By: Melinda Contreras
With the July 5th opening of Bearnaise, Chef Spike Mendelsohn is one step closer to completing Operation Take Over Pennsylvania Ave.
Bearnaise, a steak-frites restaurant putting a modern spin on the steak-frites of Paris, is located just steps away from We, The Pizza and Good Stuff Eatery and is the first brother-sister venture for Chef Spike Mendelsohn and his sister Micheline Mendelsohn.
With Chef Brad Race as executive chef, the menu for Bearnaise is based around the Prix Fixe menu, which includes a first course of salad or soup, a second course of flat iron steak, rib-eye steak, or filet mignon, a choice of one of five sauces, and unlimited fries. Sides and desserts are also available for purchase. In addition, with the exception of a select reserve list, all wines at Bearnaise are priced the same ($10 a glass or $40 a bottle) in the hopes that more time will be spent discussing the different wines and less time will be spent eliminating options based on your budget alone.
Shortly before the official grand opening, we were invited to tour the restaurant and try some (or really about 70 percent) of the menu items.
Art for Bearnaise was hand-picked by Micheline Mendelsohn and her mother during their trip to Paris several months ago.
To start us off, plates of roasted portabella mushrooms, brussels with bacon and Bearnaise, escargot, roasted bone marrow with sea salt and parsley and gratin potatoes with bacon in a creamy sauce with Reblochon cheese were passed around the table. Though all the plates were delicious, my favorites were the escargot and bone marrow. The meats on each were so tender they just melted in your mouth.
Wine (and water served in nicely branded bottles), was available throughout the evening.
Based off the amount of food I had already sampled, I kept things light with my first course by ordering the Salad Maison, aka the house salad. I loved that the manager walked around with a pepper grinder shortly after the first courses were served and poured a very generous helping of pepper over my salad, as pepper is my favorite condiment.
The second course can be described in three parts.
First, the steak: I'm one of a handful of people that actually likes their meat fully cooked, so when the waiter asked how I wanted my flat iron steak cooked, I said "as well done as you can make it!" He laughed, but the steak actually came out fully cooked, just the way I like it.
Second, the fries: They were simply amazing. They have the perfect crisp and crunch, and are full of flavor, even before any sauce dipping. The prix fixe menu comes with an unlimited amount of fries.
Third, the sauce: Yes, I went to a restaurant called Bearnaise and didn't even order the Bearnaise sauce, but I was sold on the Au Poivre sauce after I heard the word pepper. For the record I tried a taste of the Bearnaise sauce and it was delicious, though I don't think I would order anything but the Au Poivre during any of my future visits. By the time I was done dipping my fries and chunks of my well-done steak in to the sauce, all that was left of the sauce was whole peppercorn.
Other guests ordered soups as their first courses, and their steaks rare, with actual Bearnaise sauce.
We were given three lovely doses of sugar for dessert. Profiteroles filled with French vanilla ice cream were served with warm homemade chocolate sauce for pouring to your content. I believe we may have poured our full supply of chocolate. I'm not a creme brulee expert, but the Praline Creme Brulee, a smooth and creamery Creme Anglaise finished with bruleed caramel and garnished with toasted hazelnuts, was delicious (we did seem to have at least one creme brulee expert at our table, who gave his stamp of approval). The mousse, made of dark, milk, and white chocolate, was also a hit.
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Bearnaise, located at 315 Pennsylvania Ave. SE in Washington, DC will be open six days a week: Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. For reservations, please call 202-450-4800 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.