It was love at first sight. Alright, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. When I did see Spike Mendelsohn on Top Chef, however, I knew immediately “that’s my dude.” I love his cooking style and personality, so when I found out he was opening a restaurant in DC, I was extremely excited! Between Good Stuff Eatery and We, The Pizza, I have yet to be disappointed. And with Béarnaise opening this past weekend, I say it’s a must-visit if you want to make your belly happy, too.
It’s hard to truly explain the deliciousness in words, and I’m no food blogger with kitschy catchphrases and absurd descriptors. I’m a photographer, and in being a photographer, I like to let my photos do the work for me. However, I will say that as much as I find typical, classic French cuisine mediocre, the job chefs Spike and Brad did with their rendition of French cuisine was spot on, with a much-improved take on it than what I and the rest of DC have been subjected to.
The flagship dish – the steak and frittes – is pretty fabulous. I asked for medium and it was undercooked a little more on the side of medium-rare, but still had great flavor. Plus, their selection of accompanying sauces was varied and each one delectable; I got the Bordelaise and out of the group, I felt I was hands-down the winner in the sauce selection. Even greater was the frittes (which you BETTER NOT call “French fries” or I will hunt you down), which are in unlimited supply with your meal.
Made even better was the bone marrow! I’m such a fan of bone marrow ever since my culinary school days, and the option at Béarnaise did not disappoint! Lemony and peppery and fantastic! Maybe I’m biased… The appetizers were probably the weakest part of the menu, and even then, it wasn’t disappointing. Escargot was… escargot; it had great flavor, but in the end, you’re eating snails. So, there’s that. The vichyssoise was light and creamy, made especially delightful on a hot, summer day, and the French onion soup was French onion soup: simple and classically done. In my opinion, everybody does French onion soup, but not especially well; thankfully, Béarnaise does it right.
Perhaps it’s my sweet tooth talking, or they were just that good, but some of the greater dishes were the desserts. Hands-down my favorite was the triple chocolate mousse. Not obnoxiously sweet, very creamy, and just amazing. The hazelnut crème brûlée was a little undercooked instead of custardy, but still very tasty, and the profiteroles were simple, light, and effective. Unfortunately, we had been eating nearly all the dishes on the menu by the time desserts came out, so word to the wise: try to resist the unlimited frittes and save space for the desserts!
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Béarnaise – not because my hero, Spike, was one of the chefs, but because it was a very pleasant experience, coupled with amazing food and wine. With their first weekend completed, I say stop in and make your tummy happy!
Hopefully, the following sequence of photos will be even more encouragement! And thanks to my good friend and photography buddy, Alicia Griffin, for tipping me off to the media event that I got to crash and enjoy! Speaking of “enjoy”, enjoy the photos!
Until next time,