Rappahannock Oyster Co. co-founder Travis Croxton has a new place to show off his Chesapeake Bay oysters and seafood of the mid-Atlantic. Brine opens today in Fairfax's Mosaic District with former Bourbon Steak chef John Critchley helming the kitchen.
Brine will highlight fish like croaker and perch that are readily available locally but not often found on menus because everyone is looking for salmon. Five choices of simply prepared fish come with a selection of sauces like preserved lemon aioli and wakame seaweed salsa verde. Meanwhile, invasive blue catfish is battered and fried for fish and chips with malt vinegar fries.
Some day in the future, Croxton would like to hire some hook-and-line fisherman, so the restaurant can provide its own fish as well as oysters. Brine, of course, serves the oyster farm's Rappannock, Stingray, and Olde Salt oysters ($2.50) as well as other east and west coast varieties ($3 each).
Fans of Rappahannock Oyster Bar at Union Market will find a variation of the popular "lambs & clams" dish with harissa plus a very similar crab cake. A wood rotisserie will turn out daily seafood and roast animal specials. Tonight the rotisserie will be used for rockfish heads. "The collars are the best part. The cheeks are the best part," Critchley says. "It will be kind of a conversation piece as a big fish head comes to your table."
One of the more unusual offerings is a plankton bucatini with clams, smoked pork jowl, preserved lime, brown butter, and chili threads. Critchley kneads green plankton powder, which is often found in health food stores, into the dough.
There are 20 local beers on tap and an eclectic, growing wine list. Bartender Jo-Jo Valenzuela, formerly of nearby Gypsy Soul, is behind the cocktails, including the What's Up Doc? with gin, carrot tonic, and dill as well as Nut Alert with rye, sweet vermouth, and peanut bitters. "I see him working on the range quite a bit making up his own ingredients," Croxton says. "Sometimes the cooks have to kick him out, which is kind of cool."
Everyone who stops in tonight will get a glass of Prosecco.
Take a look at the full menu below.