I’m guilty of it. A lot of us DC residents are. Old Town Alexandria, while undeniably quaint and beautiful, is just too far away. A 40-minute metro ride just to get a bite to eat? Nah, especially when DC is in the midst of a restaurant boom.
Brabo, with its new steak frites program, should change your mind. The restaurant’s Executive Chef, Sebastien Rondier, is fresh off a new marriage and a recent two-week trip to France. Based on his meals during that trip, Chef Rondier has introduced at Brabo a comprehensive new menu focused solely on that most classic of bistro dishes, steak frites.
Chef Rondier’s new menu introduces four varieties of dry-aged butcher cuts from Creekstone Farms, presented in the heritage French style and served with whipped Roquefort butter or a cracked black peppercorn sauce. BYT was lucky enough to try all the new options, from a 12 oz. grilled ribeye to an 8 oz. grass-fed filet mignon to an 8 oz. hangar steak and finally, a 22 oz. cote de boeuf for two.
(Not technically steak frites, but just as perfectly executed, is the Chef’s take on beef bourguinon, which was the first plate finished during our meal, and which should be a mandatory order at every table.)
Each of the cuts offers something unique; the ribeye is as you’d expect, marbled and rich, while the filet mignon is buttery tender and a perfect medium rare. The hangar steak was a surprising favorite, ropy and beefy as can be, and matched well with an herby chimichurri.
But the real draw on the new menu is the cote de boeuf, a massive cut of beef that serves as the platonic ideal of grilled meat: rich, minerally, and juicy, with a pleasant chew and a primal umami funk.
Each cut of beef comes with an order of salty, crispy fries, served with three house-made sauces that rotate with the seasons. Currently on offer are a dijonnaise made with whole grain mustard, a spicy harissa aioli, and a classic whipped mayonnaise. Each is outstanding, as one would imagine.
Brabo, of course, offers much more than just steak (though a trip to Old Town simply for the meat will certainly be well worth the time). Jam-packed charcuterie plates; a summery salad of heirloom tomatoes and prosciutto; and a stunningly beautiful octopus dish combining pickled beets, charred napa cabbage, and a red beet BBQ sauce are only a few of the preludes to a main course that should be composed solely of fries and meat.
Add to all that a wine list that is both thoughtfully composed and reasonably priced, and one is left asking not why one would go to Alexandria, but instead when can one get there.