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Sep 29, 2009 10:21 AM

Brussels Report, including Bruges and Antwerp

My partner and I just spent 3 days in Brussels. We arrived on Saturday afternoon, too late for a serious lunch, so on our hosts’ recommendations, we went to Noord Zee for a snack. It is a fish market where you can chose a piece of fish and they will cook it for you and you eat at a stand-up counter on the sidewalk. We had grilled shrimp and grilled sole fillets which come with tartar sauce and a bit of frisee and tomato, and bread. With a glass each of white wine, we paid 19 euros. Delicious.

For dinner we went to Viva M’Boma, which specialized in organ meats. We had calf’s brains served cold with tartar sauce, poached lamb’s tongue with salad, pot au feu of beef cheek, oxtail and marrow, and braised veal cheeks in a brown sauce with pearl onions, mushrooms and potatoes. We skipped dessert as this does not appear to be a strong point. With a bottle of the house red wine, a Chilean merlot, the bill came to 85 euros. It was a very good value. The ambience is very lively and it attracts a fashionable clientele.

On Sunday we took a train trip to Bruge and had lunch at Den Dyver. This was exceptional, with a 3-course menu and an appropriate beer pairing for each dish. The price for the menu and beer pairings is 56 euros. After aperitifs of the house beer and canapés served in the beautiful garden, we had the following:

Crayfish en papillote with kohlrabi, grapefruit and vanilla
Game pate with fig marmalade and nut bread
Baked brill with tomato cream, potatoes with rosemary, green beans and fennel
Fillet of young wild boar with shallot sauce, mashed potato and cabbage mixture topped with mascarpone
Tiramisu with pear, topped with coffee granite (Best tiramisu we have ever had!)

Coffee and petit fours were served in the garden. The beer pairings were just wonderful. The restaurant is gorgeous, with high wood ceilings, and brick and wood walls.

Sunday dinner was at Bruneau, which is in a somewhat out-of-the-way part of Brussels. The menu de saison is a good deal at 55 euros, as this is a Michelin 2-star, and their other menus are in the stratosphere. No choices, just 3 courses based on the day’s market. After canapés and amuses, we were served crab sandwiched between 2 slices of artichoke heart and topped with salmon mousse, noisettes of veal with truffles, a potato croquette flavored with truffle, a spiced apple, and a sauce of veal reduction. For dessert we had baked sliced mango with mango ice cream, and a small crème brulee. It was a great meal, but beware, the aperitifs, kir au vin blanc, were 12 euros each, and the coffees and petit fours were 9 each. The ambience and service are top-notch, as one would expect in an establishment of this caliber.

Monday we took a train to Antwerp. After walking around checking menus at a number of eligible restaurants, we chose De Reddende Engel, largely based on the fact that partridge was on the menu. We had rabbit rillettes with foie gras emulsion and onion marmalade, hake with fennel and tomato in a broth, roasted partridge with a potato stuffed with a mushroom and bread crumb mixture, a bombe with armagnac and raisin filling, and orange ice cream with caramel sauce. All ice creams are home-made. The 4-course menu was 33.50 euros. Everything was delicious. The atmosphere is lovely and the chef, who is from Marseille and also specializes in boulliabaise, is very friendly and welcoming.

Back to Brussels, and dinner at L’Idiot du Village. Very charming, cozy atmosphere and unusual decorating touches. Again the food was more French than Belgian, but it was very good. We had red and yellow tomatoes with anchovies and arugula, a sort of pot-au-feu of oxtail, roast chicken with roesti potatoes, mixed vegetables and a green salad, strawberries with ice cream topped with caramelized grapefruit peel. The tomatoes and strawberries were delicious. The menu is all a la carte and we spent about 125 euros including wine and water.

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  1. rrems,
    Thank you so much for the report...I've been waiting for you to check in! I am happy to hear that you enjoyed Den Dyver...we are really looking forward to it.
    Some questions:
    Did you make reservations at Den Dyver?
    Out of your Brussels experiences, which would you recommend the most? Seems like Nord Zee is a must. And it sounds like my husband would LOVE Viva M’Boma...but as a former vegetarian I have yet to work my way up to organ there anything else on the menu?
    Thanks...sounds like you had a great trip. We leave in a few weeks and I can't wait.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sistereurope

      I reserved Den Dyver a couple of weeks in advance, but there were a few tables available when we were there. If you know when you are going it never hurts to be sure, and I think you always get a really nice welcome when you have reserved. I would say Viva M'Boma is a must, and there are dishes other than organ meats, such as sausage with stoemp, meatballs, steak, etc.

      1. re: rrems

        thanks, my husband is already planning his meal at Viva M'Boma (there's no way he'd pass up the chance to eat cow udder!). I hadn't heard of it so I am so happy that you reported back.
        We'll be in Brussels for a week (with side trips) so I will be sure to write about our experiences.

    2. rrems, I feel like somehow I'm always following you around the globe. I'll be posting soon looking for places in Brugge and Ghent. Great to read your post, it sounds as if you ate really well.

      We've been to Belgium a couple of times before and loved it, such a great country for eating. But this time around we'll have Lulu with us, which alters the equation somewhat.

      1. We are heading to Brussels this weekend and have booked La Clef de Champs for dinner Saturday night, but are looking for a great place for moules frites and beer for Friday night - any suggestions?
        Will definitely be checking out Noord Zee as well - sounds fantastic!

        1. Just got back from a weekend in Brussels and had some great food. Moules Frites at Chez Leon on Friday night - we were slightly concerned as it seemed to be a very touristy part of town near the Grand Place, but I recall seeing a recommendation elsewhere on the board so we gave it a go- and it was great. Sweet little mussels in a delicious broth and great fries. Saturday we were heading for Nord Zee for lunch but after a morning of walking around and a light drizzle of rain, the idea of standing up wasn't so appealing so we went to La Pre Sale around the corner - I had the steak americaine (house special) which was very good - a more delicate flavour than steak tartare I have had in London, and my boyfriend had fried cod - a huge piece cooked perfectly, flaky and moist on the inside with a lovely batter.
          Dinner we had booked at La Clef des Champs, in a charming little street in the Upper Town. Great value - 55 Euros for 3 courses and all wine included. The cooking was very classic - sweetbreads with morels was rich and delicious, and the crab ravioli with a curry sauce was a suberb dish. Service was lovely and the amuse bouche a lovely touch.
          Lunch on Sunday was slightly disappointing, but still good - I think we had just set the bar so high! Not many places were open so we ended up at La Marie Joseph in the St Katherine area and tried their moules frites. They were good, but the place was pretty expensive for what it is, and charging 5 Euro for an average espresso is pretty outrageous!
          Seems a great city for eating (and drinking beer!).

          1. rrems,
            Another big thank you for your report! It came in very handy for our trip. We loved Brussels, and we loved Viva M'Boma. My husband was able to have his fill of organ meats (I believe that his meal was very similar to yours), and I was quite happy with my very yummy vol-au-vent. We met some great people and ended up having a lively conversation with our neighbors. It was one of my favorite meals.

            We fell in love with Nord Zee and had lunch there 3 times over the course of the week. The food was super fresh, the ambiace was great, and the people working there couldn't have been nicer. GO! It is a bargain for the quality of the seafood. I think we had everything on the menu.

            We also went to Bleu de Toi. We had the autumn menu at 28 e, pheasant if I remember correctly. It's a nice space and the food was really good. We liked it.

            Of course, being Brussels I had to have moules frites, so I tested 2 places in Brussels (and one in Antwerp, for comparison purposes of course). I had the house version at Bij den Boer (tomatoes, onions, herbs), and the creamy garlic version at In 't Spinnekopke. the creamy garlic version at In 't Spinnekopke won, but the mussels were really fresh at both places. We went to t'Kelderke the night after In 't Spinnekopke, and I had the rabbit while my husband had the mussels. While both places were similar, the service at t'Kelderke was way better than at In 't Spinnekopke, and despite my yummy mussels, the food was a bit better too, so t'Kelderke won out.

            We tried to go to Nord Zee for lunch one more time before leaving (we were hooked!) , but they were closed. We were starving so we wandered around Place St. Catherine looking for somrthing good. We ended up at L’Huîtrière, right on the square. It was a good choice - 3 courses for 16e. We both had the fish special,s and it was definitely more than worth the price. We both felt that it was a bargain for the quality. Our last dinner in Brussels was at a small place around Ixelles...I can't remember the name, as it was unmemorable. Food was ok, service wasn't.

            We went to Bruges one day and had lunch at Den Dyver. I had the wine paring and my husband had the beer pairing, and the menu was similar to what rrems described, Really wonderful...and that tiramasu WAS among the best ever. Nice service, lovely restaurant, good food.

            Last but not least. we went to Antwerp. We ended up at Roodenhoed, mainly because we couldn't find another menu that called to us. We liked the space, and my husband's biche was very good, but I had my least favorite moules here...the only place I encountered grit!
            Still, the frites were fabulous and overall we liked it.

            I can't even remember all of the places were we stopped for a beer (!), but needless to say we enjoyed them. My favorite was the Mort Subite Kriek, and my husband discovered a liking for gueuze (We also went to Beersel for some of the real thing). And we stopped by Mardsous on our way back from the market at Liege...very neat experience, although crowded! Overall, I loved Brussels best and would go back if given the opportunity.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sistereurope

              Thanks for reporting back. I'm glad you had a great time. Brussels was such a pleasant surprise, and the convenience of taking a short train ride to Bruges and Antwerp made it very worthwhile. I didn't mention in my report the beers we had in Brussels. We fell in love with Leffe Brune and Belle-Vue Kriek. I found that neither is available retail in the US, but I ordered the Leffe from a belgian company on the web, and i will probably do the same with the Belle-Vue. Even with shipping the cost is comparable to buying good beer here.