Most people that know me are aware of the fact that I rarely cross into Maryland or Virginia to dine. It’s not that I don’t believe that there are good places in those states… in fact I am aware that some of the best are out there, but being that I am carless and live in the Logan Circle neighborhood I often feel like I have everything I need within a five block radius from my apartment. Well, a few weeks back I had plans to go bowling in Virginia and as a result we needed a good restaurant for dinner. We ended up at the BRABO Tasting Room from Robert Wiedmaier in Old Town, Alexandria as we had heard great things about it. The Tasting Room does not take reservations so we were able to put our name on the list and go wait next door in the Butcher’s Block which is a gourmet market also owned by Robert Wiedmaier that sells cheese, meats, olives, breads, and also offers wine tastings. As soon as the table was ready, the Maitre D’ came and collected us and brought us back to the Tasting Room and showed us to our table.
The atmosphere at the BRABO Tasting Room is unique and refreshing. It’s very small and only has a handful of tables as well as a bar that allows for communal seating. With a large brick oven and a partially open kitchen, this French-Belgian eatery is upscale in its style and sophistication without being stuffy or formal. The menu is simple in its offerings: wood fired tarts, sandwiches, salads, meats and cheeses, and the signature item which is three unique styles of mussels. On our first trip to BRABO’s Tasting Room we split the mixed seasonal vegetable tart with gruyere to start and each of us had our own massive cast iron pan of mussels. I had the Indian tomato curry mussels with toasted almonds and coconut and Josh had the classic white wine garlic with shallots and parsley. Both of us were in awe of the meal and we literally considered asking for a straw to slurp up the sauce in the pan. While both the mussels we ordered were incredibly different, the sauces were both so creamy and delicious that we ate almost an entire loaf of bread just soaking up what was left. There was no room for dessert, and fast forward to this past weekend when we were still talking about our amazing mussels from BRABO and how much we wanted to go back.
So, on Friday night this weekend we decided to see a movie after work and then head to the Tasting Room around 10PM hoping that we should have an easy time getting a table given they don’t take reservations. While the restaurant was still full, we were able to be seated right away and the kitchen was still busy churning out some of the best food around. This time we tried the Italian sausage tart with roasted peppers and arugula which was wonderful as expected. Neither of us could even fathom straying from our respective mussels that we ordered last time, so we repeated the order from last month and devoured them enjoying every bite. I can only speak for the Indian tomato curry mussels, but I must say that they are divine. And given that the sauce is so thick, the pieces of crunchy almonds fall to the bottom of the pan and make for a nice textural surprise when you drag your mussels in the sauce or use the bread to soak it up. Pure heaven.
Again, no room for dessert, but this is definitely one of my new favorite places around. And I would venture to say it’s better than any mussels I have had in the District of Columbia and it makes the trip to Old Town well worth it. I can’t wait to go back again soon. And I probably will order the same thing.
BRABO Tasting Room
1600 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314