Celebrate Bastille Day at Bastille!
By the Gastronomes
Bastille Day is the common name given in English-speaking countries to the National Day of France and celebrated on July 14 each year. The French National Day is the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, a major event of the French Revolution. In honor of Bastille Day we decided to revisit Bastille Restaurant in Alexandria for this month’s Dining Out article.
Bastille is located at 606 N. Fayette Street in north Old Town. Although there are no views of the Potomac River, there is ample free street parking to help relieve that hassle. The restaurant has a comfortable bar and a bar dining area as well as two more dining rooms. On nice days there is a beautiful patio in the courtyard for al fresco dining.
We picked a good evening to visit Bastille as they had just released their new summer menu. Unfortunately, that meant I couldn’t order their delicious beet salad but there are many new items to enjoy. I will just have to wait for fall to roll around for my beet fix.
We are particularly fond of the Prix Fixe menus offered here. There are currently three 3-course Prix Fixe Menus available. The Bistro menu is $45 while the Brasserie is $57. They have recently added Le Menu Budgetaire that offers three select courses with a $29 price tag with a glass of house wine available for an additional $5. All are excellent values. The choices are numerous as you can see from the photo of the menu. All of the items on the fixed price menus and several other choices are available ala carte.
For my dinner I ordered from the Brasserie menu. My first course was the French Onion Soup. The soup was served in a piping hot crock with a perfect amount of melted Gruyere cheese. The caramelized onion/roasted onion broth was delicious. For my main course I ordered the Loup de Mare. This translates into Seared Mediterranean Branzino Filet with Couscous “Tabbouleh”, Romesco sauce and Arugula. Branzino or Sea Bass is a popular fish in the Mediterranean region. It is also known as European Bass, White Salmon or Common Bass. This firm white fish was cooked with the skin on which made for a nice crunch with each bite. The fish was cooked just right and very flavorful. Even though it isn’t offered on the Brasserie menu, I finished my meal off with their Creme Brulee a la Vanille – a Madagascar vanilla bean custard with burnt sugar to top it off. As an aside, Crème Brulee is pretty much my “go to” dessert if it is on a menu and I am pretty picky. This version was perfect.
Ms. Gastronome, here. I opted to choose from the Bistro side of the menu since the seasonal risotto is offered as a main course. I started off with the Soupe du Jour which was gazpacho. It is a very creamy version of this popular summertime soup of which I am a big fan. I couldn’t identify what gives it the very pleasant “kick” but the flavors in this version melded together beautifully. The summertime risotto is amazing. The arborio rice is cooked to perfection with the addition of fresh roasted summer corn, oregano, fresh tomato esplette jus and served with a very tasty parmesan crisp. The roasted corn is the star in this dish. I ended my meal with the Basque Brownie that is offered on the Brasserie side of the menu. Guess you figured out that Mr. and I switched dessert options. I’m not really a big dessert fan but there is something about the desserts that Chef Michelle concocts that I can’t pass up. She is amazing to say the least. This brownie is a chocolate lover’s overload. It is so rich that two people could actually share it. It isn’t just any old brownie. It is a valrhona tainori spiced fudge brownie served with a mango compote, chocolate crunch and some mango ice cream. Nothing much more decadent than that!
As you would expect, Bastille has a very extensive list of wines from around the world concentrating on some of the best from France. We ordered a very nice Sancerre which is produced in the area of Sancerre in the eastern part of the Loire Valley. The wine is well regarded for and primarily associated with Sauvignon Blanc. The restaurant also has a nice spirits selection in the bar as well as both draft and bottled beers. The resident “Coq-tail” expert, Jacob Sunny, has put his mixology skills to good use producing a very nice selection of craft cocktails that change seasonally.
The decor in this restaurant is very light and airy and also very welcoming. One of the more charming things about Bastille is their open kitchen. It is located adjacent to the front dining room. Not only is the action in the kitchen interesting, it is also quite entertaining. Fun to see what goes on behind the scenes!
Bastille is also perfect for special events. They use the back dining room for these types of gatherings. I had my 75th birthday party there and it was a great success with the incredible food and attention to detail from their staff.
Speaking of the staff…the night we were dining they were hosting a wine dinner for 20 people, had a full dining room and bar and didn’t miss a beat. The Poteaux team headed up by Chef Chrisophe and Chef Michelle is a well-oiled machine.
Bastille Brasserie & Bar
606 N. Fayette Street