Bits and Pieces – Belgium

Chapter 6

 

La Belle Maraichere – Brussels: On the place Sainte-Catherine, you can find a charming restaurant that also happens to be on the Michelin Guide. Since 1974, it has been serving its delicious meals. We were dressed very casually and sheepishly stood at the door of this elegant eatery with its fine dining napkins, table cloths, and utensils. However, we were welcomed in and treated with the utmost respect. I adored the ambiance. At tables beside us, there were men and women that had lived long lives. They were dressed well and it seemed as though they just needed to come in, call the waiter by name, and say that they wanted the usual. They started us off with tiny shrimp that you had to peel with your fingers in a specific way; the waiter demonstrated it for us first. That was an interesting experience. Then came the dishes we had ordered; I really loved the lobster fricassee which was a specialty of theirs. I regret that I did not try any of their desserts.

 

Bistro Maurice – Bruges: After exploring Bruges, which is beautiful by the way, we stopped at Bistro Maurice for some dessert. The creme brulee and chocolate fondant were delicious. The service was good, and sitting outside was very pleasant.

 

Eccetera – Brussels: An authentic Italian restaurant with a chalkboard for a menu, Eccetera is a great place to eat at. Let me just say that I have been searching for an Italian place that would give me the same amazing tagliata dish that I had there, but none have even come close. Of course, it also did not hurt that they had one of my favorite desserts ever! The heavenly softness that is an Ile Flottante was the sweetest finish.

 

Au Vieux Saint Martin – Brussels: A favorite area of mine in Brussels is the Sablon; Au Vieux Saint Martin is located there. The fish and chips platter they prepare is very tasty, and to add Salted to Caramel, I then had a Belgian chocolate mousse that was delectable.

 

IMG_3141Noordzee Mer du Nord – Brussels: If you feel like eating fresh seafood while you are standing up, then this is the place for you. After the staff behind the kiosk counter prepares your order, you find a round high table to place your plate and drink on. It is a good thing that the convincing taste of your food makes you forget that you are still in a vertical position.

 

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L’Entree des Artistes – Brussels: Yes, on my hunt for the Ile Flottante, I ended up coming to this restaurant. I had spaghetti first, but just as a stepping stone to splash into the yellow sea surrounding my floating island. Alas, the swim was not worth it; the dessert was mediocre. I won’t be visiting this island again on my next vacation.

 

Gaudron – Brussels: I enjoyed my breakfast at Gaudron; the atmosphere was comfortable. However, I did not like the Hollandaise sauce on my eggs, so I ordered oeuf a la coque to eat instead of the Eggs Benedict. I would have liked to try something else on the menu in the future, yet it is a pity that now Gaudron has actually shut its doors.

 

Bistrot ‘t Zeezotje – Oostende: We were lucky it was a sunny day when we decided to visit the North Sea. After strolling around the beach, we decided to eat creatures captured from its depths. I had a shrimp dish which was flavorful, and washed it down with a chocolate-flavored milk produced in the Netherlands called Cecemel. This bistro had a comfortable ambiance as well, and I wouldn’t mind going back there on another occasion.

 

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Fritland – Brussels: When you go to Brussels, you have to taste Belgian fries, or probably just fries as the locals would call them. I have tasted them in the classic paper cone from three kiosks (other than in restaurants, of course), and Fritland does well in comparison to the others. However, having said that, the fries were usually on the thick side, and I am sorry to say I prefer my fries cut thinly (allumettes). I did enjoy eating this potato snack though, especially after dipping the individual constituents into the accompanying sauce of my choosing.

 

Manhattn’s – Brussels: Belgium has a lot of native food to offer, but sometimes you just want to sink your teeth deep into a Manhattn’s New York style burger. Their buns are filled with grass-fed Irish Angus beef that is thick enough to not be overpowered by the sauces and other ingredients surrounding it. On the whole, the burger is juicy and tasty, and the simple concept of a burger joint comes across as a success.

 

La Brace – Brussels: Pizza anyone? A hearty Italian restaurant, La Brace offers a wide selection of pizzas. They serve a decent pizza with a thin crust that would surely extinguish your craving for dough baked in a wood-fired oven and garnished with various toppings.

Le Pain Quotidien – Bruxelles

Le Pain Quotidien is one of those places where you like being in irrespective of the food taste. It is a homey eatery which is good for a casual brunch. There are many branches around the world but wherever you are, when you step into the cafe, you feel the same feeling of warmth. Le Pain Quotidien is a “bakery-restaurant” that originated in Brussels, so having brunch at one of the locations there makes it more special. I really liked the one in the Sablon area; it has an adjacent space that lets the sunlight in through a glass roof. A crucial idea that they have in their eateries is the common wooden table which obliges you to sit next to a stranger as you have your meal. However, you do also have regular tables if you need more privacy. I am a brunch kind of person, so I will enjoy my hot chocolate and eggs; especially the “oeuf a la coque” (boiled egg with a delectable runny yolk at its center). In general, the platters are hearty. Though not spectacular, the food still has me hooked and I will keep coming back for more.

Mamy Louise – Bruxelles

Sometimes when your legs are aching from shopping, you just want to sit down, eat, and discuss the events of the day. This was such a case. After shopping around on the famous Avenue Louise in Brussels, we found Mamy Louise awaiting in an alley off the main street. I loved the wooden interior; it was comforting. The service was good and the dishes were presented in an elegant fashion. I enjoyed the appetizers, yet I disliked the pasta dish I had ordered. The lack of flavor in my main dish did not encourage me to try a dessert. Having said that, if I found myself strolling on the Avenue Louise again, I would still consider Mamy Louise as an option to eat at. Maybe if I try something else as my main dish, I would then leave with a sweet taste in my mouth.

L’air du Temps – Liernu

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Another tasteful experience in Belgium; L’air du Temps is a two Michelin-starred restaurant with dishes prepared by chef Sang-Hoon Degeimbre and his team. He describes himself as “a Korean born, a Belgian man and a citizen of the world”; I believe this description extends into his culinary creations. You can see the Korean influence as well as the Belgian one throughout his cuisine.

Situated in an area far from the hustle and bustle of the city, in a peaceful area with gardens, L’air du Temps truthfully makes you feel as if you have stepped into a different world. It was a nice touch to present a card with our choice of set menu highlighted on the page before the food arrived. Garnished with colorful pristine flowers, the dishes are inviting. I love the element of surprise when you have ordered a set menu; it makes a person long to see what will come next. This was the case here, I would be eager to see how art and food come together in the plate to follow. In some instances, things would even seemingly appear to be something that they aren’t because they would be presented in a different texture or form than we are used to seeing.

To describe the service, one can only say that it was truly impeccable. The staff was knowledgeable and alert; explaining the constituents of our meal as well as that of the wines or waters being paired with them. Yes, I did say waters in the plural form. Something I really enjoyed and found interesting was that you could choose to pair different naturally flavored waters with what you were eating; they came in various colors that also brightened the table. As it turns out, the minimalism of the decor had been misleading; it had just been the platform from which these intriguing complex inventions could be showcased.