The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

Tag: Jose De Brito

Café Frank is Here! A look at the menu and interior of Jose De Brito’s new restaurant

“A dream come true” is no hyperbole. Fans of Jose De Brito’s food have literally dreamt that he might one day open his own restaurant. While they may disagree where he reached his greatest heights — Ciboulette, The Alley Light, or Fleurie — none would dispute that the James Beard semifinalist is at his best when free to create whatever he wants. Like at his own restaurant.

Café Frank opens March 15 in the former home to Splendora’s on the downtown mall. By day, it offers De Brito’s grab-and-go sandwiches, salads, pot pies, and pastries. At 4 pm, Apertif Hour includes De Brito’s small bites served a la carte with champagne, wine, or a cocktail. And at night, the dinner menu, at long last, belongs completely to De Brito. While he plans to change it often, the opening menu features dishes like beef carpaccio with oyster tartar and caper mayonnaise; house-made fettuccini with shrimp Bolognese and lobster tail; and Steak Diane with mushroom & bourbon sauce and scalloped potatoes.

Take-home meal specials change by night of the week. Currently, Thursday is Choucroute Alsacienne – braised pork, sausage, potatoes and Pinot Blanc sauerkraut. Friday is Cassoulet – pork, duck, and Tarbais beans, cooked in aromatics with a condiment of roasted tomato. And, Saturday is Blanquette de Veau – veal stew with rice pilaf and spring vegetables. Advance ordering required.

Cassoulet

The new restaurant reunites De Brito with serial restaurateur Wilson Richey, who, in addition to The Alley Light, has launched The Whiskey Jar, The Pie Chest, The Bebedero, Brasserie Saison, Kama, and Milkman’s Bar.

As is his habit, Richey has assembled an experienced team. Managing is Johnny Frankenberger (MAS, Quality Pie, Rapture, Station, etc.). Overseeing the bar is Mike Stewart (Milkman’s Bar, Kama, and Commonwealth). Bar menu here.  And the design belongs to Stephanie Williams, whose previous projects include Lampo, Prime 109, and Kama. The interior already had “good bones,” said Williams, so she just reconfigured colors and space and uncovered an existing brick wall and chimney for a feel that is modern and sleek, but cozy and warm.

Located at 317 E. Main Street, Café Frank is open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 am to 10 pm.

Takeout But Still Cooking Strong: Chef Jose de Brito Thrives in the Culture of Takeout

farcis

“Takeout but still cooking strong.”

That’s how Chef Jose de Brito punctuates his social media posts during the Culture of Takeout. The acclaimed chef who once helped The Alley Light become Charlottesville’s first James Beard semifinalist for the nation’s best new restaurant has not allowed the pandemic to plague his passion and creativity. Officially Pastry Chef at Fleurie, but filling various roles for the restaurant and its sister Petit Pois, de Brito has been busy. For one, he launched a “Bake Sale” of pastries like Tartes aux Fraises, Gateau de Voyage, Tarte Saint Louis, Gateau a la carotte, and Le Homard dans sa Tarte. He also prepares pop-up family-style meals to-go, like Duck a L’Orange – a whole Polyface Farm duck stuffed with Autumn Olive Farms pork, duck, walnuts, and figs, with candied orange sauce and pickled oranges. For Easter, our gratin of lamb shoulder and potato was the type of dish that is so delicious you feel sad when it’s gone. And, in the height of asparagus season, he created one of the most beautiful things I have ever eaten.

Yet, though de Brito’s dishes often look like works of art, his own view is that eye-appeal can be overrated. While de Brito’s fuse is longer than it once was, he still has little patience for chefs who elevate appearance or concept above taste. To de Brito, food — all food — should be yummy. The pleasure of one bite should make you eager for another.

It was de Brito’s fondness for yumminess, in part, that prompted me to ask him to cook  takeout for a guys’ night this week. Socially distanced, we gathered on a friends’ patio for drinks and dinner. Under the circumstances, yumminess was paramount. So, I asked de Brito to make whatever he wanted.

He chose Les Farcis de Provence — a summery Provencal dish of vegetables stuffed with ground meat and rice. As a child in France, de Brito admits, he disliked the dish. Intensely. Recently though, “I finally beat my fears and achieved a really tasty farcie,” says de Brito. First, he confits the vegetables in olive oil and coats their inside with a marmalade of tomato and shallots. Next he stuffs them with a mixture of ground beef, ground Autumn Olive Farms pork, herbs, and rice. Finally, he tops them with garlic breadcrumbs, and into the oven they go.

The result? Yumminess achieved.

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farcis

 

 

Jose de Brito Returns to Charlottesville

Fleurie sauce

Photo by Tom McGovern

Though the origin of Charlottesville’s nickname “The Hook” is uncertain, one theory is that the city’s allure hooks roving residents to return. Not even world class chefs, it seems, can resist its charms.

Jose de Brito has returned to Charlottesville. Again.

De Brito first left Charlottesville in 2016, after helping The Alley Light earn a James Beard semifinalist nod for Best New Restaurant in the country. After a year in Washington, Virginia at The Inn at Little Washington, he returned to Charlottesville in 2017 to head the kitchen at Fleurie. In 2018, it was back to Washington for a stint at Foster Harris House. And now, he is home again, in Charlottesville.

What brought de Brito back this time? Brian Helleberg, owner of Fleurie and Petit Pois, who contacted de Brito about rejoining the team after pastry chef Serge Torres’ departure earlier this year.

Given de Brito’s great respect for Helleberg, he of course listened. “I have known Brian for 18 years,” said de Brito. “We share the same love of cooking, and he can get as excited as I can in front of a plate of food – a rare quality in my eye.” De Brito especially credits Helleberg for his commitment to buying from local farmers “quietly and extensively . . . long before it was marketable.”

Officially, de Brito will be Pastry Chef for Fleurie and Petit Pois, but his impact will extend further, as we will be charged with helping both restaurants excel and improve. “Just like the first time Chef José returned to us, he’ll be re-joining a better team, restaurants and infrastructure than when he left,” says Helleberg. “As we add him as pastry chef and a catalyst of our culinary ecosystem, I’m looking forward to seeing him and the businesses thrive.”

Perhaps most exciting for de Brito’s fans is that he will be responsible for a new series of Sunday dinners at Fleurie, each with a different theme. Details to come.

Welcome back, Jose.

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