Brussels report February 2012 (Lola, L'Idiot du Village, Houtsiplou, Le Fourneaum chocolate, beer
Food blog entry with pix for everything I talk about is here:
We found mistake-fare tickets to Brussels from NYC for $270 round-trip including all taxes, so pounced on 'em and spent 3-4 days in the city.
Overall, we enjoyed the food in the city and ate mostly French-style stuff, but none of the meals were mind-blowing (and having had like 4 or 5 mind-blowing meals in Paris, I am open to having my mind blown).
Dinner at Lola's on Grand Sablon:
Shrimp croquettes, a local specialty, with fried parsley.
My first--but not last--foie gras of the trip; a great preparation with caramelized shallots and diced quince.
Chicken supreme with gravy, chanterelles, oignons, new potatoes.
Duck leg confit on a bed of lentils with bacon and pumpkin.
Molten caramel-fondant cake and speculoos ice cream.
Lola's was very good, thought we found the liquid middle of the molten cake somewhat floury, and the shrimp croquettes were straight-up Not Crispy (though tasted good inside).
Brunch at the original Le Pain Quotidien, with the rudest waiter of the entire trip.
Pot au feu with harissa.
Walking around Sablon, nibbling at half a dozen chocolate shops, including Wittamer, Pierre Marcolini, Neuhaus, Leonidas, etc. We had black pepper chocolates, speculoos chocolates, puffed-rice chocolates, and more. We bought some speculoos cookies at Dandoy and tried some of the other baked treats. I pretty much can't stack these chocolate shops against each other--we bought a few pieces from each place, and they were pretty much all awesome, and I wish we'd bought more to take home than we did.
A tasting of sour gueuze and fruit beers (kriek and framboise), all made from lambics, at the Cantillon brewery. We happened to go on a brewing day, which was cool, but got hustled out towards the end of our tasting because it closes at 5 and we arrived kinda close to that. The tour was 6e and it was pleasantly self-guided (you actually wander through the brewery yourself, totally not allowable in the US) and it comes with 2 beer tastings--you can buy additional beers for 2e each.
Dinner at L'Idiot du Village. My French was duly mocked by the waiter. He still was not rude compared to the Le Pain Quotidien guy.
Oxtail with applesauce and grated horseradish.
Pea soup with lardons and olive oil.
Grilled scallops over vegetable risotto.
Suckling veal with potatoes and parsnips.
White chocolate soup with kumquats, passionfruit, puffed rice, and coconut.
Financier with caramel ice cream.
I'd been very keen to try this place, and counted myself fortunate we got reservations. It was, again, very good, but not mind-blowing. The oxtail was the most interesting dish to me--the flavor combo of sweet chunky homemade applsauce, beefy oxtail, and pungent horseradish was new to me.
Drinking among backpackers at the Delirium Cafe with Delirium Tremens and outstanding pear cider.
Nearby a private art collection we viewed, we wandered into a little place called Houtsiplou for lunch, totally unresearched. It was really cute, mostly empty, and had a nice menu of Flemish foods (carbonnade, waterzooi, etc.). I chose this as a place to get moules frites, and they were very nice. My wife got spicy pumpkin soup which was also pretty good. It was a nice place to relax and the food was good and it had free wifi.
We sat in Mort Subite for a couple of hours and just had a bunch of really good beers: Judas (Brasserie Alken-Maes), Chouffe Blonde (Brasserie d'Achoutte), peche fruit beer (outstanding, amazing), kriek fruit beer. We got a waffle snack but it was cold and in a plastic package.
Dinner at Le Fourneau. Maybe the best of the trip. Most of the restaurant sits at a bar facing the kitchen so you can see everything made. We ordered a la carte and ordered well, but ultimately regretted not getting the tasting after seeing our neighbors get it.
Foie gras and asparagus--a perfect combo, shockingly.
Two amazing, perfectly crusted scallops. Six dollars per scallop.
The butteriest turbot of all time.
"Salad of everything and nothing" (Celeriac remoulade with pea shoots, and beets with mashed green lentils (actually an amazing combination).
)Half a lobster, in butter, with wasabi.
Simple mashed potatoes, but delicious beyond words.
Trio of creme brulees: vanilla, orange, and Grand Marnier. (the flame went out on the Grand Marnier one and it kind of sat in a pool of liquor and wasn't very good, but the others were great)
I'd recommend visiting any of these. We had a rez at Les Petit Oignons but went to L'Idiot that night instead. We tried to call several times to cancel the rez but no one ever picked up and there was no voicemail, so we ended up just not showing up, which I think is sucky, but...what else could we do?