pc: isaac maiselman

Review: Brabo

After 8 years of filling bellies in Old Town, Brabo underwent some renovations in 2016. It reopened with a refreshed look that features a larger bar area, more natural light, and modern fixtures and furniture. It also now offers diners more ways to enjoy their meals.

Diners can pick between Brabo’s Brasserie, Tasting Room, and Dining Room. The brassiere offers an a-la-carte menu in a relaxed setting, perfect for a casual bite with friends or a happy hour with coworkers. The Tasting Room appeals to those looking for a more rustic feel as it is housed in a 150-year-old building adjacent to the Lorien Hotel. Or guests can dine in the Dining Room, which is where I found myself for the evening. The dining room provides a more intimate dining experience with white tablecloths, low lighting, and a sleek modern feel – the definition of true fine-dining.

Not only has Brabo undergone a physical transformation of their space, but the restaurant also brought on some new blood. Chef Sebastien Rondier joined Brabo in February and launched his first fully developed menu in April. Rondier is classically trained in French cuisine and spent time at DC’s Adour and Decanter at the St. Regis.

I tried some of Chef’s favorite dishes, many of which are available on Brabo’s current Spring menu, as well as Brabo’s enormous cocktail compendium, which features pages and pages of house specialty cocktails, as well as all the classics.

We started our meal with the marinated yellowfin tuna – it was light, fresh, and presented beautifully. The foie gras torchon served with a delectable ruby-red port reduction sauce topped with Korean chili had the perfect kick. I highly recommend both of these plates to start warming up your appetite.

Foie gras torchon. PC: Jennifer Hughes

Peas were found all over Brabo’s menu as May is pea season. Brabo prides itself on using fresh, seasonal ingredients. The Chilled Spring Pea Soup was one of the most innovative uses of peas. The soup is served with house-made ricotta (would lick this off the spoon if it were socially acceptable), baby spring vegetables, and Maine lobster (by request), so don’t worry vegetarian friends! I opted for the lobster and it melted in my mouth. The lobster, alongside the freshness of the peas, and the richness of the ricotta, made for the most Spring-y bite. Yes, that’s right, this soup literally tasted like Spring in a bowl and it was wonderful.

Chilled Spring Pea Soup. PC: Jennifer Hughes

The slow-roasted veal tenderloin is served with sweetbreads and potato gnocchi in a lemon cream and veal jus. It was perfectly tender. The gnocchi were a great, creamy compliment to the meat. The plate was a perfect portion for this rich and filling dish.

Slow-roasted veal tenderloin. PC: Jennifer Hughes

The poached and grilled octopus is served with hummus and a chermoulah sauce, a Moroccan herb sauce. Let me just say this, I love hummus, and easily eat it every.single.day, so when I say that this hummus was the perfect consistency to pair with the fresh and textured octopus, I mean it. I also really enjoyed the freshness of the chermoulah sauce and yet another inclusion of the seasonal and yummy peas.

The spiced and caramelized duck was nice and sweet. Thankfully, our wonderful waiter Cosmo (hands down one of the best servers I’ve had, so special shout out to Brabo’s hospitality), had paired this dish with a wonderful Malbec that had a peppery aftertaste, which cut nicely against the caramel flavors of the duck.

Poached & grilled octopus. PC: Jennifer Hughes

I would be remiss to not point out Brabo’s wonderful cocktail selections. In addition to a great wine list, the cocktails are truly awe-inspiring. I tried both the “one with vodka” and the “fields of fragaria.” The “one with vodka” was the perfect start to the meal, light and refreshing thanks to the hibiscus and lemon. The “fields of fragaria” is sweet and bubbly and better left for dessert. The “take it black” is by far one of the most interesting cocktail offerings I’ve seen. Using squid ink for it’s coloring, the cocktail looks like a black abyss, but tastes like cookies dipped in amaretto – another great pairing for dessert.

Featured cocktail list.
The one with vodka.
Fields of fragaria.

With the beginning of Summer upon us, I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening than heading over to Old Town for an incredible meal at Brabo followed by a lovely stroll down King Street.

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