The Butcher's Block

$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

Even if Robert Wiedmaier hadn't subtitled his new butcher shop "a market by RW," it would be blatantly obvious that he is behind it. The chef-owner of Marcel's and Brasserie Beck and now Brabo (by Robert Wiedmaier, of course) has always had a taste for the decadent. In his world, there can never be enough truffles, duck confit and foie gras.

And that's what you'll find at the meat market and takeout shop at the Lorien Hotel & Spa in Alexandria. Behind the counter are glistening cuts of lamb tenderloin ($19.25 per pound), pork belly ($5.50 per pound), several kinds of sausage (the duck is house-made) and thick veal burgers ready for the grill ($5.50 per pound). In the cases are triple-creme European cheeses, charcuterie and tubs of house-rendered duck fat and bordelaise sauce. On the pantry shelves in the front of the shop are spices, a variety of gourmet salts, preserves and cans of truffle juice.

Almost any combination of these can turn into a delicious, if not always healthful, dinner at home. For lunch (or for those totally unwilling to cook), the Butcher's Block also offers made-to-order sandwiches ($8) that are among the best in the area. That is thanks in no small part to the crusty baguettes, which arrive parbaked from a bakery in New Jersey and are finished in the oven in batches, three times a day.

Our favorite was the roast beef, thinly sliced and paired with tangy, buttery Chimay cheese, arugula and horseradish mayonnaise. The mortadella is ingeniously matched with a sharp Gruyere, cornichons and stone-ground mustard. The paper-thin roast turkey is topped with avocado, red onion marmalade and Dijon mayo. Even the seemingly simple sandwiches get a boost: Goat cheese comes with roasted peppers, arugula and onions caramelized in bacon fat.

As one taster summed it up: Really good ingredients make a really good sandwich.

There is dessert; would Wiedmaier leave you hanging? Try the chocolate torte ($3), a kind of petit-four-meets-opera cake that is a creamy little something to finish a meal. And sister restaurant Brabo's pastry chef sells candied hazelnuts dipped in chocolate ($7.25 per quarter pound).

Over the top? Maybe. But Wiedmaier wouldn't do it any other way.

-- Jane Black (Good to Go, May 13, 2009)