EATZ: BRABO Bravissimo!

By Debby Critchley

When you walk into the dining room at BRABO, you find several personalities. The bar to your left is filled with a mix of hotel guests and locals who know where to get a great drink and meal. Across is the brasserie area – a small area of comfortable tables and chairs where loudness can be a problem if there is a game on the screen in the bar. Head into the more formal dining room where you find white table cloths and beautiful surroundings. What you also find is a menu filled with incredible items to thrill your taste buds.

The vichyssoise is creamy and divine, elevating the simple potato.

Executive Chef Sebastien Rondier is cooking amazing plates of food that will leave you happy and full. The focus is French brasserie and it is done well. Unlike many other fine dining venues, these are generous and hearty plates of food. Not everything here is plated with tweezers and microgreens. The food is beautiful and rich and filling. This is fine dining – and hearty, appetizing food. You won’t need to stop at the local fast food joint to feel you’ve had enough to eat. Servers like Cosmo Clemens, are a find. He obviously loves his job and the food he serves. Your first stop is the beverages menu. Brett in the bar plies his craft well. There are featured beverages, wine – both by glass and bottle, and beer on the back of the menu and a second menu of Negronis and other seasonable beverages in a small black book. I suggest you spend some time with it. It is filled with classics such as a Gin Rickey, Harvey Wallbangers, or Side Car.

The menu offers a wide variety of items to suit many tastes. If you like mussels, Chef Sebastien is a master of the genre. And, he knows how to make Belgian frites. We started with one of the most beautiful plates I have seen in a long time. A variety of radishes were displayed on a platter – thin slices of watermelon radishes grace the plate andreate a still life you want to take pictures of to frame. The radishes are with slabs of grilled country bread. Don’t be afraid to disturb the tableau, dive right in. Feeling like soup? Try

The radish salad is looks like a framed still life.

the Vichyssoise Glacee. This luscious emulsion of steamed potatoes, crème fraiche, and baguette croutons  is everything you would want. It has a clean yet earthy taste  of potatoes providing a comforting homey taste, and theoptional dollop of caviar takes it to the next level.

The charcuterie plate was filled with a wonderful selection of meats, cheeses, and condiments.

The cheese and charcuterie board provide hearty servings of Irish cheddar, French brie, and Stilton blue accompanied by thinly sliced chorizo, and country pate. Two different mustards and cornichons complete the picture. This is good stuff, especially when paired with the house baguette. The chorizo is over the top delicious – so unexpected with its spice, touch of heat, and bit of chew. The cheeses provide an excellent counterpoint to the rest of the plate. This is definitely an appetizer you can share as part of your dinner, or, is enough for dinner itself. The summer peach and goat cheese salad served with toasted pine nuts, red onion pickles, and a balsamic vinaigrette brings all of the tastes of summer into focus. Grilled peaches are marvelous. The heat brings out both the sweetness and earthiness of everything that is good in a peach. The grilled BBQ octopus with its red beet BBQ sauceon a bed of charred napa cabbage and pickled red onion was amazing. The octopus was tender andflavorful and we vied to grab forkfuls of the cabbage before it was gone. This is octopus done right and a fabulous way to introduce someone to its texture and flavor.

Cosmo Clemens, server extraordinaire presents the Cote de Beouf

Once we cleared the table, it was time for entrees. If you have a meat eater in your group, do not pass up the steaks. We shared the 22 oz. Cote de Boeuf for two and swooned over the so well-seasoned, tender, and flavorful medium rare slices. The steak is served sliced with the bone, in a cast iron skillet with asparagus, grilled Yukon gold potatoes, and black truffle and sundried tomato butter. You also have a choice of a black peppercorn sauce or whipped Roquefort butter. Ask for both. Want seafood? Chef Rondier is a magician. His pan seared sea bass served with fiddlehead ferns and pancetta morsels over a bed of kohlrabi puree is textbook perfection on a plate. The fish was moist and flavorful with a well-seasoned crispy skin. To set it all off­ was a beautiful mint butter poured around the plate. I don’t like mint jelly with lamb but mint butter with this sea bass will make you swoon.

The duo de porc was a plate with a generous roasted boneless chop and a square of properly cooked braised pork belly. The dish was plated with petit pois a la Française and a grain mustard jus. We all looked at the chop and thought, this looks overdone. It was not. The pork was rich, flavorful, and moist. Expertly done pork from the kitchen! Cooked perfectly. Vegetarians, do not despair. Look no further than the spring risotto. This lovely bowl was filled English peas, artichokes, asparagus, and Parmesan. The rice was tender and moist, the vegetables cooked just to the right doneness. This would also make a wonderful side to all of the entrees. By the way, with such a fabulous choice of wines by the glass, order one to enhance your entrees.

The Pavlova is perfect!

All of us at the table were giddy by the time dessert arrived. BRABO employs a talented and beautiful pastry chef, Genevieve Sallis. Each dessert was a treasure in its own right. The classic opera cake was filled with a beautiful cake with layers of chocolate and espresso cream. The chocolate ganache frosting was heavenly. The quenelle of espresso ice cream was better than a cup of espresso. The blood orange and berries Pavlova was perfect. This is a dessert that can go drastically wrong but it is definitely right in Genevieve’s capable hands. This beautiful creation had a lovely crispy outer shell of Italian meringue with seasonal berries to cut the sweetness.

Chocolate, pistachios, and gold. Oh My!

The Pavlova was in direct competition with the chocolate and pistachio tart. This magnificent dessert was composed of a layer of pistachio praline surrounded by dark chocolate ganache and garnished with gold leaf. This tart will satisfy any chocolate lover’s soul.

The tropical Napoleon millefeuille  was a study in contrasts of creamy tropical mango custard sandwiched between the lightest layers of crisp millefeuille pastry and garnished with an exotic fruit salad and coconut snow. If you have to share it, ask for a sharp knife to cut it as the pastry shatters into a million shards of deliciousness.

BRABO is definitely the place to go for a satisfying meal. The bar and food menus reflect a well thought out meal that goes far beyond what you expect in a hotel dining room. The kitchen and staff­ know what they are doing and make your evening one you will want to repeat, often. I can’t wait for the fall menu to see what new delights will be coming out of the kitchen next.

Tasting Room: 703-894-5252