WASHINGTONIAN

Georgetown Lands a Chic All-Day,

Late-Night French Brasserie

Mirabelle restaurateur Hakah Ilhan goes more casual with Brasserie Liberté.

 

WRITTEN BY ANNA SPIEGEL | PUBLISHED ON NOVEMBER 15, 2019

Photos by Evy Mages

Mirabelle is the kind of place where you can splurge on $50 white Alba truffle risotto. But for restaurateur Hakan Ilhan’s next project, Brasserie Liberté, he’s going in a different direction: “casual, not crazy expensive, lighter plates, heavier happy hour.” The chic all-day (and late-night) French restaurant opens in Georgetown on Saturday, November 16.

Déjà vu? You’re not wrong. Ilhan, whose hospitality group is behind an eclectic mix of restaurants (Al DenteOttoman Taverna), opened another moderately priced French brasserie, Bistro L’Hommage, in Mt. Vernon Triangle a few years ago. He shuttered the huge space in 2017, pointing to erratic neighborhood dining traffic as well as his traditional (heavy, meaty) bistro offerings. This time, the menu and dining room look very different.

A multimillion dollar redesign gives new life to the decades-old Morton’s steakhouse location. Swatchroom, which is also behind dramatic interiors of Poca Madre and Morris, designed the look of the 250-seat space. A 39-seat bar conjures a rustic-chic French farmhouse, while the dining room is flanked by a candlelit fireplace and deep booths. Two patios will come into play in the spring.

Though the vibe may be casual, Ilhan tapped some serious muscle for the kitchen: Jaryd Hearn. The chef’s resume includes two years at Chicago’s modernist haute cuisine temple, Alinea, as well as a longer executive tenure at Florida’s Polo Grill & Bar where he managed around 150 employees and churned out meals for a 200-seat dining room. He says both experiences are helpful for his new Georgetown post.

“Creativity is relative. At Alinea, it was about making something no one has seen before,” says Hearn. “At Liberté, it’s about making something everyone has seen before excellently.”

Ilhan says he’s angling for Georgetown’s neighborhood, tourist, and millennial crowds—all groups that are typically fond of flexibility. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes, all marked on the lengthy menus, join the traditional steak frites—including a meatless riff on cassoulet and mushroom bourguignon. You’ll find healthy roasted carrot grain bowls and not-so-healthy (but often more delicious) moules frites and double-stack brasserie burgers. Entrees average around $25. 

Though the space is open continuously—stretching service to 1 AM on weekdays and 2 AM on weekends—menus shift throughout the day. At lunch there are more salads and sandwiches (hello, French dip), while weekend brunch offers indulgences like pumpkin French toast and a smashed avocado Benedict. French aperitifs and wines flow at all hours, including weekday happy hour from 3 to 6 PM. 

Liberté—which nods to the French revolution, launched around the same time as Georgetown—isn’t the last project in the area for Ilhan. Lazy Kate’s Bistro, a casual Turkish and Mediterranean spot, is slated to open in the spring.

Brasserie Liberté.  3251 Prospect St., NW; 202-878-8404

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