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Monday, May 20, 2013

First Look: B Too

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: 14th Street

The Setup

Somehow we're going to try and get to as many of the influx of 14th Street restaurants as possible (given that it's our neighborhood right now). Our first attempt starts with the new 14th Street offering from Top Chef contestant Chef Bart Vandaele, B Too with Official Friend of DCWD HR Intern.

The Vibe

In many ways, B Too is like a lighter, brighter version of Chef Bart's first restaurant Belga Cafe. The same color scheme composed of beiges and tans and browns, with dark wood tables surrounded by leather-upholstered casual plastic chairs. A large 16-seat chocolate brown-wood paneled bar takes up the front of the house, while an assortment of four-tops, two-tops, and rounds are in the back in an L-shape around the open kitchen. There are a few differences from Belga, like the large animal-skins on stretched frames on the walls, and a downstairs dining area. All in all, it's a charming scene, one that fits in well with the new and improved 14th Street, and one that is bustling and vibrant.

The Food

Let's just say that our trip to Belga Cafe wasn't exactly a home run. So we came into this meal with guarded optimism. And the meal began unevenly: Dressed Gingerly, a cocktail of trippel delirium, Bulleit bourbon, Domaine du Canton, and lemon juice portends a delicious honey-forward deep sip, but instead delivers an overly sweet mixed drink heavy on the Domaine.

Still, our first bite is quite possibly the highlight of the night: a blood sausage waffle to start the meal. Served with a smattering of caramelized apples and a mix of green apple sauce and vincotto cream, it was a little bit of a surprise that the blood sausage came on top of the waffle, as opposed to as part of the waffle. Still, there was a lot to love about the dish. The way the boudoin noir almost acted as a spread on the waffle was pleasant and brought forth some great flavors: meaty, nutty, deep. The fluffiness of the waffle was also self-evident, a brilliantly sweet but subtle bite.

Similarly, the brussels sprouts (as the menu indicated, a 100% Belgian dish) were a treat: a wonderful mix of the rich oiliness that only duck fat can provide. Brussels sprouts and rich, salty meat seems like a pretty ubiquitous European meal, but these were a little better than others. The confit chunks were rich as well, and this was a lovely side dish/starter.

Still, there are some missteps too, not all of them attributable to opening week jitters. A filet van hertenkalf - venison with fresh herbs, raspberry beer, and dark chocolate hints on some bits of couscous and parsnips, is one of those dishes that is perfectly fine but utterly forgettable, all of the sweet flavors listed not coming through nearly as strong. The couscous is probably the best part of the whole dish, which is also disappointingly small: only three quarter-sized chunks of filet are provided for our $26 plate, a theme that seems to run through all of the plates we see leaving the kitchen.

There are some deficits with our frog legs dish too. As most who've had frog legs know (or escargot, for that matter), frog legs are great in so far as they are properly sauced; without a heavy dose of butter or cream, legs are quite flavorless. Therein lies our dish: presented more like drumsticks, our legs can't soak up enough of the creamy tomato and garlic butter sauce to stay unbland. Even hints of the Ricard anise liqueur aren't enough to pick it all up.

The Verdict

On some levels, very much another Belga Cafe in our neighborhood. If you like waffles, that's great news. If not, prepare for some up and down dishes.

Food Rating: ** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Bar Rating:
Suits Scene
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)

B Too on Urbanspoon>

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