Welcome to this installment of the BYT ME, where every frisée, sautée, filet and brulé is out for itself.
BYT ME GRADING SYSTEM:
0 byts = wtf? i did not sign up for dog-food.
1 byt = edible. would consider eating again if on deserted island or lost in space and running low on dehydrated food and ice cream astronaut dots.
2 byts = decent at best. might eat again if haven’t eaten in a few days and nourishment was between this and belly button lint.
3 byts = eh. would eat it again. definitely if handed to me if on verge of fainting from hunger and/or at end of a sloppy evening.
4 byts = tasty. missing something, but not much. would order again.
5 byts = heck yes.
Move over Café Saint Ex, another Belgian brasserie has moved to town. No really, move over, Brasserie Beck is so friggin’ big, I think its prep line is spilling onto your Virginians.
Brasserie Beck is the new younger brother of 2004 WAMA Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year, Marcel’s. But Beck is kind of like that younger brother who grew up to be oddly bigger than the rest of the family. This month-old brasserie in the Penn Quarter measures in at 8,500 square feet. It’s BIG. You could fit a three-ring circus in there. Or all the WAKA teams (ooh, project!). Or almost all 15 BYT contributors’ egos. Almost.
Designed to look like a new old-fashioned train station replete with oversized clocks, exposed ductwork, and men in suits (lots of them), and the girls who love them (shudder), the brasserie seems to appeal to the downtown district set. Not the power-lunch, “I’ll pass your legislation if you pass mine,” type – more like the “got any extra room in your freezer for this stack of hundies? My guy’s is full…,” uhh, K street type.
BYT’s very own newly appointed Keeping-it-Classy Expert, Jeff, and I arrived to eat late on a Tuesday night sans reservations. We were surprised to find that, despite Beck’s 165 seats, there was a wait for a two top. So we perched at two of the 21 barstools and commenced to mull over their dozens of beers offerings. A few taste-tests later, we settled on a Brigand and a St. Feuillien, two Belgians – an amber and a blonde, respectively. Let me just tell you, those ambers and blondes give good head (yak yak yak). 4 BYTs each for their color and kickiness.
We were seated within 10 minutes. After looking over their over-sized menu, we decided on three small plates. Of course, like everything else in the place, each dish was eeeenormous, so three was plenty.
We started with the Steamed Mussels With Belgian Frites, which is essentially required taste-testing when assessing a brasserie. Ordering the mussels and frites in a brasserie is like trying sushi in Japan, or crepes in France, or Sparks at DC9, etc. In the spirit of keeping things big, as Beck is apparently wont to do, they give you three flavor options for the mussels: white wine, garlic and parsley; curry and apple; or fennel and chorizo sausage. We chose the most popular marinade – white wine, garlic and parsley.
To our surprise (not!) the dish was HUGE. They literally came out on a 14-inch round skillet; each was like a mollusc on steroids. They were probably two inches long, and half as wide – all, like, 30 of them. The dish was obv way too big for two – it would have been good for four and perfect for six (as a starter). The mussels deserved about 3 BYTs – the flavor had a nice balance between the ingredients. But Jeff thought on more than one occasion that I had broken a tooth when I bit down on some rogue sand. Apparently their enormous open kitchen is lacking in an enormously powerful sink.
The accompanying frites, however, deserved 4.5 BYTs, purely for the sauces that came with them: curry mayonnaise, plain mayonnaise, and a Russian-dressing type of thing. You have not tasted heaven until you have tried this curry mayo on fries. For realz.
Rounded together, we gave the entire dish 4 BYTs. And we would go back to Beck just to sit at the bar with a beer, mussels, and frites.
Next we tried the Brandade of Codfish. We ordered this mostly because neither of us was exactly sure what a brandade was. Now we know: it’s basically fish mush. It kind of had the texture of rice pudding or big curd cottage cheese, and the flavor of a creamy cod fish. Doesn’t sound that appealing, right? Yeah, kinda hard to get used to. Plus, I found it way too salty (nothing new. wtf is with the damn over-salting everywhere?) The cream was good, but the whole dish was just a little too much for our delicate palates. 2 BYTs.
Our final savory plate was the Lamb Sausage with Lentils and Frisée. Jeff loved the lamb – and he is not even a lamb eater. Lamb sausage has the potential to be dry and over-spiced. But this came out rather nicely. I loved the lentils even more, which were cooked perfectly aldente and flavored with their own sauces. I hate to say it again, but there was too much salt. Grr. But ultimately we gave it 3.5 BYTs for its well roundedness and ability to sway taste buds!
We were officially stuffed by this point – we couldn’t even finish any of the three dishes. But we did leave room in the part of our stomachs that holds the dessert. It was a difficult choice – we landed on the Pear Tarte Tatin with Cinnamon Honey Ice Cream. Y.U.M. Again, the tarte was gigantic, but we managed to finish this one and practically ate the plate it came on so we wouldn’t miss a lick. 4 BYTs. It would rise another .5 BYTs if they were to take the sweetness down a sliver.
Brasserie Beck receives 3 BYTs overall. Be forewarned, Beck has a few shortcomings as high as its 22 foot ceilings: you have to be able to tolerate its corporatetasticness, unadulterated throwing of sweaters over necks, an earnestly chipper hostess, a slightly aloof staff, blaring muzak, offensive over-sized art, and general lack of irony. But it’s a good place to take a corporate client, a visiting relative, or to go people watching outside the 10-block radius. And since, dear BYTers, I know your egos aren’t as whopping some assert, I have no doubt you can overlook those aesthetics and have BIG fun over a BIG beer and some BIG food.
And I expect a BIG hug when you do.
Bec, your Jaded Palate, correspondent; jaded so you don’t have to be.
1101 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005