Monday, April 30, 2007

Birthday Dinner at Brasserie Beck

Family and friends and I celebrated my birthday last Friday and had quite a grand 'ole time. We met for happy hour at Poste, which has $4 beer, house wines and truffled frites during their happy hour. It was a really nice group and it was so nice to see folks I have been meaning to catch up with. We enjoyed more than a few glasses of wine (the red was a nice Pinot Noir and the white a Sauvignon Blanc), and a couple of orders of frites (which taste like they may be done in a bit of duck fat - yum), and a few hours later it came time for our reservation at the newly-opened Brasserie Beck. I actually didn't realize it just opened last Wednesday, but thank goodness I am on the email list for Marcel's, Robert Wiedmaier's other place in Foggy Bottom, and so last week I received an email indicating Beck was accepting reservations. Marcel and Beck are the names of Robert's children. We arrived to pretty much a madhouse - the host stand was crowded and the bar and table areas were more than packed. I actually know one of the bartenders as he used to work at a local place in my neighborhood, so lucky for my group we were able to be served quickly. We waited 45 minutes even with a reservation, but no matter really - we were having a great time and were enjoying checking out the venue. You enter and to your left and in front of you are seating areas and to the right is a nice and well-stocked bar. The space is minimalist with hues of dark wood, granite, stainless steal, clean lines, sturdy tablestops and bars tops and very high ceilings (probably 30 or so feet). What is really neat as well as there are numerous tv's around the bar and restaurant which display the orders coming out of the kitchen, a really nice touch. The restaurant was perhaps not expecting such a large crowd as we ended up being seated in one of the private areas toward the rear of the restaurant. It actually worked out perfectly as it was much quieter in that space and there was only one other table in the room, so we have a bit of our own party so to speak. Plus, I sat at one of the heads of the table and had a perfect view of a tv showing all of the orders coming out of the kitchen. The private room is enclosed by beveled glass panels and one entire wall is glass and showcases the restaurant's wine collection housed behind it.

Brasserie Beck is essentially a modern Belgian Bistro - it has the typical fare Belgian in origin (great mussels, steak and frites etc.), but also quite a few other offerings not necessarily Belgian but still items you would imagine can be found at a good bistro. We browsed through the wine list, which actually is really comprehensive and there are quite a few bottles under $30. We started with a bottle of Carignan-Grenache-Syrah Corbieres Domaine Sainte Eugenie from Languedoc, and at $18 it was a real deal. It was fruity and well-balanced and I thought it would pair perfectly with many of the items on the somewhat wide-ranging menu. We ended up getting several bottles of this selection. We started with two of the three preparations of mussels - Curry & Apple and Fennel & Chorizo Sausage. Each comes with a large bowl of piping hot frites and is a really nice portion. The mussels were quite large and cooked well, and I especially enjoyed the Curry variety. Jamie and Stephen wanted extra frites so they also ordered a separate order of Belgian Frites with Mayonnaise Trio. We also ordered a dozen fresh oysters which on Friday were from the West Coast and large in size but still very briny. They come with an Apple & Shallot Mignonette. I usually prefer small oysters over the large, but these were nice. Louise and I shared a bottle of Cremant de Loire "Brut Rose," Yves Lambert, France, with the lovely bivalves and it was a lovely pairing. Lucky for us no one else was really interested in enjoying the oysters with us. Amy got the cheese plate to start as well and it came with 5 ample pieces and sliced baguette. She said it was rich and delightful - there was not any left to share so I imagine it is indeed lovely. I decided to stay somewhat light after all of the appetizers, so I ordered a Spinach Salad with Caramelized Shallots, Blue Tag Cheese and a Mustart Vinaigrette. I also ordered a side of Brussel Sprouts. Lisa ordered the same two items. Stephen, Jamie, John and the rest of the group opted for more hearty selections, including Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Confit of Cabbage and Mustard Sauce, Roasted Monkfish with Peppers and Olives, and Choucroute "en Croute." My salad was delicious and fresh and I enjoyed the pairing of the rich and creamy blue cheese with the tangy mustard vinaigrette and the sweet caramelized shallots. I love brussel sprouts in any preparation, or even just steamed or raw, and these were quite nice although a bit too rich for me thanks to a creamy cheese sauce and also a bit of melted cheese over the top of the sprouts. Very tasty though. I had a bite of the Choucroute which was amazing, and the portion is quite large so most of the table got to take a sample of that dish. Everyone was too full for dessert, but Beck does have a few tempting options including Pear Tarte Tatin, Cinnamon Honey Ice Cream with Gateau of Chocolate, Belgian Bread Pudding and Caramel Cheesecake. We did, however, enjoy a large slice of the obligatory birthday cake. It was creamy and chocolately and had large flecks of dark chocolate as an accent. I am not much of a sweets person so I finished my wine and looked forward to the next venue. I really can't wait to return to Beck and probably will do so the first chance I get. A few items I look forward to trying next time include starters of Napoleon of Vine Ripe Tomato with Pipe Dream Goast Cheese and a Scallion Balsamic Dressing, Lamb Sausage with Lentils and Frisee, Toasted Garlic Baguette with Poached Eggs & Fricassee of Mushrooms, and Steak Tartare, a side of Gratin of Cauliflower, and mains of Roasted Rabbit Loin in Kriek Beer, Coq au Vin and Crispy Skate Wine a la Jacqueline with Garlic Spinach. I also look forward to enjoying more from Beck's well-priced wine list. For beer fans they also offer a separate Belgian Beer list. Such a great addition to the city, and one I would highly recommend checking out.

Poste (inside the Hotel Monaco)
555 8th Street in NW DC

Brasserie Beck
1101 K Street in NW DC


Amy said...

I whole heartedly second Leah's praise of Brasserie Beck. The food was fabulous, the service (although slow with the "new restaurant" rush) was friendly and knowledgable, and the beer list was fantastic. I especially loved the Bacchus, a Flemish red sour ale.

Lisa said...

Brasserie Beck was wonderful. The service and ambiance are what really made it special. The mussels, though not the best I've had, were very fresh tasting. The fries were great and the spinach salad hit the spot. I agree with Leah that the brussel sprouts were a bit rich but still very good. What was really cool is that they have a tv where you can watch all the orders coming out as they are ready to be served.

ReadytoEat said...

I am looking forward to trying out Brasserie Beck. I've heard really good things. With all the Brasserie's and Bistro's opening in DC will be a very interesting in the coming year. There is also a buzz about a new place going into where the existing David Greggory Restaurant is located. I heard it will be called Hudson and will feature Contemporary American cuisine with sustainable proteins and local produce with a swanky lounge. a reinvented and reinvigorated Greg Hill will still command the kitchen and will serve breakfast lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. a great new open floor plan and a fresh renovation with a contemporary atmosphere are also planned.

Marilyn said...

We also tried to have a birthday celebration at this restaurant. We were so disappointed. The food was fine, however, the service was terrible and it is not related to the "newness" of the establishment. They have some systemic issues that run directly to the core of their management and customer service approach. We were ending our evening at the bar for one last drink after dinner with some friends we had met up with. It was a special evening so we were going to celebrate with a bottle of champagne. We had even gone so far as to advise the restaurant in advance to make our evening "memorable." The bartender proceeded to fill each glass to the brim and toss the remainder of the bottle in the garbage. Per a Master Sommelier, the proper technique would include opening the bottle in front of the customer, allowing the customer to taste, and then pouring the glasses 2/3 full, leaving the remainder in a ice bucket with a slurry of water.

After discussing our displeasure with their bartender's technique we were advised that if we did not like it we could summarily leave. I believe the bar manager received his training as a bouncer and began to become immediately very confrontational and aggressive. The owner was in full support of this display. We left our friends after being completely embarrassed. Later we were advised by our friends that the owner then proceeded to ask our friends to leave, as well, in a similar confrontational style. I have never experienced such a poor attitude and customer service approach. This may have been an appropriate approach with a drunken rowdy crowd but we are a very mellow couple who enjoy good food and good service. We left feeling so bad. The evening was memorable, however, but not in a good way.