When I posted some mouth watering photos on Twitter of my dinner at BRABO Restaurant in Alexandria the other night, I received multiple responses from friends that were shocked that I actually went to Virginia. I admit that it takes a lot to get me to cross the D.C. state line, but this dinner was well worth it. I used to spend a lot of time dining at the BRABO Tasting Room, which is a more casual outpost located next door to the restaurant, also run by Chef Robert Wiedmaier. The Tasting Room offers mussels and wood fired tarts in a comfortable and lively environment. However, BRABO Restaurant is a white tablecloth fine dining establishment that focuses on a high-end experience, with a rustic European menu.
BRABO Restaurant is located within the Lorien Hotel & Spa by Kimpton in Old Town, Alexandria. I was invited by the Kimpton staff to sample the menu along with other food writers. I was excited for the opportunity to give this restaurant a chance given my appreciation for the food at the Tasting Room, Brasserie Beck, Marcel's and many other Wiedmaier restaurants.
Chef de Cuisine Harper McClure, with previous experience at Marcel's, and The Federalist at The Madison Hotel, treated us to an array of starters including Bigeye tuna crudo, oysters, and smoked duck prosciutto. The Tuna was the most beautiful color, served with crispy winter radish, and tasted as though it had just been freshly caught. The candied quince served with the duck prosciutto added a sweet note to the otherwise smoky dish. For our next round of food, Chef brought out some of my favorite dishes of the evening.
The quail with molasses, black barley, and mustard greens was wonderful. The flavors were warm and comforting, and BRABO continued to impress me with the presentation of the dishes. It was one of the most beautifully plated meals I can remember. The ale braised pork cheeks served over creamy polenta with leek fondue and crispy shallots was also a standout. However, everything was trumped by my main course which was something to remember. Days later, I am already thinking about when I can go back to BRABO to indulge in the cacao braised beef shortrib again. The meat was so tender that my fork easily pulled it apart, and it was served over a root vegetable hash with pomegranate and espresso jus.
It was the most satisfying and rustic dish-- the flavors, textures, and presentation were all perfect. There wasn't even a speck of food left on my plate. I also had the chance to try to the Shenandoah lamb shoulder over hand rolled papparadelle which was excellent. At a table of six females, we did a number on these dishes, and we all embraced our inner carnivore by ordering shortrib, lamb, venison, and bison.
Following the main courses were even more impressive and decadent desserts. The banana custard cake was the winner of the evening-- the consistency was almost like a cheesecake, topped with coconut sorbet and touches of citrus. I also loved the chocolate praline torte which managed to be decadent and light at the same time.
The dinner at BRABO left our whole table satisfied, and excited to run back and tell everyone about our experience. Perhaps the next time someone asks me to go to Virginia the first answer won't be "no", but instead, "only if we can go to BRABO."