At the beginning of the summer I got together with my college friends in DC to celebrate my graduation and BFF Rachel's birthday. I got to pick the restaurant (I have such cooperative friends!) and I had one goal in mind: mussels. I was on the hunt for the best mussels in DC. After researching on Chowhound and getting the scoop from my DC peeps, we decided on Brasserie Beck, a Belgian brasserie on K Street with supposedly some of the best moules frites (mussels and fries) in the district.
Rachel and I arrived at the restaurant before the others so we had a chance to scope out the space, which was bright and airy - very tall ceilings and a cool bar, if I recall correctly (remember: I was there 3 months ago!). They have a ridiculously large selection of Belgian beers and the bartenders and waitstaff are all very knowledgeable about the beers and which beers go with which foods. I was very impressed!
The rest of our party arrived and we were seated in an area that was semi-closed off and was much quieter than the rest of the dining area - which I LOVED because everyone could hear each other! The rest of the dining area had the high ceilings I mentioned and therefore it was pretty loud and echo-y, so I was glad we were in the semi-separate room so we could all catch up more easily.
We started the evening off with - of course - champagne! What celebration is complete without a little bubbly?
Then we ordered a few starters, including a Napoleon of Vine Ripe Tomato with goat cheese and scallion balsamic dressing and a delicious crisp piece of bacon, and a dozen assorted oysters of all different shapes and sizes, with traditional accoutrements (lemon, cocktail sauce, mignonette sauce).
Napoleon of Tomato (mysteriously missing the bacon...someone must have snatched it!)
The Napoleon of Tomato was really good and I liked that they used goat cheese instead of the traditional fresh mozzarella - an interesting and yummy twist on a classic. The oysters were, of course, delicious and fresh. There were 3-4 different kinds so you could really compare and contrast the sizes and saltiness of each - awesome.
The most interesting starter was one of the specials of the day: a house-made duck sausage with dried fruit, served atop sauteed fennel (I think) with a delicious sauce - we ordered two of these for the table since almost everyone wanted to try it!
We also ordered some of their excellent frites as a starter, but our waiter forgot about them until after the first course, so to make up for it, he brought us two orders! He was so good to us :) The frites were served with a trio of mayonnaises: plain, curry, and chipotle. The fries were hot and crispy, freshly made, and so delicious. The mayonnaises were excellent as well and we could not stop eating them!
Then onto the mains: I, of course, wanted mussels. They had several preparations that day, and I chose the mussels cooked with chorizo and fennel. Others got mussels as well (a different preparation with roasted whole cherry tomatoes, basil, and rocket), and some of the others got fish dishes.
My mussels with chorizo and fennel
Everyone reported that their dishes were awesome, and I concurred! The mussels were so flavorful and very hearty with the braised fennel and spicy and fatty chorizo. The portion was HUGE and I could only eat about 1/3 of my little mussel friends - note to self: share next time! (My one criticism of the mussels was that they do a table-side, simultaneous "reveal" of the mussels where waiters remove the lid on the pan in which they are served. During this "show," some of the hot water from the lid burned my arm! Granted, I'm used to slight burns from all my cooking experiences, but it was still unpleasant and I would prefer that they just take the lid off in the kitchen...) Those of us who got the mussels got more frites with our meal, which we shared with the table - they were awesome, as discussed above.
After dinner, our waiter (who was sweet on Rachel) insisted that we get dessert and brought us his two favorite desserts, in addition to a taste of a delicious sweet Belgian beer.
Cheers to Rachel's birthday and my graduation!
The desserts were a Gateau of Chocolate and a Pear Tarte Tatin with creme fraiche ice cream - YUM. These were excellent and Rachel got a nice surprise candle to blow out! My favorite was definitely the tarte tatin - reminded me of when we made it ourselves (with apples) for Thanksgiving last year.
We had lots of Belgian beers along with our meal, and our waiter was very helpful in helping us pick appropriate ones. While I can't remember what I had (helpful, I know), I do recall them being really good and also that each beer came with a special glass - we were highly entertained by this.
I would most definitely go back to Brasserie Beck for more mussels, more beer, and more fries. I had an amazing time with my friends - we were so rowdy! - and I thank them so much for taking me out to celebrate! I can't wait to do it again soon.
Happy mussels and fries -
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