Authentic Belgian flair and flavors: D.C.'s Brasserie Beck
Much of the nation's capital is a concrete jungle. When you live, work or are visiting there, it feels good to get a respite from all of that! Step into, well, a piece of Belgium at Brasserie Beck. Having been to so many restaurants all over Belgium, I can truly say that it feels like you're having a meal on the Grande Place in Brussels. I was happy to be hosted to experience it!
The ambiance and decor, as soon as you walk in, has the vintage feel of a turn of the century brasserie, with wrought iron, polished woods, simplicity. There's also an open kitchen that adds to the appetizing environment. "Brasserie style" is considered an affordable, casual style of restaurant that's open from lunch until late at night.
Belgium -- well, the principalities like Burgundy, etc., before there was a nation known as Belgium -- has been renowned for its beer since around 1100 AD! Brasserie Beck's sommelier is also a beer expert and I learned a great deal. Just when I was getting set to order a beer on tap, I was advised to take a look at the incredible bottled beer collection. I learned that beer on tap is "an American thing", whereas bottled beer continues to ferment in the bottle. This contributes to more and better carbonation. The last time I was in Belgium, I fell in deep like with a mixed red fruit beer that locals referred to as "ladies' beer". I described it to the sommelier and he hooked me up with Liefmans Fruitesse: a succulent combination of strawberry, cherry, raspberry, blueberry and elderberry.
Belgian-born Chef Owner Robert Wiedmaier has won awards all over the place. With all of the delicacies he creates, his many preparations of mussels have garnered him the most accolades. I ordered a classic style served in a big bowl, with white wine and cream. It lets the delicate seafood flavor shine!
The duo of foie gras appetizer (entree' in French) shows off a contrast of textures in the rich, herbed terrine and a silky, buttery parfait. Sliced pear adds the slightest hint of sweetness, to enhance the foie, not be cliche.
If you're lucky, you'll be there on a night when Dover Sole is on special. It's reputedly the Queen of England's favorite fish, no doubt for its mild buttery flavor and tender texture. The tableside presentation of the whole fish is reminiscent of the classic fine restaurants from days of old. Then, it's removed to the kitchen for deboning and garnishing with bunches of fresh herbs and tangy capers. Lovely!
Steak frites is another traditional dish done beautifully at Brasserie Beck. In Belgium, it's "thing to do" to have it with bearnaise sauce. Theirs is buttery, not goopy. So, try it! Many people forego bearnaise sauce, having bad experiences with too much thickness, too much tarragon. The frites themselves are delicious: crispy, with salt and parsley.
Though the bread pudding was highly recommended, I tried the sophisticated caramel chocolate mousse, properly served in "noisette" portion after richer meal. Creme Brulee is perfectly done and also refreshing with fresh fruits topping it.