Special tomato-based dinner offerings include olive-crusted monkfish ($24), buttermilk Gianonne chicken ($23), and rouget a la plancha ($26). Rouget is the special Mediterranean fish used in the classic French bouillabaisse. Chef Alonzo prepares it with tomato consommé, picked ramps, and what he calls a “tomato floating island.” For this dish, Michael Boyer helped me pair it with a 2004 Perequita ($8 glass/ $28 bottle), a gorgeous dark-colored but surprisingly soft, fruity wine from Portugal, a new, trendy region for delicious and value-centric wine. This dish also went well with the Rose Tavel, Domaine Longval 2004 ($10 glass/$42 bottle).
In addition to the excellent service and cuisine, one reason Brasserie 8½ has so many regulars is because of the extensive, well-planned wine list. “Our clientele is well-traveled and quite knowledgeable about wine. I try to find new trends from around the world and bring variety and value,” says Mr. Boyer. Most of the many wines available by the glass range from $8 to $18, making this a great way to educate yourself with different styles of wine.
Tomatoes are also on Alonzo’s menu for dessert in the form of grilled tomato brioche with basil crème ($9), green tomato tarin with red and cherry tomato ice cream and cheddar wafers ($9 and incredibly delicious), and chilled sweet beefsteak tomato soup ($9 and my favorite).
Brasserie 8½ is fun any time of the year with its great menu and ultra-reasonable wine list, but “festivals” such as the current tomato menu encourage diners to stop by more often. Try the wines suggested by Mr. Boyer and see for yourself if wines such as Pinot Grigio, Gruner Veltliner, and the soft, fruity Perequita present the perfect pairing.