Jump to content

Brabo Tasting Room, Old Town Alexandria - Mussels, Flatbread, and Harper McClure's Charcuterie in a Tiny, Lorien Hotel Annex


Recommended Posts

We went to the tasting room for lunch and decided to try the duck confit tart (its not really a tart, more like a flatbread), chorizo fennel mussels and frites, and five onion soup. The duck on the flatbread was a bit dry, the mussels were plump and flavorful. The fries came with horseradish mayo, bbq mayo, and mustard mayo, and were the same thin cut you get at Beck's, The five onion soup had a nice intense beefy flavor, although it could use more cheese on the crouton. Overall, everything was very good, but I was somewhat disappointed by the Belgium beers. Brabo has all bottled beers, unlike Beck, which always have several choices on draft. I asked if they plan to have some beer on draft in the future and they said no.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I asked if they plan to have some beer on draft in the future and they said no.

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.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Convinced a couple coworkers to hit up the Brabo Tasting Room for lunch today. Not a very large space but decent size with a bar for single diners. We hit a couple things on the menu including the Five Onion Soup ($8), Roast Beef Sandwich ($12), Oven Roasted Chicken Sandwich ($12) and the Mussels ($15). Just going back now and reading the menu on-line I realized that the two of us who ordered the mussels did not receive any frites, not sure how I overlooked it. I don't recall seeing it on the menu while we were there but on-line menu clearly shows that it comes with it. The clear winner was the mussels, nice size portion and very size nice. Had a couple of bottle beers each, no beer on tap as reported by others and confirmed by our waiter that they have no plans to add tap beer.

Service was very nice and pace of the meal was excellent. They seemed to be doing a fairly decent business at lunch.

Man I am bummed I did not get any frites.

Since I work in the area I will have to put this on the regular rotation. Would also like to hit the main restaurant part soon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Convinced a couple coworkers to hit up the Brabo Tasting Room for lunch today. Not a very large space but decent size with a bar for single diners. We hit a couple things on the menu including the Five Onion Soup ($8), Roast Beef Sandwich ($12), Oven Roasted Chicken Sandwich ($12) and the Mussels ($15). Just going back now and reading the menu on-line I realized that the two of us who ordered the mussels did not receive any frites, not sure how I overlooked it. I don't recall seeing it on the menu while we were there but on-line menu clearly shows that it comes with it. The clear winner was the mussels, nice size portion and very size nice. Had a couple of bottle beers each, no beer on tap as reported by others and confirmed by our waiter that they have no plans to add tap beer.

Service was very nice and pace of the meal was excellent. They seemed to be doing a fairly decent business at lunch.

Man I am bummed I did not get any frites.

Since I work in the area I will have to put this on the regular rotation. Would also like to hit the main restaurant part soon.

BTW, a la Coppi's, every single item here is made in the pizza oven (except for the mussels, which are done on a burner).

The name "Brabo Tasting Room" seems like a very strong "tribute" :P to both Bebo and Eve.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Convinced a couple coworkers to hit up the Brabo Tasting Room for lunch today. Not a very large space but decent size with a bar for single diners. We hit a couple things on the menu including the Five Onion Soup ($8), Roast Beef Sandwich ($12), Oven Roasted Chicken Sandwich ($12) and the Mussels ($15). Just going back now and reading the menu on-line I realized that the two of us who ordered the mussels did not receive any frites, not sure how I overlooked it. I don't recall seeing it on the menu while we were there but on-line menu clearly shows that it comes with it. The clear winner was the mussels, nice size portion and very size nice. Had a couple of bottle beers each, no beer on tap as reported by others and confirmed by our waiter that they have no plans to add tap beer.

Service was very nice and pace of the meal was excellent. They seemed to be doing a fairly decent business at lunch.

Man I am bummed I did not get any frites.

Since I work in the area I will have to put this on the regular rotation. Would also like to hit the main restaurant part soon.

I believe the reason that you did not get any fries is because The Tasting Room shut down frites making after it was deemed too smoky, according to a server I spoke with when (almost) dining there last week. After we were seated:

"Could you recommend a white wine? I'm ordering mussels and can't wait to try them, along with the fries. By the way, I don't see fries anywhere on the menu".

"There are no fries because of [smoke] filling the restaurant [a few days ago]"

(then I think I heard something about the Fire Marshal making a visit and noting how smoky the restaurant was)

"Oh, I just looked a the menu online, and saw that frites or salad came with the mussels and sandwiches"

"You can get [the mussels and fries] next door (separate kitchen), plus they have a bigger menu"

"Would you mind terribly if my husband and I walked over to the restaurant-we would really like to order our mussels (me) and burger (him) with fries"

"Not at all! I understand"

We walked over to the restaurant, noticed that the bar seats were full, and the restaurant was about 1/3 full. The hostess asked if we had a reservation, and upon hearing that we did not, she mentioned that they were "commited for the evening" and something about having 2 large parties. She apologized sincerely and we departed, a bit puzzled about our attempt to dine at Brabo.

So, unfortunately we got turned away at 6:30 on a Wednesday night. We decided to go to Rustico, which was bustling in the bar, and packed in the restaurant. We put our name on the list, got drink at the bar, and were seated 15 minutes later (as told),and had a terrific meal.

btw...the online menu now reflects the printed menu at The Tasting Room.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe the reason that you did not get any fries is because The Tasting Room shut down frites making after it was deemed too smoky, according to a server I spoke with when (almost) dining there last week. After we were seated:

"Could you recommend a white wine? I'm ordering mussels and can't wait to try them, along with the fries. By the way, I don't see fries anywhere on the menu".

"There are no fries because of [smoke] filling the restaurant [a few days ago]"

(then I think I heard something about the Fire Marshal making a visit and noting how smoky the restaurant was)

"Oh, I just looked a the menu online, and saw that frites or salad came with the mussels and sandwiches"

"You can get [the mussels and fries] next door (separate kitchen), plus they have a bigger menu"

"Would you mind terribly if my husband and I walked over to the restaurant-we would really like to order our mussels (me) and burger (him) with fries"

"Not at all! I understand"

We walked over to the restaurant, noticed that the bar seats were full, and the restaurant was about 1/3 full. The hostess asked if we had a reservation, and upon hearing that we did not, she mentioned that they were "commited for the evening" and something about having 2 large parties. She apologized sincerely and we departed, a bit puzzled about our attempt to dine at Brabo.

So, unfortunately we got turned away at 6:30 on a Wednesday night. We decided to go to Rustico, which was bustling in the bar, and packed in the restaurant. We put our name on the list, got drink at the bar, and were seated 15 minutes later (as told),and had a terrific meal.

btw...the online menu now reflects the printed menu at The Tasting Room.

Hey Ramona,

It seems like I'm in a unique position in reading your last post as I currently work as a server at Brabo and Brabo Tasting Room and USED to be a server at Rustico.

I'm truly sorry to hear you had a kind of "bad taste in your mouth" experience that night. Glad you still found somewhere good to eat that night! Rustico is great...

If I had been your waiter that evening even though you were jonesing for those frites and burgers I would of found a way to get you to stay..The Tasting Room has a lot of really well executed dishes, is basically an oversized kitchen and bar that you sit in, and is pretty one of a kind for the Old Town area and even DC....geared towards the foodies (food network is playing on the big screen 80% of the time) and casual diner alike. The idea is a gastropub with a simple menu and many things meant to share.

I think there just had been a small lapse in the explanation of the frite situation. I'm not management but essentially the city of alexandria requires a change in the interior structure of the building in order to continue making frites. I've worked the floor of the Tasting Room almost straight for the entire time we served frites and saw no smoke. But the new construction WILL alow smoke and steam from the fryers to ventilate to the outside of the restaurant.

As far as Brabo restaurant was concerned, theyre doing a soft opening and so consistently had part of the dining room sectioned off. This kitchen is a part of the Lorien hotel and functions as a kitchen for the restaurant, banquets and room service alike. So there was just some time set aside to make absolutely sure that the level of service and food could stay at the level for a growing amount of people.

So sorry again. I hope having a food blog that you still make it in to eat something. Robert Wiedmaier's putting out some really great food. We are operating at pretty much full capacity right now, so much better chance at getting in Brabo when making a reservation or just dropping by the TR. :rolleyes:

-Adam

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey Ramona,

It seems like I'm in a unique position in reading your last post as I currently work as a server at Brabo and Brabo Tasting Room and USED to be a server at Rustico.

I'm truly sorry to hear you had a kind of "bad taste in your mouth" experience that night. Glad you still found somewhere good to eat that night! Rustico is great...

If I had been your waiter that evening even though you were jonesing for those frites and burgers I would of found a way to get you to stay..The Tasting Room has a lot of really well executed dishes, is basically an oversized kitchen and bar that you sit in, and is pretty one of a kind for the Old Town area and even DC....geared towards the foodies (food network is playing on the big screen 80% of the time) and casual diner alike. The idea is a gastropub with a simple menu and many things meant to share.

I think there just had been a small lapse in the explanation of the frite situation. I'm not management but essentially the city of alexandria requires a change in the interior structure of the building in order to continue making frites. I've worked the floor of the Tasting Room almost straight for the entire time we served frites and saw no smoke. But the new construction WILL alow smoke and steam from the fryers to ventilate to the outside of the restaurant.

As far as Brabo restaurant was concerned, theyre doing a soft opening and so consistently had part of the dining room sectioned off. This kitchen is a part of the Lorien hotel and functions as a kitchen for the restaurant, banquets and room service alike. So there was just some time set aside to make absolutely sure that the level of service and food could stay at the level for a growing amount of people.

So sorry again. I hope having a food blog that you still make it in to eat something. Robert Wiedmaier's putting out some really great food. We are operating at pretty much full capacity right now, so much better chance at getting in Brabo when making a reservation or just dropping by the TR. <_<

-Adam

Thanks, Adam! I will definitely be back to try both places, and The Butcher's Block as well. It was just one of those "that was odd" experiences, and as I said, our server and the hostess were very nice, so the vibe was good. I wanted to let people know to not expect fries for now, too.

I'm looking forward to the mussels and fries soon :rolleyes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I will definitely be back to try both places, and The Butcher's Block as well.
The Butcher's Block looks like it's open, from a quick glance while passing by tonight. I suppose this belongs in a separate "shopping and cooking" thread, at least when someone has more details to report. The wine selection looks extensive and I could see some good-looking meat in the case...will have to stop in and get a closer look soon.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Today, I had the fortune of wandering into the BRABO Tasting Room for a light, mid-afternoon meal. After noting the menu included the expected selections of mussels, tarts, soups, salads, and sandwiches, I enjoyed the $16 “napa-tizer” cold plate featuring the following selections (serves 1 as a meal, two as a snack):

Hummus-At first, I was highly skeptical of this often overdone and under-balanced chickpea spread. This one, however, especially when paired with the olives and roasted red pepper, worked as a beautiful complement to the rest of plate.

Salmon rillettes-Pale pink as a valentine, this smoked salmon spread offered consistent texture and fresh flavors.

Olive and roasted red pepper-Including multiple varieties of olives, top-shelf oil, and thorough seasonings, this elevated several selections with a burst of salty acidity.

Pork rillettes-Another masterful consistency, this one with unmistakable peppery heat.

Slice of salumi (not sure which type)-An adorable rosette tucked away between two spreads, this offered bright color contrast and an herbaceous, spicy single bite.

Duck rillettes-When eaten alone, this needed serious rescue from a flat, fatty, overly homogenous flavor. But once paired with the briny olives or Caper Berries, the only help it needed was coming down out of the flavor stratosphere. Outstanding.

Cheese-A savory, yet not overly dominant, cow’s cheese from France. Not a washed rind variety, but I neglected to ask what it was. Just enough for a cracker or two, paired beautifully with the pork rillettes.

Cornichons and Caper Berries-These obligatory pickled bits were of firm quality and deft seasoning. But my own personal words of wisdom: Be especially mindful not to pop an entire cornichon into your mouth after enjoying a hefty swig of woefully oaky chardonnay, lest eye-burning ouch also become yours.

Onions-A purple marmalade of reduced onion with what tasted like rose petal essence (floral, yet not too sweet). These provided a boost of contrast and color.

Baked flatbread-Generally avoiding gluten, I made an exception for this outstanding specimen of leavened heaven. Graced with top-notch olive oil, flakes of chili pepper, and freshly minced chives, the flawless crispy-yet-chewy texture provided perfect accompaniment for every single item. The only downside was the liberal amount of crumbs that fly when breaking this bread into pieces. Hansel and Gretel should eat here.

While enjoying this pleasing plate, I also relished the view from the tall and broad windows. Unlike many restaurants in Old Town, something about these windows offers the delightful panorama of parading people without attracting the eye of every single passerby. A special glass coating, or time of day, perhaps?

Because errands beckoned, I disciplined myself to a single glass of French Chardonnay. It was more oak-laden than my usual preference, but I had put myself at the mercy of “whatever you recommend”. It paired nicely with the spread selections, and surprised me with how nicely it worked with the hummus and onion, of all things.

The acoustics were decent for this tastefully spartan space. Diner-style bar stools offer one seating option, along with several low-slung booths and tables. Being Sunday afternoon, a TV was on at the bar. This meant the occasional (although muted) sound of a referee’s whistle instead of ongoing music or other atmosphere-inducting acoustics. The venue was empty when I arrived mid-afternoon, but by the time I left, several others diners had taken a seat.

I also ventured next door to the Butcher’s Block. Planning poorly, I lacked my cooler and still had several stops to make in Old Town. Logistics conspired against it this time, but next time I’ll adopt several of the impressively marbled ribeyes, masterfully trimmed lamb tenderloin, duck confit, and sausages from the immaculate showcase. With all the drooling I was doing in that store, it’s a miracle I escaped without dehydrating.

The fridge units also contained several cheese and specialty temptations, including a $10 house-made “foie gras parfait”. A casual chat with one of the staff revealed that meats sold in the store are the exact cuts served at Brasserie Beck, Marcel's, and BRABO. He mentioned the possibility of perhaps venturing to other suppliers at some point, opening the possibilities to batch-at-a-time treasures rather than the larger orders that supply multiple restaurants.

Either way, the Tasting Room and Butcher’s Block are destination-worthy right now. I also look forward to trying the full BRABO experience soon.

Old Town just got a little more metropolitan.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I walked into a frigid Brabo Tasting Room last night, and was happy to see Sal working behind the bar, having recently fled from Citronelle. A Penn Pilsner ($6) worked very well with a Wood Fired Tart ($14) of fresh mozzarella, Virginia prosciutto, and basil. A finely assembled and perfectly baked tart, my only qualm is that it's pushing the price ceiling at $14 for four smallish slices; from 10-11 PM, all tarts at Brabo Tasting Room are only $7, which makes them a screaming bargain. This nightly special is worth remembering for anyone looking for a late-evening snack in Old Town.

It has been a good, long while since anyone has liked my newts, but with 3,000 members here, I'm fairly confident that I'll have several-years worth of candidates if only they follow my advice and order the Chorizo Sausage and Fennel Mussels ($15). If this isn't the best mussels dish in town, I'd like to know what is. Have it with a bottle of Duchesse de Bourgogne ($10), and you'll be in bivalve-heaven. I was reminded that they offer a similar presentation at Brasserie Beck (these are served in a big, hot skillet, with plenty of chorizo-chunked sauce and lots of room to "lay down your slices of baguette" and let them saturate). It isn't often that I order mussels, as I tend to find them predictable and boring, but boy-oh-boy I'm sure glad I ordered these!

Cheers,

Rocks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...from 10-11 PM, all tarts at Brabo Tasting Room are only $7, which makes them a screaming bargain. This nightly special is worth remembering for anyone looking for a late-evening snack in Old Town.
Wood Fired Tarts

½ price 10-11pm (Sunday-Thursday)

11-12pm (Friday-Saturday)

Note the later time on the weekend...think I'll go check them out right now!

... the Chorizo Sausage and Fennel Mussels ($15). If this isn't the best mussels dish in town, I'd like to know what is.
I definitely think it's one of the very best preparations in town (the Eve/Majestic versions are also a favorite) - great flavors and, as Don noted, a great sauce for 'sopping'.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The chorizo and fennel mussels are the best I have had in a long time -- they include a ridiculously large number of chorizo bites. The fennel flavored sauce is addictive.

A friend and I went here in the fall and had a wonderful lunch of mussels and charcuterie. I'm excited for the mussels place planned to replace Levantes in Bethesda.

Pax,

Brian

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wood Fired Tarts

½ price 10-11pm (Sunday-Thursday)

11-12pm (Friday-Saturday)

Note the later time on the weekend...think I'll go check them out right now!

I definitely think it's one of the very best preparations in town (the Eve/Majestic versions are also a favorite) - great flavors and, as Don noted, a great sauce for 'sopping'.

Half price Tarts would be a great deal - if the Tasting Room actually kept the hours it says on its website.

We've now been turned away 3 times. Once was during the snow storm, which I understand - although we did walk into the semi-crowded restaurant and noted that some people were still ordering when we were asked to leave.

The last two times we thought to call first - once at 10:30 on a weekday and once at 11:30 on a weekend. Both nights we were told they were "closing up early, sorry."

Too bad for us, I guess.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Grabbed dinner here last week and hadn't ever posted about it so...

Have been to Brabo Tasting Room maybe 3 or 4 times since it opened. Brabo once. Butcher's Block 4 or 5 times (expensive but some really memorable steaks were had there).

Like most of the previous posters, I'm a fan of BTR. Casual but excellent in the same spirit (and just a bit lower in food excellence) as Eve's Bistro, Central or Palena Cafe. BTR is a more limited menu than those (except the Bistro) but no matter. Agree with the others about the chorizo/fennel mussels and tarts--really excellent and good values.

Trying to add a new angle, in my recent visit, I found myself thinking about Mussel Bar and why BTR seems so much better. After all, same owner and even some overlap in concept with BTR's menu basically a subset of MB's. I've posted on Mussel Bar separately so won't go down that road again here but I remain convinced that the two restaurants are sourcing different mussels. BTR consistently serves mussels that seem larger, tastier and all around better. I asked our server about this but, of course, she couldn't really speak to what Mussel Bar was doing. Had an onion soup last week at BTR which was also excellent (though I like that at Mussel Bar also). A chocolate dessert was a bit too rich, dense and heavy. Found a good, well priced sauvignon blanc which pared perfectly with our mussels.

We really enjoy BTR every time we've been. Wish it was closer (they could switch spots with Mussel Bar?) so we'd go more often.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another quick shout out to the mussels at Brabo Tasting Room....

I ventured in mid-week, mid-afternoon, and encountered an enjoyably vacant restaurant. My companion and I mulled menu possibilities over a Spanish Albarino and Virginia Viognier.

After splitting the chilled Boston Bibb salad ($10), featuring beautifully honored beets, soft-as-a-lullaby boiled egg, and zesty mustard vinaigrette, we each ordered the white wine, shallot, and parsley mussels ($19). I knew it would be too much food, and was banking on leftovers being a dinner treat for my companion who lives alone. As others reported above, the astoundingly fresh mussels were exceptional---not a second overcooked, nor over-seasoned (#1 and #2 on the Most Wanted for crimes against mussels). These are the best I have had in the DC area, perhaps any area, and noted that they hailed from Penn Cove, Washington.

We wound up eating more than we planned, which was fortunate. We requested a package for the remainder, and learned of the store's policy to avoid boxing up shellfish. This is a wise business decision---many people have no idea how highly perishable and dangerous shellfish can be. We, of course, would have popped them immediately into a nearby refrigerator, but I can understand how tourists and others could blame the restaurant for any self-imposed, um, negative consequences.

Three desserts appeared handwritten on the specials board. On this day, at this time, the lack of a menu with enticingly described desserts and accompanying wines, liqueurs, etc., probably lost them $20+ in sales. I understand this as another smart business calculation---lingering over dessert means tables do not turn over, which would become a catastrophe during busy times in this small, more casual restaurant. However, for guests such as myself who want to linger in conversation over final choices, the restaurant may want to consider providing an attractively designed dessert menu to boost sales during predictably quiet time frames.

We finished instead with coffee and mint tea, and continued chatting. On the way out, dinner guests had begun to arrive. I quietly hoped each of them ordered the mussels--a fresh taste in Old Town.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have been to Brabo a couple of times recently and really enjoy the sandwiches which are reasonably priced and come with a small side salad. One thing that that always amazes me is the price of the mussel dishes ($20) and flatbreads ($16). I know mussels are typically overpriced in most places, but this seems a bit high to me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 but this seems a bit high to me.

Yeah I agree.  My wife and I hit up this place every once and a while and we noticed the prices on everything jumped up between two of our visits.  This was maybe 2 years ago, but it was very obvious at the time.  It went from "these prices are reasonable we should come here more" to "damn, this place is expensive and over priced"

Even the salads seemed very expensive for what you got.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have been to Brabo a couple of times recently and really enjoy the sandwiches which are reasonably priced and come with a small side salad. One thing that that always amazes me is the price of the mussel dishes ($20) and flatbreads ($16). I know mussels are typically overpriced in most places, but this seems a bit high to me.

Brabo's mussels started out at $15, and are up 33 1/3% from when they first opened.

Assuming Robert Weidemaier is purchasing them all through the same company, he has much greater purchasing power than when he just opened Marcel's, too, so despite a general rise in food costs, he should have more leverage.

Moules-Frites used to be one of the greatest value dishes in town; no longer. Weidemaier has been a trailblazer in pushing up mussel costs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...