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Feb 6, 2011 09:37 AM

Brussels Recommendations?

We're heading to Brussel's in a week for five days. Looking forward to trying the different Belgium Beers and would like recommendations for restaurants, brew pubs too. Thank you in advance! mary

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  1. Ah, well...there are absolutely loads of that. What are you hoping to find and or avoid in terms of experiences?

    1. Why not do a search on this board for Brussels? There is information already here, so after checking it out you could come back with more specific queations. Be sure to go back a few years in your search as things do not change that much and you will find more posts (including my own from 2009).

      16 Replies
      1. re: rrems

        That's incredibly helpful information... for many other cities I have lived in, information two years out of date is worthless.

        I am very fond of Les Brassins (Rue Keyenveld 36, in Ixelles). The steak is fantastic.

        1. re: rrems

          Hi rrems. Thanks for your many contributions. I read your older posts and many others and I am not clear on a few things. It seems as if frites and moules are two of the top foods that are uniquely wonderful in Brussels, but what else is on that list? Eel, steak tartare, ? Can you provide a list for us of foods and traditional preparations?

          Also, although I recognize that there are comments about many restaurants, it would be helpful to know which ones offer really good examples of each of these specialties. I have seen comments about good dishes, but I don't know if they represent the traditional local fare.

          I've been told to go to Maison Antoine's frite stand for amazing frites, but I don't know where to go for mussels or other items. Can you help me? Thanks.

          PS - I am in Brussels this week on Wednesday and Thursday.

          1. re: Buzzy2

            Hi Buzzy2, I hope you enjoy your visit. Please do report back afterwards.

            I'll let rrems provide a more authoritative answer, but in the meantime, here are some things I think are worth trying: steak & frites (get it "bleu"), filet americain (steak tartare), beer!!!, waterzooi (a chicken soup with chervil, leeks and cream), crevettes grises (typically in a mayo based salad served on sandwiches), waffles (get a gaufre de li├Ęge from a truck, imo. The gaufre de Bruxelles is good, but is essentially identical to the "Belgian waffles" you can get anywhere in the US.) Another classic is Carbonade Flamande, a slightly sweet beef stew. I'm not a big fan, but it is traditional. Finally, there is stoemp. This can refer to the dish or to the meal it is served as a part of. As a dish, it is mashed potatoes with an additional vegetable (eg. leeks, though sometimes other vegetables are served, like broccoli or carrots or sweet pepper). As a meal, it comes with bacon and/or sausage.

            I will again plug Les Brassins. I highly recommend the steak simple face. It's a steak that is coated on one side with a mustard-horseraddish-parsley sauce, and then cooked only on one side (and served very rare).

            1. re: SamL

              Thanks, SamL. I was wondering what stoemp was. If someone combines good mashed potatoes with good sausage I'll be in heaven.

              As for steak, I've been disappointed in steak here in Paris, perhaps because I tend do often buy the best quality well-marbled prime quality bone-in rib-eye in the US. Sometimes I get T-bone or porterhouse as well, but the steaks I have had here are not to my taste. However, the frites will be!

              I'll look for a gaufre de liege from a truck, waterzooi and mussels. Is Les Brassin a great place for mussels as well?

              1. re: SamL

                I'm staying in the Centrale area not far from the Gare, so I may try 'T Kelderke for Stoemp, Mussels, Frites and Waterzooi unless you highly object. LOL If I were looking for steak, I'd probably lean towards Les Brassins, but since Mussels and other traditional dishes are my focus (and not just mussels or I'd probably go elsewhere) the comments that I have read seem to suggest that this Kelderke is one of the best options. Comments are welcome...

                1. re: Buzzy2

                  I look forward to your review. I don't know the place.

                  Even though mussels are now primarily farmed and thus have no seasons, most restaurants seem to serve them seasonally. I hope that 'T Kelderke has them for you.

                  1. re: SamL

                    I went to Kelderke tonight. It is located right on the Grand Place with seating outside and in. I chose to sit outside and was rewarded by the surroundings and a beautiful sunset.

                    I tried numerous dishes by way of research.

                    I started with the Grilled Pig's Foot. It was totally different from what I expected. Instead of a grilled pig's foot I got a grilled (I guess) pig's foot covered with a thick coating of bread stuffing. It tasted fine, and I did enjoy it, but I was taken aback by the preparation. The meat, was cooked well - tender and flavorful, not dried out. Although I was missing the crispy skin I had hoped for, the taste and texture were right and I even enjoyed a little bit of the stuffing - errrr, coating.

                    I then tried Mussels Gratinee (Gratin de Moules.) Sorry, I know that I should have ordered another more traditional mussel dish, but I have this thing about melted cheese...It was very good. The cheese made a perfect cover for the mussels, thick and a little crusty on top and fully melted. The mussels themselves tasted like - cooked mussels. Not very different from mussels I've had before. I asked the waiter (who looks remarkably like the waiter whose picture is drawn on the menu) if the mussels were purchased out of the shell for that dish and he said that they were not. Of course he said that they were cooked in the casserole after being removed from the shells in the kitchen, which I find hard to believe, but that's what he said. Overall, if you like lots of melted cheese, you'll like this dish.

                    I did WATCH a lot of people eating other mussel dishes and THEY seemed to like them......

                    Next I tried the Shrmp Croquette (and a Cheese Croquette that they called Cheese Fondue for some reason.) They were both OK. I think that the shrimp version was better than the cheese version, but not outstanding and perhaps because I expected more shrimp and slightly larger shrimp. These were the tiny crevettes grises, I think. If I were the chef, I'd use the tastier slightly larger pink variety that I had in Amsterdam and serve the croquette with simple whipped potatoes or puree. I'd be in heaven.

                    I had a side of frites which was very good. They were soft and thoroughly cooked inside and mostly crispy outside. They were lighter than Amsterdam frites and oddly (to me) puffed up. Each one seemed to have a little open space inside which helped to make it lighter and perhaps crisper. Puffy frites. Who knew?

                    They still don't rate the best frites I've ever had, but they are up there with the top 10 or 20. Tomorrow I try Antoines.

                    Finally I tried the Stoemp Mixte - sausage and bacon. I was hoping for simple mashed potatoes but they were mashed with green vegetables as they are supposed to be, I guess. Not to my taste. There were a few chunks of potatoes mixed in and I guess that some people would love this, but not me. The bacon looked great and it would have been wonderful was too salty for my taste, which is unusual. The sausage was average - again, some people would love it but it wasn't meaty/fatty/gristly enough for me. I like it chunky and this was too finely processed and might have included a little filler. Again, it was fine, just not to my taste.

                    The bread tasted like supermarket bread (almost) but it could have been better and just not crispy because it was kept in plastic bags.

                    The waiter was great, the very good orange juice tasted fresh squeezed and the location was amazing.

                    Not bad, but not great. Perhaps someone with more experience in these dishes could evaluate them better than I.

                    1. re: Buzzy2

                      Buzzy, crevettes grises go in a croquette. And stoemp is made with vegetables beyond mashed potatoes. Thems the breaks when you want traditional cooking although that said, I've never been to this resto so cannot vouch for its quality.

                      1. re: Lizard

                        Thanks, Lizard. I was just expressing my opinion of what I like as an aside. The croquette was nice, but I would have enjoyed it more with more shrimp or slightly larger shrimp such as what I had in Amsterdam the previous night at an Indonesian restaurant. Just my personal comment.

                        The Stoemp wasn't to my taste, but it may have been great. As I noted in that entry, I am not qualified to judge the authenticity or perhaps the quality, so I offered my opinions. I'm in London now so perhaps I'll get some awesome Bangers and Mash. :)

                        1. re: Buzzy2

                          It's a shame there weren't more shrimp. Frankly, I find crevettes grises really flavourful and wonderful although they may have been overwhelmed by the cheese-- a really nice way to eat them is stuffed in a tomato with mayo, or on a sandwich.

                          Enjoy London. Good food there too although for me, it's going to the Palestinian place on Goldborne road or getting dumplings... Not able to help you with the bangers and mash :)

              2. re: Buzzy2

                Buzzy, I'm glad you found my posts helpful, but I have only spent 3 days in Belgium, and did not try much of the standard traditional dishes. We tend to go for more contemporary interpretations of regional cooking. The best dish I had on that trip was the cervelle tartare (poached calf brains served cold with tartar sauce) at Viva M'Boma. This is a traditional Brussels recipe, but is not found in many restaurants today.

                1. re: rrems

                  For the best moules frites go to La Bonne Humeur on Ch de Louvain - near metro stop Madou. Area around Grand Place etc is full of fairly hum-drum tourist traps and most people who live in Brussels would never think of eating in that part of town. The city is however fairly compact and easy to get around - try somewhere like Friture Rene in Anderlecht for good brussels food in authentic surroundings.

                2. re: Buzzy2

                  Please do report back on any great finds. I'm in Brussels next week for 3 days. Thanks. We did decide on Maison du Cygne for a blowout, celebratory meal.

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    Zuriga, I'll be really interested to hear what you say about Maison du Cygne - I've been there a few times for work (but most recent visit was already 2 years ago) and found it to be pedestrian at best. I hope for your sake it's changed!

                    Did you solidify the rest of your dining itinerary?

                    1. re: Kelly

                      Kelly, I'll be sure to let you know what we thought. To be honest, we'll mostly wing it this trip. We eat in so many good places each year (live near London, go to the States fairly often) that food is not my biggest priority this trip to Brussels. We'll probably try a seafood place one night. We're staying near Idiot du Village so maybe that's another possibility. I'm getting older.....and fatter. My main advice to everyone now is to eat like crazy when young!!

                      1. re: Kelly

                        We liked Maison du Cygne. I wouldn't call the food pedestrian, and the place was packed with diners so that's probably due to either it's former reputation or what is going on right now. Who ever knows??

                        I had a really delicious Peking duck dish, although it wasn't the usual as served in Chinese restaurants. The crust on the duck was heavenly as was the jus. My husband had a monkfish dish.. also prepared beautifully.

                        We just as much enjoyed Lola, which was across the street from our hotel and a very hip and inventive menu is served. I'd go back there in a flash and recommend it highly.

                        Food, like everything else, is even more expensive than in London... and that's hard to beat. :-)

                3. I remember reading in Brugges last year that Belgium produces almost 800 beers. Not much way you can miss, given those odds.

                  1. Forgot to suggest: visit Beer Mania in Ixelles. It's a beer store (w/ a great selection of beers), but also has tables in the back presumably for beer tastings. I have never done a tasting, but I have seen customers drinking beer and eating fries.