In our family, the one having a birthday gets to pick where we gather to celebrate. This year Tom selected to have dinner at Brasserie, the bustling French bistro in the Central West End. Except for the higher ceilings and wider aisles, the place has all the trappings of a small, Parisian cafe. The vibe and menu are French from the pomme frites to the posters decorating the walls.
Speaking of the fries—or frites, as they’re called on the menu—they deserve more then a casual mention. The skinny, seriously delicious potatoes come in a paper cone along with a side cup of aioli—a nice departure from ketchup. The frites remind me of those I ate at Chez L’ami Louis in Paris a few years ago. Maybe they’re cooked in duck fat like the French do. I don’t know. All I know is that they’re addictive and ample, though not as mountainous as Louis serves.
Memories of Chez L’ami Louis in Paris
We started with a few orders of gourgeres, the delicate cheese puffs that literally fly off the plate. Or as they say of the little appetizer, “Once you pop, you can’t stop.” Come to think of it, they remind me a lot of the popovers I used to make.
When it came time for the entree, I was torn between the roast chicken and the fish. I settled on the Trout Grenobloise with cauliflower, capers, croutons, lemon and brown butter. The fish was crusty and cooked to perfection.
Next to me, my daughter easily devoured a bowl of mussels, which were superb, but like my fish, not photogenic under lighting designed for food service rather than picture taking. But only food bloggers think of such things. Down the table, my granddaughter was happily engaged with her onion soup, savoring the melted Gruyere that overflowed the edges of the bowl and clung to the spoon—as it should.
More on the Menu
Meanwhile, the background music was pleasant, temperate, and recognizable and the servers attentive—all features I look for in fine dining.
For dessert, I shared a plate of profiteroles, a sine qua non of any French menu. The light, puffy pastry was filled with ice cream and came with a small pitcher of chocolate syrup for added decadence.
While Brasserie is far larger than it’s French counterparts, it still maintains the quaintness of a street cafe as it serves up haute cuisine along side rustic fare. If you can’t get to Europe anytime soon, Brasserie is a good, local alternative.