I don’t remember when my other half started talking about his desire to try real Bananas Foster. Suffice it to say, it’s been a while. “When we go to New Orleans or Houston, we’ll go to Brennan’s,” I assured him. After all, the dish was invented at the New Orleans location in 1951. But those trips aren’t coming soon enough. Luckily, there are still bastions of tableside cookery in NoVA, most notably Cafe Renaissance in Vienna.
There, owner Saeed Abtahi presides over the dining room as if it were his home. After 27 years, the Degas-decorated, gilded space has essentially earned that designation. And part of the host with the most’s routine, besides telling customers how young and/or attractive they are, involves whipping up a Bananas Foster or Cherries Jubilee for two.
Because service is a one-man show, it can take a while for Abtahi to make the rounds from table to table before he takes the time to wheel out his gueridon. When he does, the dessert is mostly already prepared. The bananas are sliced and dusted with brown sugar and cinnamon. But he saves the real fireworks for the diners.
By which I mean, literal fire. Both from the old-fashioned rechaud and the flambéing fruit itself. He pours in liberal helpings of both banana liqueur and Myer’s Rum. He adds walnuts, and cooks down the booze until it’s reduced but still tastes like a loose weekend in the tropics.
Then he pours the combined ingredients over a pair of cups of French vanilla ice cream. The result is about as ugly-delicious as they come, a melting slurry of cold vanilla and hot banana and butter. And it doesn’t require a trip to Royal Street. // 163 Glyndon St. SE, Vienna
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