It’s your worst brunch nightmare. You’re enjoying a lovely Sunday mid-morning tête-à-tête in a fabulous restaurant. The ambiance is great; your hangover is just starting to subside. And then … someone starts jackhammering into the sidewalk outside the window where you’re sitting.
This was the scene a few Sundays ago at Brasserie Beck. We were just getting into the brunch—the service swift, the seafood fresh, the mimosas flowing. And then that jackhammer came boring into my skull.
It’s not the restaurant’s fault. Clearly, someone had instructed the construction workers not to jackhammer during business hours on that busy downtown block. And Sunday brunchtime, downtown does seem rather empty.
The apologetic servers and managers were stressing much more than we were. But still, it sadly spoiled the experience. Our seats were literally vibrating. The plates rattling. We had to raise our voices to hear one another.
Poor Brasserie Beck. I had been there for dinner before, and it was lovely. Its high ceilings, open kitchen, blue tile, and antique clocks make it feel like a bistro just outside a European train station. And the impressive Belgian beer list and raw bar matches that atmosphere. But, perhaps the construction was clouding my thoughts, because, sadly, brunch didn’t live up to that fabulous dinner.
First of all, the brunch menu is tiny: only four dishes to choose from, along with just a few sides and cocktails. If you want anything other than eggs or waffles, you have to venture to the much-larger lunch menu, which some of our Bitches reluctantly did that day.
Cori Sue had the classic moules frites (read: mussels and fries) in a white wine, garlic, and parsley sauce. The enormous serving of mussels came served in the traditional way—in an enormous pot that is dramatically opened to steam and scent. The mussels were delicious and correctly cooked, as they should be. I suppose you should expect nothing less from Robert Wiedmaier, the German chef whose specialty is “classic, whole animal butchery.” Huh?
Expectations were also high for the frites, being that it’s a specialty of most Belgian spots. These frites, however, were small, room temperature, and not as tasty as some we’ve sampled from others around town. They come with three types of mayonnaise: plain, green curry, and something else that clearly wasn’t impressive enough for me to remember what it was.
The eggs Benny, however, was by far the most interesting—and perhaps tasty—Benny I’ve had in our Brunching endeavors. The perfectly poached eggs were balanced on two crossed strips of crispy Serrano ham. That was all set upon a tasty biscuit, which was quite a nice touch. The secret ingredient here wasn’t the Hollandaise sauce (though that was mighty delicious itself), it was the goat cheese. Served on a blue plate to set it apart, and with a bit of greens on the side, the entire dish was delightfully tasty and well presented. The best I’ve had in a while, and the redeeming piece of this entire brunch.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the French toast came as three triangular slices in syrup with a sprinkle of powdered sugar – hardly a meal. When the dish was set in front of him, the beau quite rightly questioned: Where is the fourth slice? Do they throw it out? Three slices just doesn’t make sense. It wasn’t extraordinarily tasty either. And the tiny dish left him hungry.
The apple crepe, which was the brunch special that day, looked equally plain. However, when you broke it open, diced apples in rich sauce spilled out. It was an unexpected surprise, all that flavor. One of our Bitches strayed off the brunch menu and went for a croque monsieur, which looked delightfully greasy and filling, especially since it was served with more frites.
The drinks are pricey. But they do offer peach or strawberry bellinis, and something they call a crevecour, which is chamomile citrus berry aperitea with champagne, which sounds mighty tasty. The cappuccino was frothy, delicious, and big. And it came in a personal-size French press, with a sugar stirrer, which is a nice touch.
The Bitches say: B-. Small brunch menu, small portions; there’s better Belgian brunch to be found in the city. Only that fabulous eggs Benny brought it up from a C.
1101 K St. N.W.