Sometimes plans change and you stumble on a little miracle that you didn’t expect. That’s just what happened recently on a hot and sultry midweek evening. We were headed out of town for a long weekend and had pretty much eaten everything in the fridge, so we planned dinner out. I recommended a pizza place near the water on King Street in Old Town Alexandria and Greg agreed with the option. We were set.
Then, plans changed. When I met Greg at the King Street Metro station we had just missed the free King Street trolley and bad weather was looming. I suggested the Brabo Tasting Room. It has been on my list of places to try and is just a couple blocks from Metro. We strolled the two blocks, checked the menu outside on the wall and decided to give it a go.
We snagged a table in the front window of the tiny restaurant just before the skies unleashed a torrent of rain. Our waiter, Damien, was immediately there with two glasses of icy cold water, menus and a tantalizing description of the day’s specialties. We have learned that specials are almost always the best way to go, often because the chef found something amazing at the market and decided to offer something fresh that day only.
Damien’s description really didn’t take much convincing. Among the specials was a “BLT Tart.” It should be pointed out that at Brabo’s, a “tart” is a brick-oven pizza. This one was a light, mildly spiced, tomato sauce topped with lardon – a French bacon that reminded me of pancetta – and mozzarella.
Once it was out of the oven a light aioli-tossed romaine was sprinkled over the whole thing. The other special we couldn’t resist was Brabo’s version of a French Dip. This one was piled very high with perfectly medium rare, thin slices of roast beef, Swiss cheese, arugula and carmelized onions, then heated in a panini press. The onions came out of a brilliant, flavorful French onion soup that was offered as the “au jus” for the French Dip.
We mentioned we’d be sharing both dishes, so Damien pleasantly offered to split the sandwich for us and place the tart in the middle of the table. We sipped our wine – it is, after all, a “tasting” room – as we waited for our meal. The sandwich arrived first. I stretched my hand around my half and dipped it into the soup. That first bite was heaven! Texture, flavor, temperature … everything about that sandwich was incredible. Then came the tart. I was thinking that sandwich would be impossible to compete with. I was wrong. It was a completely over-the-top perfect melding of flavors on top of an incredibly amazing dough, cooked to perfection!
We both knew we shouldn’t have more food, but when Damien suggested dessert we asked to see the menu. With food that good, wouldn’t dessert be amazing, too? He said one of the things I love to hear, “there is no dessert menu” and then described the three offerings. A carrot cake with a key lime-inspired glaze tempted, but we opted for the double chocolate panna cotta with crumbled cake and homemade vanilla citrus whipped cream on top. I think I may have lost my mind with the first bite.
I don’t usually gush about restaurants. I’m pretty picky about service and flavor. Nevertheless, the Brabo Tasting Room blew my mind! Fully sated, we left under clearing skies onto Old Town’s brick sidewalks still wet from the now-dissipating thunderstorm. We noticed Brabo’s shares a courtyard with the Kimpton Hotel…and there’s a full size Brabo Restaurant next door. You can be assured that’s on my short list for the next place to try in Alexandria.