All words: Svetlana Legetic
All photos: Stephanie Breijo
Brabo by Robert Wiedmeier has always been a quiet but strong contender in our “Seal the Deal” outing category: the Old Town Alexandria location, the delicious, delicious food, the calm luxury of the space – we have loved it all. It has been a few months since Harper McClure settled in as the new chef de cuisine at the restaurant, so post holiday and Valentine’s day and Restaurant Week rushes, we figured it is a good time as any to stop by and see what has been cooking in their beautiful kitchen.
What we found was a great, meaty menu to dive into on a cold day (and with these cold days not going ANYWHERE IT SEEMS, that’s a VERY good thing). McClure has previously spent time with Jeffrey Buben and RJ Cooper at Vidalia, and then at Marcel’s under Wiedmeier himself and that combination of sophisticated comfort food and gorgeous fine dining shows in both the ingredients chosen (pork cheeks! venison! short ribs!) and some of the more gorgeous presentations we’ve seen in a while, plating wise.
As I just mentioned, we had a very meaty experience but it should be noted that the seafood options are gorgeous sounding and looking too, though we mainly focused on those during the early portion of the evening because, well, we were IN THE MOOD FOR MEAT, so MEAT IS WHAT WE GOT. Sorry for not doing a better job at balancing this review. Next time. (and there will be a next time)
To start, get the oysters. They come with Cara Cara Orange and Long Pepper Mignonette and are a perfectly sweet/saline crisp way to start the evening. Pair them with the duck prosciutto (which McClure declared, as it was brought out, “was the best thing he ever made”) and the tuna tartare and you’re in carpaccio heaven.
For those looking to forgo the seafood experience and simply dive into the meat heaven that this place is from their first bite onward, the ale braised pork cheeks (with creamy polenta and leak fondue) and the delicious, caramel-y quail (with black barley and mollasses) are to die for as well.
Once you’re in entre land (And it is ok if you want to stay in starters category for a while which offers also Wiedmeier’s mussels, Confit Spanish Octopus and more to explore), we highly recommend going for the meat (did we mention that we ate a lot of meat during this taste test? It bears repeating: WE ATE A LOT OF MEAT DURING THIS TASTE TEST).
Now, I’d like to use this opportunity to get real for a second here: meat is, as we all know, very delicious, but it also can be bastardized in so many ways that it makes my Eastern European meat loving soul die a little every time it happens. A perfect meat dish celebrates what the meat is all about and doesn’t try to hide it in elaborate costumes and ruses, it relies on being cooked properly (how many times has your heart been broken by a short rib that JUST DIDN’T FALL OFF THE BONE?) and presented promptly.
And this is something McClure and his team EXCEL at.
From the venison (accompanied by some gorgeous Vidalia onions, perfectly plump and juicy, probably in a nod to McClure’s past kitchen origins) to the very perfect shortribs (served with root vegetable hash, pomegranate and espresso jus) to the comfort food miracle that was their Braised Shannendoah Lamb Shoulder, served on top of a plate of hand rolled papparedelle and liberally brightened up by dill and parsnips, each dish is both the best variation of your favorite meat cut preparation and a surprise.
McClure has clearly an open mind and a Southern love for sweetness when it comes to his side ingredients and so yes, pomegranates pop up on your bison plate, and the sweet-potato gratin has apples in them, and compressed Asian Pears are featured next to baby carrots, but for no second do you question why they are there: because they work PERFECTLY with THE MEAT flavors. Just go with it.
And then, yes, do leave room for dessert. I was going to write about it, but then I saw Stephanie’s photos and had to go eat something instead, but the pictures truly do speak more than any words here. Now, please kindly wipe that saliva off your screen, we’re all civilized people here:
For reservations and details visit: http://www.braborestaurant.com/