YIWEN HU/THE HOYA Brasserie Beck is the place to go for delicious mussels and impressive brunch. The chicken and waffles plays up the traditional Southern classic by substituting in crispy Belgian waffles and jalepeno maple syrup
YIWEN HU/THE HOYA
Brasserie Beck is the place to go for delicious mussels and impressive brunch. The chicken and waffles plays up the traditional Southern classic by substituting in crispy Belgian waffles and jalepeno maple syrup

★★★★★

When it comes to seafood, opinions can be divisive. For those enchanted by seafood, mussels can be especially irresistible.

Brasserie Beck is one such establishment in this category. The restaurant is one of many in Washington, D.C., that specializes in making mussels. The French brasserie was opened by Robert Wiedmaier, the owner of the much-acclaimed French restaurant Marcel’s. Marcel’s is named after Wiedmaier’s older son, and Brasserie Beck is named for his younger son.

Located in the heart of the McPherson Square neighborhood, Beck appears at once elegant, welcoming and tranquil. This is especially noticeable on a balmy weekend morning, when sunlight filters through the treeleaves, leaving specks of shade on the small wooden tables. Even as the spacious outdoor patio recreates the ambience of European coastal cities, Beck’s boasts an interior design no less riveting and appealing. Wiedmaier himself once commented that the brasserie has a “1950s to ’60s train-station feel.”

The brunch menu offers a wide array of dishes. The choices under starters include the rather classic French dish shallot and onion soup ($11) and the equally appealing roasted fall beet salad ($13), which is accompanied by almonds, golden raisins and a goat-cheese yogurt emulsion. Meanwhile, the chef’s loyalty to and pride in his own European roots is very much visible in the main-course offerings, such as beef carbonnade ($23) and veal schnitzel salad ($22).
It is the custom at Brasserie Beck for patrons to start their meal with the lauded mussels, either as a half portion to share as an appetizer or as a full portion to enjoy as an entree. The restaurant provides five flavor options, each very distinct.

The spicy red Thai curry broth ($16 for half portion, $24 for full), cooked with peanuts, basil and cilantro, is popular among diners with a penchant for the herbal and nutty taste. Other popular picks include Mediterranean ($16/24), which uses tomatoes and chorizo to add another layer of flavor, and wild mushroom ($16/26), which has a touch of bacon and truffle cream.

The most classic mussel dish, and undoubtedly most reputed, is the white wine version ($16/22). As the waiter opened the glass lid, the air was suffused with an aroma of the broth. Seasoned with roasted garlic, parsley and cream, the steaming deep skillet of mussels was so inviting that it was hard to resist diving right in. The actual taste of the broth proved as impeccable as its aroma: It was creamy yet light, smooth yet flavorful, and the white wine broth tasted garlicky and balanced. I highly recommend resisting the temptation to devour all the complementary bread and instead muster the will power to save a piece of bread or two to dip in the broth. The steamed mussels were flavorful but not at all fishy in taste, proving just how amazingly fresh they were.

Brunch specials consist of an inclusive list of both savory choices, such as Gruyere cheese omelet ($16) and short-rib hash ($23), and sweet plates, such as stuffed crepe ($14) and lemon-souffle pancake ($14).

One of the all-time favorites, however, is the familiar eggs Benedict ($22). However, Beck does not offer the most traditional version with Canadian bacon. Rather, its rendition substitutes the ham for a jumbolump crab cake, the English muffin fortoasted brioche, and the hollandaise sauce for a bearnaise sauce. The brioche was perfectly crispy. The generous amount of crab meat was guaranteed to satiate patrons who were passionate about the blight taste and soft texture. However, the bearnaise, although by no means bland, could have been more flavorful so as to complement the taste of the yolk and meld together all flavors of the dish.

Brasserie Beck serves chicken and waffles ($22), the signature dish of the South, with a Belgian twist. Unlike traditional waffles, these Belgian waffles had a crispy outer crust and chewy inner center, which created a very satisfying texture. Although the waffles were slightly sweet by themselves, they were further perfected by the pairing of jalapeno maple syrup, whose sweetness was harmonized by the savory jalapeno.

The most pleasant surprise of the dish, however, was the buttermilk fried chicken. Its juicy texture was addicting enough; even more magical, however, was its crunchy crust, which was also delightfully sweetened.

Brasserie Beck also offers a list of creative mimosa renditions. Nonetheless, the waiter might instead recommend trying the other house specialty: Belgian beer. The pricing at Beck is on the higher side, but with such great mussels and allegedly memorable beer, it would still be well worth a try for seafood aficionados and brunch lovers alike.

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