Long considered as one of the better places for brunch in Old Town Alexandria, Brabo Tasting Room is part of the posh Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa. Brabo Tasting Room is the casual version of its fine dining sibling Brabo. Last February, Sebastien Rondier replaced Harper McClure as executive chef. Rondier previously worked at the St. Regis at Adour and Decanter. The entrance to this 43-seat casual dining space is right on King Street in Old Town. Not the easiest to get a stroller through the door but it is manageable. If you sit by the windows, you can enjoy the warmth of the morning sun while you sip on your coffee.
Those of you who have been to Antwerp, Europe's diamond capital, might also know the story of Brabo. Brabo is a mythical Roman hero who slew the giant Antigoon. His story is immortalized in a fountain in front of Antwerp's city hall. A restaurant with a name like that you expect the meals to be epic, or at least strongly influenced by Belgian culture.
We ordered the Brabo Benedict, the Belgian Waffle, and the Gruyere potato cakes and side of country sausage. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of the Brabo Benedict. My breakfast buddy dived into it before I could photograph it. Composed of pork belly, poached eggs, gruyere potato cakes and sabayon, their version of the Benedict is assuredly rich. You find yourself looking for acidity in orange juice or even a cup of Kenyan AA to balance each bite.
When the waffle's arrived, it was beautifully scented with lemon. As I cut into them, the waffles were clearly American in-style. Waffles in Belgium are made from yeasted dough. When cooked, they have the close structure that brings a generous chew to each bite. (You have to try Liège Waffles, these heartier and tastier. They are so popular, you can find them all over Asia) The American version of the Belgium Waffle is airy and crispy. Its crevices are typically calory laden with butter and syrup. Brabo's version is certainly crispy and airy. It is topped with candied lemon and chantilly cream, so each rich bite is filled with aromatic lemon.
The country sausage and the gruyere potato cake were the last to arrive. The country sausage was good. According to the waitstaff, the sausages are not made by the Brabo team. It doesn't matter, the star of the show...the gruyere potato cake. The highlight of our quick morning meal. Crispy on all sides and volcano hot on the inside. It is the right balance of savory and richness that all the other dishes lacked.
I love the Tasting Room's space. It is warm and inviting perfect for casual breakfast. The food, however, I found unbalanced and generic. If it is Belgian inspired, why not distinguish yourself from the rest of DC's American venues? Make a yeasted version of the waffle that you can instantly justify charging 14 dollars for? After living in Brugge for some time, I know Belgium gouda is good. Why not introduce gouda inspired dishes paired with the rustic bread you would find in Belgium? In conclusion, if you are going to say you are a Belgian inspired restaurant, then match that expectation. Delivering a well-executed American-style brunch only places you in the muddle of overpriced brunch venues.
Monday - Friday
7:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
Saturday + Sunday
8:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
LUNCH + DINNER
Monday - Thursday
11:30 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.
Friday + Saturday
11:30 a.m. - Midnight
11:30 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.HAPPY HOURDaily
3:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Kent is a management consultant who has spent years traveling for work. His refuge is looking for the perfect meal so that he can reproduce it at home with his wife and friends.