UPDATE: Brussels Report
I wanted to provide an update and report from my last week in Brussels. It is a tale of the "Good, the Bad, and the Ugly."
I will go somewhat out of order.
Aux Armes - What can I say here positive? Nothing. Do not go here it is a ridiculously overpriced tourist trap (it is a nice resto on the inside - classic). My raw mussels were fishy, I refused to finish them. The green salad with my sole was overdressed and mediocre. My 7 year old can dress a salad better. Finally, the sole meuniere, which I was very much looking forward to, was lacking. It didn't have the buttery, light, velvety experience I was looking for and even had an outer fried layer that I didn't expect. Also, I was utterly disappointed when the waiter didn't filet it for me - a bad sign. Is it too much to expect for a piece of fish that is over 30 euro? No dessert. Couldn't get out of there fast enough.
Marriot Grand Place room service - OK, first night long trip, should've went out but I was spent. Terrible sandwich and mushroom soup. Word to the wise, skip this hotel's food altogether. There are enough places in the surrounding area to get by. Overall, the Marriot was a very nice place to stay for a week long business trip. No other hotel complaints.
Some Belgian restos not taking credit cards. For a business traveller from the US, this is a loser as the exchange rate is a killer.
Publico - this is a great find about 25 meters from the Marriot down a smaller side street. Nice laid back bistro with excellent food. My cod "bolinos" were superb with a nice salad (not overly dressed!) and a very light lemony aioli. The taggliatelle with tiger prawns, spinach, red peppers, in a red thai curry sauce was a perfect dish to combat the cold rainy night. Great comfort food. Pretty good service. Nice Hoegarden and a westfalle went along with the meal well.
Sushi Shop - This is a strange spot but somehow works. Kind of modern take on sushi with no real sushi bar. The idea of "set" menu or selection is not new, but that is the whole show here. I had a #14 with a lot of salmon and it was really good. Nice miso soup, good service - a winner in an odd way. Not too pricy for sushi either.
LOLA - Hands down the best meal I've had in Brussels. The whole ambiance lends itself well to a good experience. I went there with a group from work and we had a great meal, smiles and thumbs up all around. The scallop ceviche was outrageously good. Thinly sliced and laid out across a plate like a slivery box and then covered in a perfect olive oil lemon sauce with some micro greens. So good. I had the rack of lamb and it was perfectly cooked. Although, I must note that most red meat I've had here in Brussels is under seasoned for my taste. I do like spicy foods and liberally season my meats before cooking, so it is a preference, but it does diminish the meat a little. The fagiole with a light garlic cream sauce and potatos dauphinois were exceptionally good. I love coming to Europe for potatos like that. I finished with a really nice sliced mango dessert with a passion fruit coulis and almond ice cream. This was a nice lighter way to end the meal and hit the spot after a somewhat heavy second course. The other scallop dishes looked amazing and were the big hit of the group.
Beer Mania - Beer shop with over 400 different Belgian brews! A great little side trip that was worth every euro. I picked up a Westvlteren six pack with all three styles for me and my brother to share back in the states. Very rare and almost impossible to get there - so a true score. The shop was great and owner very outgoing. The house brew Mea Culpa was an excellent blond and really good. Wish I could have take home some of that plus a whole lot more! maybe next time.
And, the rest:
I ate at Le Chat Noir, it was a nice spot and super close to the hotel and open late, which fit the bill. Not too pricy and the proprietor was very nice to me. The food was ok, not bad, not great. I had a steak and it was nicely cooked, under seasoned, with ok fries and salad. The onion soup for my starter was, again, just ok, nothing to write home about- which is why I almost left it out.
I will be back again this year to try some more restos. Thanks to everyone for the recs. Time to get back home and fire up some pork tenderloin tacos.
Thanks for the ousider opinions....good honest and in some ways well and maybe over due.
Aux Armes isn't what it used to be and there are far better. Let "us" know next time you're back and I'd bet "we'll" be sure to provide more current updates. Are you willing and able to travel to more outlying areas or willing to "stray a bit from the Grand Place environs? Much better can be found not too far away but you do have to get out of the touristy areas to be sure....unless it's beer you want in which case the opposite generally applies from a simple standpoint.
Credit cards....yeah that's a bummer isn't it? *Yes, it is! Check with your banks in the US to see if they can issue cards with the chip in them. If so...much better that's the rage for cards here from the point of view of those places that do take them. Most of the "local" places we frequent out towards the east and somewhat south, will take cards of either kind (chip(less)) but not all will.
Cash is and always will be King.
European Parliament area and around Grand Place - both full of mediocre restaurants, but all is not lost. Avoid anywhere that seems full of tourists or politicians or lobbyists (foreigners generally!) - what would they know about food?
Vaguely near EP, try Le Creche des Artistes (Italian), De la vigne a l'assiette (good wine list), Chez Marie off Place Flagey (one star, also good wine list) and a bit further afield Le Canne en Ville. These places are small and popular with locals - best to reserve.
If the weather is nice in May you might think of somewhere like Chalet de la Foret - about 15 minutes by taxi from EP area (Brussels is fairly compact).
On credit cards, some places have problems with US style chipless cards but a few others simply don't take cards at all.