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Recommendations for Brussels


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i was fortunate enought to nip to brussels on the eurostar this weekend, for a trip to comme chez soi, 3* very old established restaurant in the heart of brussels. It was a restaurant review ages ago in the (sadly now defunct) sunday business magazine that inspired the trip and i have to say it was justified. They have a 'hosts' table' just off the kitchen where we sat, this is more of an alley and seats not a cosy 6 a la claridges but about 30! however it was still possible to view the busy but calm kitchen from our vantage point. Staff were friendly and efficient although i was annoyed to be given an english menu straight away, however that was about the only problem! we had the menu degustation 138 euros pp, it was amuse bouche of a crab salad with hazlenuts i think, grilled bass, mizuna salad,almonds vinaigrette with piquillos and lemon leaves. Lobster flan with montrachet. fried sweetbreads and foie gras, artichokes pea puree and white truffle oil. salad of lamb morrils, tagliatelle, beans and asparagus. warm st maure cheese spinach olive oil and pecorino crusts and dessert of pyramid of apple in genose pastry and caramel sauce. www.commechezsoi.be

you don't win friends with salad

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  • 2 months later...

I know it is almost impossible to get a bad meal in Brussels, but I'm looking for something a little less well known than, say, Comme Chez Soi but still offering something special within walking distance of the Grand Place. I suppose the model would be The Golden Herring (Der Gouden Harynck) in Bruges. Anybody able to steer me in the right direction?

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What kind of recommendations are you looking for ? My favourite activity

is to get a bucket of mussels and drink beers for hours :smile: There was

a decent French restaurant closeby from our hotel (whose name escapes me for the moment, will update once I find it ) which was fairly decent.

anil

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This was part of a post of mine from last November.

Let me add a note about Aux Armes de Bruxelles. Located just a block off the Grand Place at the intersection of two streets chockablock with tourist restaurants is Aux Armes de Bruxelles. It's a reasonably priced brasserie/restaurant, although it's nowhere nearly as cheap as its neighbors. I've been told that the neighboring restaurants are to be avoided, but I can't offer first hand evidence. Aux Armes, however, is an institution to be sought out. We both ordered the anguilles au vert (18 EUR) and I cannot vouch for the rest of the menu, although food around me looked appetizing. Anyway, the eels in a green herb (parsley) sauce were superb and a memorable dish for me.

This is by no means in a class near Comme Chez Soi where we also ate, but I felt those traditional eels were a compelling dish. Whether or not I consider it special might depend on context and your interests. Orignal thread. We were led to another place (Le Passage, av. J&P Carsoel 13) that was quite interesting and an very good buy, but were driven there by friends. It's in an outlying residential neighborhood.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I've tried Aux Armes de Bruxelles and it's fine for a brasserie meal, but I'm looking for something a little less "rustic", more your classic French, maybe with a modern twist. There were a couple I tried a few years ago which fitted the bill but sadly I can only vaguely remember the locations and certainly not the names and I won't have time to seek them out on a fleeting visit en-route home from Germany. And to be picky I'm looking for somewhere that doesn't specialise in fish, something I can usually take or leave (except for shellfish which I'll always leave - not helpful in the land of moules et frites!)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I ate about a year ago in a very fine French restaurant in Brussels right near the Petit Sablon. Can't remember the name of it to save me.

Not cheap, but very good food and excellent service.

Any ideas on the name?

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You should consider a stroll to the Radison SAS, 10-15 minutes from the GP. The restuarant The Sea Grill is excellent. 1 or 2 stars, can't remember which. Really good fish and seafood (bit obvious with the name though)

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Thanks for the input, I looked up L'Amadeus only to find there were two! Located the correct one though. As for going to restaurants of which the name has escaped you, definitely guilty, when I was there a couple of years ago I went to at least three excellent places, I could probably find two again but the third is just "somewhere in the middle of Brussels". We may arrive fairly late on Saturday so may not really have time for an exploratory stroll. Nearly stayed at the Radisson but strangely enough it was the seafood restaurant that put me off - I really have to be in the right mood for seafood. Opted for the Royal Windsor as I know if all else fails the restaurant there is good, if a trifle pricy. Don't you just love the bargain prices on Expedia?

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It's really too bad you are restricted to Brussels. If you have a bit of time, you should take a quick (and I mean QUICK) train to Gent or to Ostande, the latter which is right on the beach and has the best seafood restaurants around. In Gent, there is a restaurant in a church basement (the big church a few steps from St-Nicholas Cathedral) that looks like a great set for a Medieval Times commercial. It's a huge place where they serve all the quintessentially Belgian dishes like Waterzooi and Anguille au Vert (Eel in green sauce) - best I ever had. Worth the trip.

And contrary to popular belief, it IS very possible to have a bad meal in Brussels. Personally, I can't stand the city. If you want to learn about the true heart of the Belgian people, get thee out of the capital!

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It's really too bad you are restricted to Brussels. 

Only on this occasion, we're hacking back from Bremen on our way to Calais and Brussels is a logical stop on the motorway system. It is very difficult to find a decent hotel in either Bruges or Gent that has less than a mandatory two night stay at the weekend and those that do charge more than I am prepared to pay. You're quite right about getting out from Brussels, one of my top 5 meals ever was in an auberge (I think some kind of converted water mill) about 10 km outside Dinant. As for Brussels I've had about 10 meals there over the years and haven't had a bad one yet, and one or three were outstanding.

As for Bruges Der Gouden Harynck also rates in the top 5 - their "Menu Surprise" was a tour de force. Gent is on the tour list for next year.

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  • 1 month later...

I report back from my visit to Comme Chez Soi. I have just had my finest meal ever :smile:

My party of four arrived at the pleasantly discreet entrance of the restaurant, and even as we entered the front door there was an immediate air of old-fashioned graciousness about the style of the door and hallway. Through a second brass-furnished door and we were greeted by Laurence Rigolet, daughter of the owners, and escorted immediately to our table. The dining room is amazing, a mixture of art nouveau and art decor, exquisitely stylish. The table was long and narrow, of dimensions I have never seen in a restaurant, but in fact perfectly designed to provide ample width for full place settings, while also allowing us to converse across the table comfortably. The one "issue" was that tables were butted almost against one another, so that the table had to be pulled right out to allow two people to sit on the wall banquette, after which those two were trapped. I was glad we had an end table, and the adjacent one was empty.

The service was very correct, if somewhat surly and unsmiling. The head waiter was totally unresponsive to friendly witticism, seemed unwilling to explain some of the complexities of the menus and carte, struggled a little to understand the order (that was not a language problem), and was quite disinclined to provide a wine list until after all the food orders had been taken and despatched to the kitchen (which I found irritating, and also disrupted our conversation later). The waiters were discreet and efficient. So overall, the service was disappointing. But the food and wine .....

We all ordered a la carte. One of the puzzling features was that over half of the main courses were for two people. I understand this for maybe a rack of hare or some beef dishes, but surely not for medallions of venison and gurnard and octopus ? Ah well.... This was a busines lunch, so I can't report on the meals of the other three (except to say they were highly delighted with everything).

We were served with a few canapes (pleasant) and an amuse of mussels in a tomato sauce (which I didn't eat).

My starter was wood-pigeon mousse, which was a large brown cylindrical object in the centre of a large plate, with a tiny diamond of pear on redcurrant sauce on the side. Frankly, it looked clumsy and unappealing ... until I tasted it. The word I'm looking for is magnificent. The taste was sublime, a subtle flavour of pigeon with the slightest edge of (I think) lemon, and the texture was perfect --- not fluffy or slimy or chunky --- just perfect. When I had finished, the waiter delivered a second helping, spooned from a large bowl. I would have finished the bowl given half a chance.

With the starter we drank a Pouilly Fume, Chateau Tracey 2000. This is an old favourite of mine, which I used to buy regularly from a friend who was the sole importer of Tracey into the UK. Lovely crisp, light wine.

My main course was "Crispy roundles of venison with dry fruit and a light sauce of juniper, fried wild mushrooms and Brussels sprouts" which I shared with a guest. This is now officially the most perfect single dish I have ever eaten, replacing the lamb chops at Babbo. We were not asked how we wanted the venison cooked (good for them!) and it came rare and bloody. The meat (which was roe-deer) was served as three elliptical roundels about 4 inches long and 2.5 inches wide and 1.5 inches deep. Crispy on the outside, sprinkled with light herbs, and mouth-meltingly tender inside. The flavour was just superb, not a strong gamey flavour. There was a portion of long-grain rice in the dish (not shown on the menu) which was perfectly cooked, the mushrooms (porcini I think) were fabulous, the brussel sprouts (well we werein the right city to get those) were wonderful even though they're not normally a favoured vegetable of mine, and the juniper sauce complemented the venison perfectly. Every single element of this dish was as perfect as it could be, and as a whole dish I can only describe it as (pace Michael Winner) historic. Again, I eagerly accepted the second helping of a couple of additional roundels of meat.

The chef, Pierre Wynants (father-in-law of Laurence Rigolet) came into the dining room to enquire if all was well. I was genuinely disappointed that I couldn't do more than utter some fulsome compliments --- I would have loved to talk to him about the dishes, but I was with business guests.

Our wine was a St Julien, Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou 1994, which was decanted (at their suggestion) and was absolutely splendid. A lightly woody flavour, smooth and rich. My two guests (both French and both "into" wine) remarked on the excellence of this wine.

My dessert was orange pancakes with burnt sugar. That prosaic description does not do it justice. The crepes were perfectly cookerd, neither dry nor soggy, the ornage flavouring neither too strong nor bland, and the edges crisp with burnt sugar, made this a delightful dish.

We all ended with espresso coffee. Amazingly, this was the only offering -- no "regular" coffee and no cafetiere. The petits fours (which normally I would not even have noticed) were wonderful, and I gorged on them. Sadly, I intended to ask for a box to bring home, but I forgot. As we left, Therese Wynants wished us adieu. The bill, including the 16% service charge they added on (funny number, but they are Belgian) was 646 euros.

Altogether, this was a superb and memorable dining experience, and one I shall definitely repeat at the earliest possible opportunity.

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I regard Comme Chez Soi as better than any of the Parisian Michelin 3 rosettes. Turbot is all time best with a close second by Witzigman's "Aubergine" when it existed. Ris de veau also spectacular A la carte is the way to order. Enjoyed great Henri Jayer burgundies there.

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  • 1 month later...

Comme chez soi is in the town centre, so it's easily reached from bruxelles midi.

How long depends on the time of day, we stayed at the radisson sas (btw v cheap on the weekend for standard of accom, check expedia.com, also houses the 2* sea grill which my belgian sommelier friend rates v highly).

it took over 1/2 an hour to get from the station to the hotel in friday rush hour but about 10 mins sunday morning to return. hotel to Comme chez soi was about 10 mins on sat night.

you don't win friends with salad

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Don't forget while in Brussels to get the best chocolate in the world-- most of the major brands are fabulous-- My faves are Wittamer on the Grand Sablon, Neuhaus, which is everywhere, and for a lower price but still great chocolate try Leonidas.

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i had dinner and lunch at aux armes de bruxelles (i think the main room is best there not the side room) and dinner at comme chez soi. so didn't have time to try anywhere else.

the sea grill does appear worth a trip too.

Food was good where i dined but bruxelles itself i found a bit dull.

you don't win friends with salad

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... De Karmeliet or Bruneau?  :blink: (Note I have three meals, so these two are not mutually exclusive as to each other, or as to Comme de Chez Soi)

My plans to visit all of the three stars in Belgium (I think there are only three) over a weekend have been foiled by the X'Mas closing period of Comme de Chez Soi.

I have reservations at Bruneau (probably two meals), and a choice of one of the following:

(1) Secured table at Guy Savoy, Paris (which I have visited several times, but which offers a dish of "lamb in all its states" on which BLH reported and which is somewhat interesting to me).

(2) Secured table at De Karmeliet, Bruges (less than one hour by train from Brussels; likely my choice), or

(3) Wait list at Comme de Chez Soi, Brussels (no availability currently, even at the table d'hote).

What are members' views on De Karmeliet for sure versus Comme de Chez Soi on wait-list?

Gary -- Non-food activities do not matter at all. I can't have two significant meals a day as readily as I could even a year ago (hope it's temporary). But in Belgium, I will try attempt that. By the time I've napped after lunch, it's dinner. By the time I wake up the next day and get ready, it's time for lunch. :wink:

Edited by cabrales (log)
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Cabrales: If you like ceremony go to de Carmeliet (the showbiz aspects that get you 3 rosettes) It's not a restaurant I personally would revisit. I would choose Comme Chez Soi if at all possible. It was truly outstanding (4 separate meals) based strictly on food.

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I envy you all. We had plans, including reservations for Comme de Chez

soi, to visit Belgium in 1989. Unfortunately, while celebrating my birthday at Docks on Third Avenue about a month before we were supposed to leave, I had a very serious gall bladder attack while savoring the key lime pie. The gastroenterologist I soon visited advised me to cancel the trip and recommended surgery, speaking words I have never forgotten: "Bon vivants can't have gall bladders, Mr. L."

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In reviewing a Brussels tourism website, I noted a reference to "caricoles, small snails that have been slowly simmered -- a Brussels specialty". Have members heard of or sampled such items? Apparently, there are some vendors of caricoles near Place Sainte-Catherine. :blink:

Also, is the Christmas Market in Brussels (generally in the Grand'Place area) worth visiting, for food items?

Edited by cabrales (log)
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