Only having one night to stay in the Alexandria area, my husband and I opted for dinner at Brabo Tasting Room, and are glad we did. It offers the perfect combination of excellent, fresh food, great portions, moderate prices and a casual, clean and contemporary decor.
THE SERVICE: Since the restaurant does not take reservations, we were seated at the bar for our meal. The bartender was very pleasant and attentive, filling glasses at the appropriate time, without being intrusive. We would have preferred a table, but there were none left at 6:30 pm on a Monday night. Apparently, this place has been discovered! Courses were timed well, with adequate time in-between for conversation.
THE FOOD: My husband and I ordered 3 plates to share, which was probably one too many. Portion sizes are pretty good, so I would advise on 1 per customer. We started with the Charcuterie Platter, which was a seemingly bottomless plate of cold meats, olives and something new for us -- caperberries (which were yummy). Then, we shared mussels (classic preparation), which were among the best we've ever had. They were delicious, with no grit or sand, and a perfect sauce for dipping bread in. They are the restaurant's specialty (and with good reason). We also had the mushroom tart, which is really, let's call it correctly -- a pizza. Pancetta was a little smoky in flavor, which was not our favorite, but not bad either. Definitely did not need to eat the "tart" - by that time we were already too stuffed to appreciate.
THE ATMOSPHERE: Very lively and hip little place, with all white decor and Edison lamps. Pretty small, maybe 12 tables plus seating at the bar and a "communal" table in the middle, so maybe get there early if you want one of those. Seems to attract a hip, young crowd.
THE VALUE: At around $80 for dinner, this was more than decently priced for the amount and quality of the food we enjoyed. We have definitely paid more for meals that were not nearly as good.
All in all, this is a great, unpretentious spot in the area. Plentiful and fresh food in a casual atmosphere. With food this delicious and seemingly affordable, why bother eating next door at the "fine dining" establishment?? Go for the mussels - you'll be glad you did!