B Too, 14UP

I had driven nearly 1,500 miles in the past week, and had just rolled in from Morgantown, dropping off my two teenage companions in Fairfax. I was exhausted, my back was hurting, and I needed to tinkle. It was nearly 4 PM – should I go home and shower, then plop down into bed?

Nah, I drove straight downtown to B Too for happy hour.

I pulled up a bar stool as they were setting up for dinner service, then sucked down a Belgian Mule ($7 at happy hour).

After I began to unwind, I began thinking about dinner since I hadn’t eaten a thing all day. I switched my drink to the house Sauvignon Blanc ($5 at happy hour), a 2012 from the French négociant Nicolas, and ordered food from the regular menu, starting with a Wilde Champignon Wafel ($13.50), a wild-mushroom waffle with porcini, enoki, and oyster mushrooms. As soon as my waffle hit the bar, I knew I had a winner – it was absolutely beautiful, both the ingredients and the presentation, and with the sauce, tasted every bit as good as it looked. A sensational vegetarian dish, this was a full level up from what you’d expect at B Too, and is more akin to something you might find in a Michelin starred restaurant. I urge everyone who hasn’t tried this to get it. Even if you don’t think you’re in the mood for mushrooms, just trust me and order this. When my bartender took the order for my next course, I said, “I think I’ll just have about five of these.”

I switched over to the house Merlot ($5 at happy hour), a 2011, also from Nicolas, and ordered two small plates: Gebraiseerd Varkenbuikje ($12), fried pork belly with Belgian pickles, braised leeks, broccoli purée, and tiny pickled onions; and Patat In De Pel Met Zure Room ($8), the most dramatic name for a baked potato I’ve ever heard, roasted in B Too’s “Josper oven” (which uses a mixture of charcoal and electric heat), crème fraîche, chives, bacon, and crispy onion. Both dishes came out within five minutes of the order which means everything was pre-cooked (you can hide this with the pork belly, but not with the baked potato which had turned brown). The pork belly was chicken-fried, and came out in a large, rectangular wedge. A very heavy dish, somewhat short on salt, it’s best attacked cut up into tiny bites and nibbled in concert with its vinegary accompaniments. The potato was a sloppy, guilty pleasure, loaded up with gooey toppings – I don’t want to think of how many calories were in this, but I did come very close to finishing it, even as I left a few bites of pork belly on my plate.

So, a tremendously good first course, followed by a merely decent second course. I’d say the meal averaged out as “very good,” but the waffle was so extraordinary that it, alone, was worth the drive of doom from Fairfax.

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