“I think that Georgetown is on a comeback,” says Hakan Ilhan, owner of Brasserie Liberté, set to open this Saturday, Nov. 16.
His “number-one goal is to engage with the Georgetown community,” he says, while keeping his new place the “hot” spot to be. At 3251 Prospect St. NW, it has neighbors like Cafe Milano and Peacock Cafe.
Adds Ilhan: “I think French restaurants are on a comeback. There is room for anybody to enjoy a dish.” At 275 total seating available, including 60 in the front and side patios, it looks like that is not a problem for the 6,000-square-foot newcomer.
The $4-million build-out at the former Morton’s Steakhouse space is ready for its close-up. The fine fabrics that color and soundproof Brasserie Liberté are part of the restaurant’s upscale look, which gives off an energetic vibe — lighting program included. Part of the inspiration for the place is the Ivy Soho Brasserie in London, Ilhan says.
Ilham, who has 18 eateries under his wing, including Mirabelle downtown and Al Dente on New Mexico Avenue, happily recalls the days of Bistro Francais and Jean Louis Palladin.
He is eager “to give Georgetown what it deserves,” he says. “We are here for 20 to 30 years. This is the perfect space.”
Brasserie Liberté’s general manager is Richard Kaufman, who worked at 1789. Its executive chef is Jaryd Hearn, who worked at Alinea in Chicago. Assistant general manager is Dina Martine; lead bartender is Zachary Faden.
Menu prices range from appetizers at $8.95 to $17.95; salads, $10.95 to $23.95; entrées, $13.95 to $34.95.
The following is how the restaurant describes itself:
“The menu at Brasserie Liberté is comprised of classic dishes that incorporate traditional cooking techniques that pay tribute to the true flavors of French cuisine. The dinner menu features a collection of appetizers, flatbreads, salads, chef frites as well as entrées from the land, sea and garden. Highlights from the dinner menu include French onion soup with gratinée beef mushroom broth and emanthaller cheese; Country Boudin with roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions and mustard cream; cured salmon rillette with crème fraiche and fine herbs; escargot a la Bourguignon with parsley butter, escargot and mushroom; tart flambés; tuna Niçoise salad, herb-crusted sushi grade tuna, egg, haricot verts, tomato, boquerones, potato and olives; crispy leg of duck confit with seasonal greens, duck-fat smashed potatoes and mustard cream sauce; chicken chasseur, braised chicken thigh, bacon lardons, pearl onion, button mushrooms and smashed potatoes; boeuf Bourguignon, red wine braised short rib with bacon lardons, pearl onions, button mushrooms and fingerling potatoes; scallop almandine with brown butter, green beans, fingerling potato and almonds; vegetable cassoulet with white beans, mirepoix, and wild mushrooms as well as steak frites, marinated hanger steak, served with a petit salad, house frites and a choice of classic Maître d’Hôtel butter or peppercorn sauce.
“Wines are front and center at Brasserie Liberté, vertically displayed as a backdrop in the private dining room. A climate-controlled, glass-enclosed wine wall showcases an extensive collection of French and American labels. The highly accessible list features great value wines from classic varieties and regions, as well as a nod to the ever-evolving dynamic of new winemakers and styles from around the world. An extensive collection of over 150 labels are available by the bottle and over 20 wines by the glass. Prices range from $28 to $2,000 by the bottle and from $8 to $23 by the glass.
“The cocktail program at Brasserie Liberté reflects the overarching narrative of the restaurant — using the best ingredients to offer quality products at a great value. Cocktails are priced from $11 to $13 each. The offerings pay respect to the classics, focusing on the world’s favorite and most endearing libations along with similarly styled sippers. While not exclusively French, the cocktail program offers a French accent spotlighting ingredients and traditional drinks from Paris to Dejon and the New Orleans French Quarter.
“Swatchroom, a design, art and fabrication firm based in Washington, D.C., is the design firm of record for Brasserie Liberté. Inspired by the unique confidence and influence that French culture has had internationally on design, fashion and art, the space boasts a palette of rich confident colors and globally inspired materials and fixtures. Guests enter through French style folding doors and pass under a series of curved archways where they are greeted by ten-foot-high ceilings and a bright white bar with slick hunter green accents. The bar is reminiscent of a French farmhouse kitchen and gathering space: energetic, bold and comfortable.
“The main dining room offers a warm palette of pumpkin, crimson and rich navy anchored by a creamy white fireplace invoking the shape of a Moroccan tagine. This room feels like the heart of the home with large curved booths upholstered in an array of masculine woven plaids. Here, cozy tables can be pushed together to accommodate large parties and lingering brunches … The spacious private dining room, complete with private entrance, is covered with navy walls and light blue floor tiling with a rose gold mirror. Blackout drapes create more privacy in the space. Here, guests have front-row seats of its dual glass wine cellars housing some 1,100 bottles.”