I thought the novelty of Brasserie V (pronounced “V,” not five) on Monroe Street would be lost on me because they’re known for their beer selection, specifically Belgian beer. But when I went there for lunch with a friend before the holidays I was pleasantly surprised by the menu options. The restaurant specializes in mussels, french fries, steak and duck. A couple years ago I was very reluctant to try mussels at a Restaurant Week dinner I was at, but ever since jumping in with both feet I usually get mussels when I see them on the menu. Their menu also has sandwiches, burgers, salads and pub-style appetizers.
My friend got the Moules et Frites (mussels and french fries). The mussels came out in a huge crock covered in steaming garlic and wine sauce. Mussels aren’t really special unless the sauce they are cooked in is special. This light, garlicky broth was good but nothing I haven’t had before. The frites were super good. They were crispy, fried to perfection and were perfectly salted. I have a weak spot for french fries and probably always will, so they were my favorite part of the meal. The aioli was a good combination of creaminess and garlic flavor. All in all, the Moules et Frites were good and for $11 at lunch, not a bad deal either.
I’m glad my friend got the Moules et Frites for two reasons – one: because I really wanted to try them, and two: because I had my eye on something else. I’ve lived in Madison for a little over six years now and definitely consider myself a Madisonian, so the list of ingredients on the roast beef sandwich got my attention. The sandwich is made with Stalzy’s roast beef (I’ve given them rave reviews multiple times), house-made giardiniera (I love spicy, pickled peppers and veggies!) and dill sour cream on STELLA’S SPICY CHEESE BREAD. I mean, come on! Any sandwich would be 100% better on spicy cheese bread! Without all of those amazing ingredients the sandwich probably wouldn’t have been as good. The roast beef was perfectly seasoned and lean. The giardiniera had good pickle, but could have been spicier and there could have been more of it on the sandwich. Same thing with the dill sauce – it was good but there could have been more of it. And then there’s the Stella’s spicy cheese bread. That’s definitely what takes this sandwich over the top! Any other bread just wouldn’t do. With the amazing ingredients this sandwich could be my favorite in Madison – they just need to put more giardiniera and dill sauce on it, otherwise it is a bit dry. The price for the sandwich ($12) was a little high considering all of the ingredients on my sandwich came from Madison and the $11 mussels had to be flown here. The couscous salad I got as a side (probably should have gotten the pub chips or salad) was forgettable.
I can’t speak for the beer selection because I don’t drink beer, but the atmosphere of the place was nice. There are two rooms. The first one is a smaller room with a small bar, about a dozen tables and is cozier. The second one (a recent addition according to the owner) is bigger, with a large bar, more space for mingling and additional tables.
FOODNOTES: If you’r craving mussels and wonderfully prepared french fries, Brasserie V would be a good choice. It’s in a good location (usually easier to get to than downtown restaurants that offer moules et frites). The roast beef sandwich could be a crave-able sandwich with two small tweaks – but the Madison ingredients really make the sandwich special. Whoever thought about putting a generic roast beef sandwich on Stella’s Spicy Cheese Bread deserves an award! The prices are a bit high, especially the lunch prices. I got a gift card for Brasserie V from my Secret Santa this year, so I will return – probably to try their steak and frites this time.