers, sister, wife and I ate the main room last night. The food was beautiful and well executed. There were a couple issues with speed of things coming out of the kitchen and a couple wines not being available. Nothing that I don't chalk up to first weekend quarks.

Between the four of us we hit about 50% of the menu. My wife had the best dishes with the cod-pork belly dish for starter and the Turbot w/gnocchi main. Definitely jealous of hers both times. My father and sister had both red meat options (fillet and a ribeye), but very good. The ribeye was very flavorful but overcooked (medium rare but served medium well), likely a result of some other dish holding it up.

The other starters were a very delicious and large pair of scallops with enoki mushrooms, a rich earthy, mushroomy, fois gras ravioli, and goat cheese terrine. The terrine was a little boring compared to the others, but the other two were very good. Finally, I got the skate wing and ordered a side of frites... just because I wanted it. The desserts were okay. The only standout was the waffle which was remarkable.

The waitstaff was actually trying very hard and the few issues were definitely addressed quickly. The price point was actually high, but about what I paid at Evening Star a couple weeks ago. The decor was nice, but nothing particularly remarkable given its very high profile from the exterior.

Only thing I was disappointed with was the beer menu. While I understand it's not Beck, I was expecting it. Didn't get it until I saw a person drinking a Delirium Tremens midway through the meal and asked about it. It was all the expected high end Belgian players plus a number of gauze and similar sour styles... all appeared to be by the bottle.

Definitely a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Planning to visit the tasting room this week with my little guy and wife for the more casual option.

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I wonder if they have the same problem as Majestic does. Majestic can't put in taps because of historic flooring that blocks access to the basement. Maybe a similar restriction is binding brabo.

My guess is no. The floors are carpeted and when the building was constructed the only real provision for it was preserving the historic character of the exteriors. They pretty much took them to the studs. So they could have run the tap lines above the room even if the floor had some character. My thought is that there likely isn't space for it, might not be basement below them. The tasting room is a single building that is likely about 1500-2000 sq./ft. The main room is really just an open room, and appears to occupy its whole footprint. If Kimpton (the owners of the hotel) wasn't concerned about having some sense of design, the room would look very basic hotel. In fact, when you compare it to Jackson 20 down the street, opened about a year ago and owned by Kimpton as well, its not quite the same level of finish as that property. I suspect in the end, there is no place for it if you want to have the amount of dining space they needed.

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My guess is no. The floors are carpeted and when the building was constructed the only real provision for it was preserving the historic character of the exteriors. They pretty much took them to the studs. So they could have run the tap lines above the room even if the floor had some character. My thought is that there likely isn't space for it, might not be basement below them. The tasting room is a single building that is likely about 1500-2000 sq./ft. The main room is really just an open room, and appears to occupy its whole footprint. If Kimpton (the owners of the hotel) wasn't concerned about having some sense of design, the room would look very basic hotel. In fact, when you compare it to Jackson 20 down the street, opened about a year ago and owned by Kimpton as well, its not quite the same level of finish as that property. I suspect in the end, there is no place for it if you want to have the amount of dining space they needed.

I got the same impression regarding the lack of space for taps and kegs. Even without them, in the main restaurant, the area the bartenders have to work in is small, and the back bar was so jam packed with bottles of wine and liquor, I half expected to see a couple of bottles crashing to the floor after being accidentally bumped.

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BRABO: My new favorite restaurant in NoVA

Last month, my dining companion and I took a dear friend of ours out to celebrate his birthday along with his friend at BRABO. Since it was our first time there, it seemed a bit of a gamble but we were deliciously rewarded with outstanding food, relaxing and comfortable ambiance and service. Each of us had a different favorite encompassing all of the dishes we ordered—Seared Scallops, Crispy Skate Wing with Candy Striped Beets, Seared Turbot with Gnocchi, Spicy Braised Pork Shanks, Pan-Seared Icelandic Salmon, Triple Chocolate Mousse, and Apple-Currant Cobbler. For me, the impeccably Seared Scallops appetizer with a diverse array of mushrooms and crispy salsify, the divine and slightly exotic Spicy Braised Pork Shank with sweet potatoes and baby bok choy, and the dreamy gnocchi beckoned me back for a return visit. The occasion was so wonderful that I booked my next celebration at BRABO: Mother’s Day.

As much as I enjoyed the first visit, the second visit was even more special. IMO, Chef Robert Wiedmaier, Chef Chris Watson, and his team have made BRABO on-par with Marcel’s, but more relaxing, brighter, and less formal than eldest brother. A wonderful surprise—a reunion with Rigaa, our favorite server from Marcel’s, and pleasant greeting by a DonRockwell.com acquaintance, Adam—turned our Mother’s Day celebration into a festive dining experience and gathering in one!

We had another divine experience, from the start to finish, with Rigaa’s recommendations including wine pairings, which surpassed our previous one at. A Lake County Cabernet-Sauvignon, harmonized perfectly with the naturally light gamey flavor of the Lamb Tenderloin, which was our favorite dish of the evening. Of course, we had to repeat the oh-so-divine Seared Scallops and hearty Braised Pork Shank—again both excellent. To top off our dreamy occasion, we had the most exquisite combination of homey-rustic comfort and refined gourmet delight in the Vanilla-Chocolate Bread Pudding with Blueberries and Anglaise Sauce—our favorite bread pudding ever! The thin soft strings of chocolate in the Anglaise sauce were like alphabet soup for dessert epicures, a marriage of visual playfulness and textural layering beneath the warm and tender-yet-pleasant bite of the bread pudding.

Furthermore, before dining, we had whet our epicurean appetite and planned our next meal (having arrived early for our reservation) by exploring The Butcher's Block two doors down. We also met Chef Watson, who seems to carry the same quiet confidence and devotion to excellence in cuisine and hospitality as Chef Wiedmaier. We were tempted by the meat selections and brought home some beautiful rib eye and teres major. Yesterday, we prepared the rib eye and went absolutely ga-ga over its taste. It had the marbled flavor of a prime but more pleasantly firm-textured and so good and well-priced that we will make the ~50 mile roundtrip drive for the beef very soon!

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After one too many nights cooped fearing that some asshat would steal the parking spot I spent hours cleaning I caught a cab to meet a friend at Brabo for dinner. Arriving early I grabbed a seat at the bar and enjoyed a Delerium Noel. Once my dining companion arrived we retired to that table where he ordered a Jeio Prosecco, an under-rated sparkling gem (and if you find the rose buy as much as you can).

From the look of the menu we thought that we would be best to go heavy on the appetizers. Our first dishes were the “House Cured Salmon” and the “Duck Confit Raviolis”. The salmon balanced the right amount of fishiness with the almost pancake like belini. My dining companion complained that it needed more salt, I disagree, I thought that the dish was perfectly balanced. Recently at a Champagne brunch at Marcel’s I had a similar dish to the raviolis, the ones we had tonight were a bit more dense, but just as delicious. The classic combination of orange and duck balanced perfectly with the cognac and green peppercorn sauce.

The second course was the “Grilled Breast of Quail” and the “Seared Foie Gras”. The quail was one of the best examples of this dish I have yet had, the birds were absurdly meaty with just the right amount of seasoning. While I enjoyed the sauce that it was served with my dining companion expressed his delight of eating it unadorned. The foie gras was well prepare and quite delightful, but far from justifying the $26 price tag for a single slice seared with onion puree.

We followed this hit and miss course with another, this time the “Lamb Sausage” and the “Roulade of Veal Sweetbreads”. After cutting into the sausage I knew that I was going to revisit the plate for some sauce to help bring some moisture to the dish, and I was right. The flavor of the forcemeat was fine, but it called out for the demi glace sauce and crispy shallots to save it from its dryness. On the other hand the sweetbreads were as rich as I would desire and in this case the sauce enhance the dish as opposed to rescuing it.

We finished our meat by sharing an entrée. We decided to go with the “Braised Pork Shank”. The description that the waiter gave made us both change our minds from the “Seared Chesapeake Rockfish” to this dish and in many ways I wish it had not. The shank is fork tender, if not a little overdone, and it is matched with a sauce that is almost akin to a sweet and sour sauce, but the real issue with this dish is its monolithic nature – imagine having a shank as big as an NFL lineman’s calf landing on your table with two pieces of braised bok choi and a couple of roasted potatoes, and you have this dish.

My general opinion of Brabo is that it lands competently between Marcel’s and Beck in both quality and value.

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Anybody been lately? A friend is looking for a "foodie" spot in Alexandria, but one informal enough they can bring an infant along.

My recollection is that they opened to mixed reviews, but that the spin from pro's and amateurs alike has been steady improvement.

Or should they just go to the Majestic?

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Anybody been lately? A friend is looking for a "foodie" spot in Alexandria, but one informal enough they can bring an infant along.

My recollection is that they opened to mixed reviews, but that the spin from pro's and amateurs alike has been steady improvement.

Or should they just go to the Majestic?

We were there for Thanksgiving, as well as a wine dinner in the last couple of weeks. I took my grandson there for his 4th birthday and he was well taken care of. Personally, we've never had a bad meal there.

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Anybody been lately? A friend is looking for a "foodie" spot in Alexandria, but one informal enough they can bring an infant along.

My recollection is that they opened to mixed reviews, but that the spin from pro's and amateurs alike has been steady improvement.

Or should they just go to the Majestic?

Yes, I went several weeks ago with a couple of regulars, who had the chef (Chris Watson) "bring out whatever he wanted to make." The meal was fantastic, top to bottom. I realize that's not what you're looking for here, but what it does say is that this guy is a great cook. It was a fantastic dinner.

Note also that the talented sous chef, Karen Hayes (ex sous chef of Marcel's, btw), virtually guarantees a fine captain piloting the ship seven days a week. GM Gonzague Muchery (ex GM of West End Bistro) was his usual charming self.

Cheers,

Rocks.

They would not have any problem with an infant in tow, I don't believe (keep in mind, they're part of a hotel).

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More kudos for Brabo in general. There are some holes in the menu, but overall the food is quite solid. It is striking that in Sietsema's review he seemed to spend more time talking about the decor and the chairs than the food. *cough* Further, he didn't even mention what I consider to be the finest dish on the menu. Oh, pork shank, how I love thee...

Only thing I do NOT like about the place? It is at a significantly higher price point than just about anything else in Old Town with the possible exception of Eve - and you may actually end up spending more at Brabo than at the Eve Bistro due to the just silly markup on the alcohol there. Some of the beers are marked up 350%+ over retail. Things started pricey there then they actually RAISED THEIR PRICES as the economy took a downturn. I believe the apps now range from $12-18 and the entrees from $25-40 or so.

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Only thing I do NOT like about the place? It is at a significantly higher price point than just about anything else in Old Town with the possible exception of Eve

I find this very strange (but then I don't drink beer so I have no idea about beer prices). The food seems to be at about the same price point as other "high-end" restaurant in Old Town (Vermilion, Eve, Jackson 20). The wine prices seem to be in line with every other place we dine (and we pair wines with the food so we may be getting varying price points on the wine but have no way of knowing).

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I suppose I notice it more because I am more of a beer guy and the Belgians and such that they have are just silly expensive there. I also find the price point to be a notch above above Jackson 20 and Vermilion generally. The starters at Vermilion range from $6-14 with the average being about $10-11, for instance, which is less than Brabo's cheapest starter.

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We went to Brabo for an impromptu dinner out on Tuesday (we had a certificate from Restaurant.com). It was our first visit.

I started with the Caesar salad and my wife had the mussels. The Caesar salad seemed a bit under seasoned but still good. I liked the anchovies served on the salad but it could've used more anchovy flavor in the dressing. The mussels were very good and the portion was generous. The presentation in a cast iron skillet was also nice. A side order of fries also showed up with the appetizers (we didn't order them, no one told us why they came, and they didn't show up on the bill; we did point out that the woman at the table next to us had left her purse). The fries were very close to perfection: perfectly crisp, well seasoned, and flavorful. The trio of mayonnaises was also good and went very well with the fries.

For entrees, I had the pork shank and my wife had the filet. The pork shank was good but not amazing. It's coated in a spicy sauce that's somewhat reminiscent of barbecue sauce. The sauce seemed to overwhelm the flavor of the pork on the outside of the shank but be conspicuous by its absence on the inner pieces of pork. That said, it wasn't objectionable, just not as well-balanced as I'd like. I had a better pork shank at Vermillion sometime last winter. The filet was well cooked.

The problem with Brabo is that its prices are higher than most restaurants in the area and the food doesn't seem to be significantly better. In the future, I'd consider going to the bar and ordering mussels and fries but for a full meal I'd be more likely to go to Vermillion.

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The mussels were very good and the portion was generous. ... A side order of fries also showed up with the appetizers (we didn't order them, no one told us why they came, and they didn't show up on the bill;

It doesn't specify on the menu for Brabo, but at all other RW restaurants, the dish is Moules Frites, so the fries probably come with the mussels.

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It doesn't specify on the menu for Brabo, but at all other RW restaurants, the dish is Moules Frites, so the fries probably come with the mussels.

I'm going back and forth, trying to decide whether to nominate this breathtakingly astute post, or Jeff White's blog, for a James Beard journalism award.

:)

Sorry, Daniel! I know you were just being helpful!

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More kudos for Brabo in general. There are some holes in the menu, but overall the food is quite solid. It is striking that in Sietsema's review he seemed to spend more time talking about the decor and the chairs than the food. *cough* Further, he didn't even mention what I consider to be the finest dish on the menu. Oh, pork shank, how I love thee...

Only thing I do NOT like about the place? It is at a significantly higher price point than just about anything else in Old Town with the possible exception of Eve - and you may actually end up spending more at Brabo than at the Eve Bistro due to the just silly markup on the alcohol there. Some of the beers are marked up 350%+ over retail. Things started pricey there then they actually RAISED THEIR PRICES as the economy took a downturn. I believe the apps now range from $12-18 and the entrees from $25-40 or so.

The problem with Brabo is that its prices are higher than most restaurants in the area and the food doesn't seem to be significantly better. In the future, I'd consider going to the bar and ordering mussels and fries but for a full meal I'd be more likely to go to Vermillion.

A Brabo Breakfast review--went this morning with a colleague.

I'm generally a Brabo fan. Have had some very good dinners there and remember a great Ribeye, pork shank and a scallop dish in particular. I was and still am on the fence in terms of value. The food was very good but the prices maybe a bit too high for what it is. But not so much that I didn't go back. I've really enjoyed Brabo but think it clearly not in the same league, quality wise, as Eve, Palena, Komi, etc. That's okay--tasting room is a very good value and will return to Brabo occasionally also.

So, when a fellow Rockwellian suggested it to me for a good breakfast in Old Town, I instantly booked it remembering the dinners and forgetting it was in a hotel (so would serve breakfast).

Brabo breakfast is underwhelming. Like the dinners, prices are very high ($12-$16 for most mains) but the creativity and effort is lacking. Everything was just "fine" rather than deserving of the price charged. The waiter suggested I order the waffle when I asked his advice on that versus the hotcakes. The waffle was good but pretty straightforward with a dollop of creme fraiche and some orange zest. My side of poached eggs was undercooked and the waiter told me that's how they make them there without really looking at what I'd broken open showing albumen too clear versus white with yolk still a tad cool in the middle versus warm and runny. Maybe 30 or 45 more seconds in the water would have done the trick. But, he did take them back and brought out a perfectly cooked set to replace them. My colleague ordered the hash which he proclaimed "fine." My orange juice was overly refrigerator but fresh. Not a big deal. No disasters. Service generally good. But, all in all, breakfast at Brabo seems like something the restaurant is doing as an obligation (to the hotel) rather than with any passion or real effort. Not worth it given the prices, which should probably be 20-30% lower to rightsize the menu. Next time I'll try Jackson20 if I can't stay in the District for something like Tabard's Sunday brunch.

Kind of a bummer that there aren't a couple of great breakfast spots in the area (as distinct from brunch, where we now have several excellent options). I know breakfast-only spots (like "Snooze" in Denver) are usually tough to make work financially but I'd imagine an existing top tier dinner spot in DC/NoVa could make decent money doing an interesting breakfast on weekdays downtown with most mains between 8-12$.

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I have never eaten at Brabo. But last week NQD and I went to this year's Capital Food Fight, and Brabo was among the restaurants represented. Each restaurant presents one or two small dishes, and Brabo's offering was their smoked sturgeon bacon appetizer. Favorite dish of the night, and there was some great competition. Now I'm trying to figure out when I can get to Old Town.

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I had Thanksgiving dinner at Brabo with my 24 year old son and his girlfriend whom I had never met. The day before, I received an email from the restaurant reminding me of the reservation and asking if anyone had dietary restrictions. My son had previously mentioned that his gf did have some allergies so I asked him to send me a list. He sent me a list of 18(!) items she could not eat! After we had ordered drinks, the waiter asked about the allergies, and explained which of the dishes could be prepared with those restrictions. The restaurant even prepared a special dessert because the ones on the menu could not meet her restrictions. They could not have been nicer or more accommodating! And to top it all off, the food was incredible and the service outstanding! Thank you Brabo!

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I had Thanksgiving dinner at Brabo with my 24 year old son and his girlfriend whom had never met. The day before, I received an email from the restaurant reminding me of the reservation and asking if anyone had dietary restrictions. My son had previously mentioned that his gf did have some allergies so I asked him to send me a list. He sent me a list of 18(!) items she could not eat! After we had ordered drinks, the waiter asked about the allergies, and explained which of the dishes could be prepared with those restrictions. The restaurant even prepared a special dessert because the ones on the menu could not meet her restrictions. They could not have been nicer or more accommodating! And to top it all off, the food was incredible and the service outstanding! Thank you Brabo!

Bravo Brabo!

The restaurant sounds like a keeper.  But that girlfriend....

(JK)

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Bravo Brabo!

The restaurant sounds like a keeper.  But that girlfriend....

(JK)

Brabo has always gone out if it's way to accommodate it's guests.  If you missed the guest chef dinners, you missed a great series of dinners.  The last was with Todd Gray and was amazing.

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After what seemed like the renovation that would never end, BRABO reopened it's doors tonight.  Now with an expanded bar area to satiate the millennials who seem to throng there and a prettied up (and much brighter and lighter in every sense of the word) more formal dining area in the rear of the room.  Not being the type to sit in a bar area, we chose the more formal dining room area.  New wallpaper, clock that replaced that mysterious cleft in the wall, no more dark, DARK wallpaper (did I mention the room was considerably brighter?), new dishes, new cutlery, and last but definitely not least, new linens, the room shouted (well, in a sophisticated way) "Look, enjoy, and put away the flashlight, you can now read the men with the ambient lighting."  The only (but biggest) problem we could see with the new layout is the noise.  Not genteel cocktail sipping noise, but third row, center Die Valkyriie climax quality noise.  Either the room acoustics have become harder or I'm slipping into my dotage (and you can keep your opinion on that to yourself, thank you).  However, if you can overlook the noise level, the room is quite nice and very comfortable.

About the service.  In some ways, it was like starting over. There were a number of new faces and fortunately a lot of familiar ones as well.  Service was a bit hit and miss a few times but always with sophistication when it delivered.  Dishes were placed and removed in such a way that my conversation with the lady who endures me was never interrupted.  It might have been due to me ordering the five course tasting menu and she ordering ala carte (more on the food shortly) or opening day jitters but at times there seemed to be unusually long times between courses. Now that brings us to the only reason to ever go to any restaurant, the food.  So...

That aforementioned five course tasting menu.  As difficult as it may be to believe, I did not order the paired wines.  I entrusted my one wine to one of the best sommelier's in Alexandria.  Phillip has never disappointed and he did not tonight.  A bright, crisp, sparking rose that I was too distracted to ask the name of.  I will find out, I promise, it was excellent.  On to the five course tasting menu.  Reasonably priced at $75, it's an appetizer, three courses and dessert.  How can you go wrong?

The appetizer was Dayboat Scallop Crudo. Presented with a thinly sliced PA apple slice, a dot of rieisling gelee and puffed wild rice.  A very nice combination of crisp (the apple), smooth (the scallop) and crunch, this was an outstanding way to start the meal. 

The secondi was Grilled Mediterranean Sardines.  Possibly the best grilled sardines in the DC metro area are served by Chef Roberto Donna, but Chef McClure's version is very close.  The only jarring note (to me) was what seemed to be a very forward tapenade.  Made from stewed tomato, olive oil emulsion, kalamata olives, and pine nuts, it almost overpowered the more delicate taste of the sardines.

The third was Herbed Strozzapreti with rice beans, spinach, and sage-mangalica butter.  Due to the way the pasta is curled into cigar shaped lengths, the ends were perfectly al dente, however, the centers of the pasta were somewhat undercooked.  It didn't prevent the dish from being devoured but with a bit more time in the cooking, this would have been a memorable dish. The beans and spinach, and butter combination more than made up for the chewiness of the pasta.

The entree was Grilled New York Strip with pomme puree, wild mushrooms and sauce bordelaise.  The steak was perfectly cooked, tender and very flavorful.  I have only one complaint and it's about the most pedestrian part of the dish.  When are potatoes going to be shown some respect once again?  Pureed potatoes remind me of something between babyfood for a 3 to 6 month old to library paste.  What is wrong with potatoes that have some body?  And that, boys and girls, is my main gripe.

Oh yeah, dessert.  Well of course I had dessert.  a Passion Fruit s'more.  A milk-chocolate, lime ganache, passion fruit marshmallows, graham cracker crumbs, raspberry accompanied by frozen yogurt.  Okay, I have a serious lust for chocolate ganache and this did not disappoint. A nice way to finish the meal.

So what was the verdict?  With a few more days for the staff to become familiar with the somewhat new layout, some minor touches in the timing, BRABO will once again take it's place as the place to celebrate those serious accomplishments with serious food in the formal dining room and if our observation of the informal bar area hold up, a great place to enjoy that happy hour and the moules-frite after work.

Our total bill minus tip but with tax was $140. That was one five course tasting meal, one meal of three dishes and dessert ala carte and two glasses of rose.  Not a bad dish in the entire meal.

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There will be some culinary changes at Brabo.  Today is the last day for Harper McClure as executive chef at Brabo.  Not sure who is going to take his place, but if the past is prologue, it will be someone adventurous in a nicely restrained way and will fix great foie gras.

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Grover and I and two friends celebrated (?), mourned maybe, Chef Harper McClure leaving Brabo by taking advantage of the Brabo five course tasting menu last night. The food was a tour through Harper's vast (and scrumptious) greatest hits. From the multiple courses, and there were many, the octopus, the beef cheeks, the beet salad, the crudo, more food than I can possibly remember, there was not one single dish that didn't win praise from the person lucky enough to get it.  There was a lot of sharing, lots of plate passing, lots of great wines, and the usual verbal interchange with the gregarious and outgoing (in both senses of the word) Chef McClure.  Harper, where ever you land when you decide to go back to the kitchen, we'll be there.  Thanks for the great food, the wonderful friendship, and the professionalism you brought to the kitchen.

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17 hours ago, Escoffier said:

Merci.  It sounds like Robert has found another rising star of the food world to helm Brabo.  We're looking forward to a new chef, new foods, and good times at Brabo.

Did Robert find him, or did Kimpton find him?

I'm pretty sure Robert is no longer going to be associated with the Lorien.

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15 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Did Robert find him, or did Kimpton find him?

I'm pretty sure Robert is no longer going to be associated with the Lorien.

That's a good question.  I'll try to find out the next time I'm at either of the two restaurants (Tasting Room or Hotel Dining Room)

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We had dinner at Brabo last Friday night.  We ate in the hotel dining room at 7 pm.  I was surprised how few people were there.  Neither one of us can eat like in thee old days, so we each just ordered an entrée. I ordered the scallops which were served with mussels over risotto together with a few chips.  At first I could not tell what the chips were.   It was chorizo which had apparently been ground finely, the formed into a very thin layer and baked!  Very clever! The scallops were cooked perfectly and the whole dish worked well.  My gf ordered the lobster thermador.  Our initial impression was that the portion size was very small.  Mixed in the thermador were roasted (I think) chestnuts.  They seemingly added no flavor to the dish, and had an unpleasant mealy texture.  When the waiter noticed that my gf had pushed the chestnuts aside, he offered a side of bok choy to her.  A nice gesture!

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Okay, here's the scoop.  Robert W. and Brabo are no longer a couple.  Happened over a year ago.  The new chef is Sebastien Rondier who worked closely with Alain Ducasse at restaurants like Adour at St. Regis in D.C. miX On The Beach in Puerto Rico, Benoit Bistro in NYC and Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo.  He' was born in Southwest France.  He's now been at Brabo for about a year. Brabo has been changed and now both the front dining room (the more informal bistro) and the back, formal dining room share a common menu.  There are daily "specials" like the cassoulet on Tuesday (which is great!).

N.B: Some of Chef Sebastien's background was shamelessly cribbed from the Alexandria Patch with no malice aforethought

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I have to give BRABO high marks for the meal we enjoyed with out of town guests this past week. 

The dining room was about half-full on a Thursday evening. The staff was gracious throughout. We were seated at a circular 6-top, and conversation was easy.

The appetizers that landed on the table were the grilled octopus, fois gras terrine, and the French radish dish. Not a flaw anywhere, and that radish dish blew me away.

My main was the perfect steak frites with the 8oz bravette, and Lady KN selected the sea bass. We emptied our plates, and we weren't all that hungry. 

We accompanied the meal with 4 bottles of their featured wines at about $54 a bottle, so the final bill of $630 all-in with tax and tip seemed like a bargain for 6 of us. That was a damn satisfying meal in a pleasant setting with a great deal of ambiance and comfort. And the food was really very good, perhaps some of the best food in Old Town.

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1 hour ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

I have to give BRABO high marks for the meal we enjoyed with out of town guests this past week. 

I can't remember if we talked or not. This past summer, I dined at both Brabo and Vermilion: Brabo was very good, and Vermilion was disturbingly mediocre.

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2 hours ago, DonRocks said:

I can't remember if we talked or not. This past summer, I dined at both Brabo and Vermilion: Brabo was very good, and Vermilion was disturbingly mediocre.

Your suggestion was the reason we went to BRABO instead of Vermilion, and I owe you a debt of gratitude.

We went to BRABO on Thursday night, and it wasn't crowded at all. The out of town guests were staying at the same hotel, so it was an easy walk downstairs for them. The next night, my son checked in on Vermilion and there were no reservations available. Maybe it was because Friday night in Old Town is hopping....

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