« December 2010 Table of Contents
Networking: Robert Wiedmaier
Chef-owner, Mussel Bar by RW, Bethesda, Md.
By James Wright
December 01, 2010
"I’m sauce-driven, and to extract flavors from anything you have to have the carcass, the bones — the pieces that you couldn’t use — to caramelize and make the sauce. That goes for everything — all animals."
Seafood professionals who've attended the European Seafood
Exposition (ESE) would feel as if they've been transported back to
Belgium just by setting foot in Chef Robert Wiedmaier's newest
spot in Bethesda, Md. Mussel Bar has the "din of a Brussels
drinking hall," the chef proudly claims, and that's no
accident. The gastro-pub pays homage to Wiedmaier's Belgian
heritage and the hearty foods and beverages he grew up
Mussel Bar, which opened in June, is only one restaurant in
Wiedmaier's greater-District of Columbia empire.
establishments include Marcel's, Brasserie Beck, Brabo and The Tasting Room. All of them share one very simple philosophy: To
butcher whole animals and let nothing go to waste.
WRIGHT: How is Mussel Bar doing
after its first four months?
WEIDMAIER: We're selling mussels like you wouldn't believe here; 700
pounds a day. That's a lot of mussels.
Where are your mussels from?
They're from [Prince Edward Island], but I'm actually flying
out soon to Seattle to check out Penn Cove Shellfish. I try to
go to the source, whenever possible, to check them out and meet
the people and see what they're doing. It's important.
Why create a restaurant that pays tribute to the
One of the reasons is my father's Belgian and in Belgium we
eat a lot of mussels; they've always been a staple there. A lot
of restaurants here dabble in them, but no one's ever said,
"I'm going to open up a mussel restaurant."
I wanted it to be like La Poubelle in Brussels, which is a
real rock 'n roll place, a real dive but a lot of fun, with
loud music. I'd stay there until 2 in the morning, drinking
Belgian beers and eating frites. La Poubelle means "trash can"
in French, so we have little trash cans on the tables here to
throw your mussel shells in.
Is the food you serve at
Mussel Bar your personal
No, it's just another style I like to do. I've always wanted
a place that plays loud rock music with concrete floors.
Why is it so important to you to butcher whole fish and
I'm sauce-driven, and to extract flavors from anything you
have the carcass, the bones - the pieces that you
couldn't use - to caramelize and make the sauce. That goes for
everything - all animals. Wild salmon from Alaska, we fillet
it and make a sauce with the bones. I'm an extractor. It pays
respect to that animal. If you kill something
you should use
Does hunting influence your cooking?
As a chef, for me to hunt and kill an animal, because I use
only whole animals for my restaurants, for me it's like a
ritual. If I pull a trigger on a deer, I'm going to pay respect
to that animal. I'm going to utilize all of it. ( Editor's Note: Wiedmaier's restaurants do not serve any animals he hunts
Your menu lists eight preparations
for mussels (nine
including a soup). How many dishes do you think you could make
There's so many. The thing about mussels is they go with all
types of flavors. We have a dish, mussels with veal bolognaise
over pasta with fried capers - it sells like crazy at Brasserie
Beck. It looks disgusting but when you eat it it's, "Oh my god
is it delicious!"
What goes better
with mussels, frites or beer?
Gotta have both, man. It's like