Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bearnaise Restaurant
315 Pennsylvania Ave. S.E.
Washington, DC 20003
 Yours truly, Executive Chef Brad Race, and Co-Owner Spike Mendelsohn just before taking me on a trip back to least on my palate. 
Brad and I have known each other since we met at minibar back in 2009. He guided my group through an incredible experience at that restaurant (here's a link to my post about that meal) and I was looking for more of the same. Obviously this restaurant is not about molecular gastronomy, it's about French comfort food, and I assumed, rightly, that he'd be bringing his attention to detail to the food here.
Spike, as you likely know, was a contestant on Top Chef and one of the players in Life After Top Chef. We've been working together since his first Goodstuff Eatery, which conveniently enough is two doors down, separated by his other concept, We The Pizza.
Cheryl and I had a night free while Alex was camping, in the rain, again. Poor kid. Too bad he missed out on this meal. He would have been impressed. We certainly were. The meal brought us right back to our honeymoon. We did one grand meal at L'Espadon in The Ritz, Paris, but we were just starting out so the rest of our meals there were in small, family-owned bistros we could afford. This meal brought us right back to those cozy, tasty restaurants where we spent numerous hours during our trip.
If you're unfamiliar with the concept here, your basic meal is priced by which cut of steak you choose. It comes with a soup or salad and all the frites you care to eat. The fries rock, but if you're smart you'll save room for some sides as they were the star of the show.
 The wine list here is very accessible. There is a flat price for most of the wines on the menu, and then there is the reserve list. This Pinot came from the reserve list, but was very reasonably priced. I posted a picture on FB and Mark Slater, famed sommelier of Citronelle and other restaurants commented on it, so I figure it must have been a good choice! We enjoyed it.  
 The bread basket is served without asking, or charge I might add, with butter and mustard. Don't fill up on the bread.
 The French Onion Soup. Had to try it and wasn't disappointed. Perfect for the cold, wet night.
 Cheryl had a creamy cauliflower soup, which was the special that night.
 I had the bone-in ribeye and Cheryl had the flat iron.
 The steaks were good, but the sides totally stole the show.
 Our table was overwhelmed with all of the sauces and sides. We had ordered bearnaise and spicy bearnaise, but Brad brought the lot of them including bordelaise and au poivre.
My favorite, by far, was the plain bearnaise. It was smooth, herby, and totally decadent.
 For sides we had bone marrow roasted and topped with caviar.
 The Tartiflette, which was roasted potatoes with pork belly and Reblochon cheese.
 And last, but not least, crisped brussel sprouts in Bearnaise sauce. 
 The winner in my book, hands down, was the bone marrow with caviar. I wish I could describe how good this was. Just thinking about it now...several weeks later...makes me want to go back.
There was so much food we asked them to pack the potatoes and the brussel sprouts to go. They were very tasty for lunch the next day.
For dessert we had the Praline Creme Brulee and the seasonal tart. Those of you familiar with my blog know that I have to get the creme brulee if for no other reason than to determine if I'm still the boss of that, and I am. The look on my wife's face when she bit into the seasonal tart was amazing. It was a poached pear with a lot of herbs in the liquid. She was glowing.

My advice is to try this restaurant. Make reservations for the next available time slot! 
There are some haters out there who don't appreciate the whole "Celebrity Chef" thing, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that it is just hype and most of the haters are just jealous of the free publicity this guy gets. They have to pay for theirs. Unfair advantage? Maybe, but you can't knock his food.
At the end of the day I don't care where his publicity comes from, I care how his food tastes and what the service is like in his restaurant and I was very impressed with both.
If you go, please tell Brad and Spike you read about it on Pleasures of the Table. I just may see you there.
Thanks for reading.
Bearnaise on Urbanspoon

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