What do you say about a restaurant with over 180 whiskeys and a small, thoughtful menu build around their industrial-strength, wood-fired rotisserie? What if they have a very friendly, extremely knowledgeable staff that loves to talk about their food? What if the beverage manager will pour you a custom flight of Bourbons so you can sample several, without having four shots for lunch?
What if you drive past this joint every day on your way home from work?
That was me yesterday at Brine in the Mosaic district of Fairfax county.
I was roaming around Google Maps looking for somewhere new. I clicked on them because they’re close to home. When I visited their web site, I was intrigued. The whiskey list alone goes on from 14 screens.
I got there during the slow time long after the lunch rush and before Happy Hour. The place was basically empty except for a large table in the back. That was fortunate because it gave me a chance to talk with Timothy, the new beverage manager, and Tracy, a bartender. Tracy is also a classically trained chef. He offered many insights into Brine’s approach to food and their menu.
As I said above, the menu is small and very thoughtful. There are roughly 30 items, including appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and desserts. They have a couple of typical bar foods, like a burger (everyone has to have a burger) and smoked pork. But most of the items are on the funky and creative side. Like the Lamb and Cheese sandwich I got or the Lambs and Clams broth on the soup menu. Or the sea bream salad, a “simple fish” menu and English Pea Crostini.
While I didn’t get to try anything from the rotisserie yesterday, just looking at the thing makes me want to go back.
The dinner menu includes daily fish and meat specials from the rotisserie. They warn you that it takes up to 30 minutes to prepare one of those dishes.
That’s probably what the 180 whiskeys are for.
Speaking of the whiskeys, Timothy says the old beverage manager may have gone a bit “overboard” on the selection. He’s trying to trim it down to a “respectable” 100. I tend to agree with him. They carry both the Catocin Creek 40% and 46% bottles. I have a hard time imagining some one tasting whiskeys saying, “The 40% was good. Now I’ll try the 46% instead of one of the other 180 varieties.”
Timothy and I debated whether a corn whiskey can be called a Bourbon if it doesn’t at least pass through Kentucky. He said yes. I say no. He also told me about some new flights he’s curating. He said was going home that evening to work on those.
The space is large and open, with lots of hard surfaces. I worried that it might get loud in there a dinner. Tracy pointed out the sound baffles hanging from the ceiling. He claims it not bad during the week but admitted that Friday and Saturday night get raucous.
I might have to set aside a weekend night soon to find out.
Highly recommended if you’re in the area.