Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Belga Café


JennyUptown
 Share

Recommended Posts

Lunch and brunch service both start on Nov. 9, according to their Web site. The fries are good, but I've heard some bitching that they won't give you ketchup even if you ask. Try the mayo, people! When in Flanders...

"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I am so excited about this place - finally capitol hill will have more good restaurants! I'm pretty loyal to Montmarte but am craving a little variety.

Has anyone else noticed that the food at Banana Cafe isn't as good as it was a few years back?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

not to be confused with art vandalay, who is a well known importer/exporter

Edited by jmc8y (log)

I wanna say something. I'm gonna put it out there; if you like it, you can take it, if you don't, send it right back. I want to be on you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Went to Belga last night with my brother and sat at the crowded bar for dinner. Loved the duck foie and my steak frites were good. The steak was perfect, but the frites were kind of uneven with some over-fried, some under-fried, and some just right. My brother's lamb loin "PH" (after some exasperation over being asked, our server did some research and told us the initials stood for Piet Huysentruyt, a restaurant where the chef got his chops back in Belgium) looked beautiful and must have been good as I only got to taste a tiny morsel. I was pleased to get to meet Chef Vandaele.

The service at the bar was shaky, but they were obviously buried in the weeds. The GM, Ann?, came up to us to ask how things were going and I related this to her. She was very diplomatic and professional about it. I'm sure they'll smooth things out over the next few weeks.

I look forward to returning soon! The place has some real potential-- finally something good in my 'hood!

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Speaking of Good on the Hill, the head chef at Tunnicliffs (Lucas or Lukas, not sure which spelling) keeps telling me he's going to change the menu there significantly. His specials of late have been pretty good, but no menu change as of the last time I was there. I'll be there for drinks tonight and will harass him some more. I know--the place has a rep for not having the best food, but it has a lot of potential.

K

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think I was there the same night, Al. Everyone in my group was extremely impressed -- thumbs up all around the table. We started with mussels (curry cream) and fries. The fries were fantastic -- very well done and crunchy which is how I like em (maybe too well done for some). Steak was a hit as was the rabbit stew and veal sweetbreads. The presentation was amazing (how bout those wavy plates?), and our server was on top of everything the whole night despite the place being packed to the gills.

We even tried the asparagus fritters and ice cream, which was surprisingly tasty though I'm not sure I'd want to eat it every night. :raz:

Overall, I thought the place seemed to be running really smooth for being only 2 weeks old. The chef is obviously a pro.

Amanda

Metrocurean, a D.C. restaurant and food blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Stretch and I met up at Belga Cafe for lunch today. He had some pita sandwich that I will let him comment on, and I had the croque monsieur, both of us had the frites with their homemade mayonnaise. Stretch started out with their Kip & Krab Sigaar which is a deep fried spring roll stuffed with minced chicken and crab meat. It is a fairly sizable portion and Stretch let me borrow a couple of pieces. Very tasty with the spicy Thai dipping sauce.

The croque-monsieur was what you would expect (except that I was expecting it to be grilled on both sides and have some sort of egg wash on the bread, this was toasted on only one side and was buttered, not egged, perhaps that is the Belgian style). Dipped in the mayo it provided a satisfying lunch, along with the frites.

The frites are wonderful. Served in the now ubiquitous paper cone with the spiral metal stand, they were perfectly crunchy with just the right amount of salt. Because is dipped my sandwich in the mayo, I had to ask for extra in order to get through the frites.

Service was fine, the kitchen is a little slow, they have only been open for lunch for a couple of days and they are still getting their sea legs back there.

I will wait until the weather turns a little colder before I return to try the beef stew.

As it is, it will be tough to stay awake during my 3:00 conference call.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My husband and I had a wonderful meal at Belga last night. He got poached asparagus in lemon-butter-parsley sauce as a starter and then steak and fries. I had a couple of bites of the steak, and it was delicious. It had a compound butter on top that I was having trouble identifying. At first I thought it was basil, then I thought it was parsley. Whatever it was, it completed the steak beautifully. I got Belgian endive salad with oranges and blue cheese to start, and the presentation was impressive. There was just enough blue cheese but not an overwhelming amount. It was a fabulous salad. (I'm not a huge fan of Belgian endive, but it seemed like the thing to order.) I followed this with Mussels Mariniere with fries and mayonnaise. There were a lot of mussels, and I almost didn't finish them. They were so good, though, that I didn't want to leave any behind. And the fries and mayonnaise were great. I like fries crispy, and these were perfect.

The bread was pretty good -- seemed to be sourdough rye. When we asked the waiter about it, he said that it was the only thing not made on the premises. To drink, my husband had a Duvel and I had a Chimay Grand Reserve. Both were excellent (well, of course :laugh:).

For dessert, my husband got 3 kinds of chocolate mousse (dark, milk, and white) and I got raspberry sorbet. He really likes dark chocolate but thought the milk chocolate was the best. I had a few samples and would have to agree, but I like milk chocolate. They came with paper thin (almond?) cookies.

Before we ordered, I had asked the waiter about the asparagus ice cream on the dessert menu. I asked him what it tasted like (I had seen someone here post about getting it but was still skeptical), and he said he would bring a sample so I could try it. I suppose it would be hard for anything with that much butterfat actually to taste bad, but I have decided that asparagus really does not work as an ice cream flavor. I did finish the little sample, though :blush:

The service was good. Our waiter was helpful and attentive. The only down side was that we were in the path of the cold air blast that occurred every time the front door of the restaurant opened. It's just a single door. I almost asked to be moved to another table early on and, by the time our meal was over, I wished I had done that. Our waiter said that they are getting a new door on Monday, so there won't be a single door with that Arctic effect any more. All in all, that was a minor point. They haven't been open that long. There are still a few issues left to address, I'm sure.

We can't wait to go back.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Their web site has no price info. Can someone who's been there write a post about approximate dinner prices, especially the mussels and the sweetbreads? Thanks.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Their web site has no price info. Can someone who's been there write a post about approximate dinner prices, especially the mussels and the sweetbreads? Thanks.

I don't know about sweetbreads. I think the mussels I got were $16.95. I'm not sure if they were all the same price. I got the ones cooked in wine. I figured that based on the ala carte menu, the fries should be $5 of that.

My husband is not that fond of seafood (he tried a couple), but that's really more than a one-person mussel basket to me.

Our total bill, including beer, tax, tip, starters, and desserts for both, was $101.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Speaking of Good on the Hill, the head chef at Tunnicliffs (Lucas or Lukas, not sure which spelling) keeps telling me he's going to change the menu there significantly. His specials of late have been pretty good, but no menu change as of the last time I was there. I'll be there for drinks tonight and will harass him some more. I know--the place has a rep for not having the best food, but it has a lot of potential.

K

I understand that the new menu starts next week. (I think the brunch menu has already been inaugurated).

Sometimes the food is fabulous there and I have hope. Given the location, I think it's really hard for them to get a market nailed down. Potential, definitely.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I meant to mention that my ol' lady and I went on a recent busy night for dinner. Despite walking into a full house with no reservations, we were carved out a spot at the bar for dinner and received friendly and efficient service from the bartender. We enjoyed the asparagus with egg/butter/parsley sauce, though it could use a couple of extra spears for the amount of sauce. Their salsify soup was velvety smooth. We tried Waterzooi-- poached (?) chicken in a delicious albeit somewhat thin sauce. I'm a sucker for braised beef, so I had the Flemish Stew which was excellent and, as a bonus, served with the perfect frites (much better than the last time I was there). Oh yeah, and the bonus bonus-- Belgian BEER!

Go, I think you'll enjoy it.

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We were in there last night and will happily go back - probably too often, seeing as how I work down the street. Definitely second the recommendation for the beef stew and frites, as well as the mussels and the chicken/crab cigars. I even liked the mayonnaise, which I'm not normally a fan of. And they're definitely treating the beer as it deserves - good stuff served at the right temperature.

I think one star's a little harsh - but then I didn't order the asparagus dessert.

"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Seems to me that Belga has been slammed since day one and maybe hasn't had the opportunity to work out the kinks that perhaps a restaurant that had a softer opening might get. Obviously the place shows that Capitol Hill residents are pining for more higher end places to eat around the neighborhood.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that one star is harsh. This place shows great maturity for being brand new, and the criticism Tom gave didn't seem bad enough to warrant only one star.

I know one star means "good" but I think Belga is much better. And I even ate the asparagus fritters.

But hey, everyone's a critic, right?

Amanda

Metrocurean, a D.C. restaurant and food blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure about one star either - I ate at Belga this week and the food was quite good. The service, however, was comical - really. First, the waiter apologized as he told us he did not speak "Belgian" as we attempted to order the garnaalan kroketten and the coquilles st. jacques! Later, as he reached across my head to clear the plate of one of my colleagues, he said he was glad he had worn deodorant that day; and finally, when he thought he had brought all the food, we reminded him that our mussels came with fries, to which he replied, "oh, do you really want them?!" Also, for lunch, you have to make sure you have plenty of time - ours took about 2 hours. I will go back, because we all enjoyed the meals, the beer was perfect, and we are so in need of quality resaurants in that neighborhood. However, I can see that some people would find it hard to get beyond the service kinks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ate there Christmas Eve. Nice decor, sat @ the bar. The bread had a nice cheezy-ness to it. Ordered steak frite. Mayo was extra. Steak was nicely cooked but did not have a "beefy" taste to it (maybe I'm just weird...). Frites were nicely done. The mayo was fluffy - dunno if I am down with that. To me, it lacked a nice creamy texture and tang. It was like fluffed butter. (but is Belgaian mayo supposed to be like that?)

The Belga dessert was faboo. Various chcolate desserts on 1 plate. NICE!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

I had dinner at Belga Cafe last night. In view of the mixed reviews it has received, I'm very happy to say that my experience was a positive one.

The place was bustling at 7:30 and stayed that way for the two-and-a-half hours I was there. That is always a heartwarming sight on the Hill, and I hope the crowds are a sign that Belga is here to stay.

Before I get to the food, let me say how attractive and inviting the space is: swanky and urbane, but also warm and inviting. The long wall of exposed brick and the illuminated plaster ceiling rosette on the wall as you enter are nice touches that remind you that you're on the Hill.

I started with an appetizer special of mussels Provencal--basically escargots but with mussels in place of snails. About twenty diminutive but plump mussels arrived on a platter, still sizzling. They were practically swimming in olive oil, but that didn't matter. The flavors were, well, Provencal, and it was a great opening.

I then had a salad of baby greens with a yoghurt dressing. This actually was my favorite dish of the evening. Dressing salads with yoghurt or cream is very common in central Europe, and when living there I had my share of abominations. But this version was a revelation. The sweet tang of the yoghurt was balanced perfectly, and the presentation was beautiful.

My last course was the Flemish stew, served with Belga's increasingly famous frittes. This dish didn't try to pretend to be anything other than what it was: a basic carbonnade a la flammande, with tender chunks of beef just beginning to disintegrate from their braise, paired with red cabbage. Simple and deeply flavored home-style cooking, nothing more. I admired how the chef stuck to the honesty and authenticity of this dish and let it speak for itself.

A few quibbles: The frittes were a bit flacid--not quite the combination of crisp and fluffy that I had expected. The bar did not have Calvados, though my martini was perfect, and the espresso was tepid. Service was a bit slow at first (they seemed really slammed) but once things got going, my French- (or Walloon-?) accented server combined sharp efficiency with friendliness in a way that transported me back to Europe--as did much of the food. All I can say is, thank God Belga is on the Hill, and I wish it the best of luck.

Don’t you have a machine that puts food into the mouth and pushes it down?

--Nikita Khrushchev to Richard Nixon during the "Kitchen Debate" in Moscow, 1959

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...