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Andelman
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Has anyone been lately? I am going for a work related trip at the end of April (just for a 3 nights) and we are looking for some good recs. We have 2 nights/2 days in Brussels and 1 day/evening in Bruges. Nothing fancy, just some good, solid, un-touristy cooking. Bars and other food-related establishments wanted also. Much appreciated!

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The Chocolate Line is perhaps the signature chocolate shop in Brugges, perhaps in all of Belgium. 100+ year old store front, chef in a top hat and truffles that I believe are the best I have ever had. I include the original Spruegli (sp?), Christian Constant in Paris and tens of thousands of calories I have invested over the years elsewhere in Europe. I include Munich's Dallmyer in this statement. For the year 2000 my wife and I hosted a party and I hand carried 10 kilos of chocolate from the Chocolate Line to our house. I could have brought chocolate from anywhere-but I picked the Chocolate Line.

Their website: http://thechocolateline.be/shockolatier_book.jpg

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Has anyone been lately? I am going for a work related trip at the end of April (just for a 3 nights) and we are looking for some good recs. We have 2 nights/2 days in Brussels and 1 day/evening in Bruges. Nothing fancy, just some good, solid, un-touristy cooking. Bars and other food-related establishments wanted also. Much appreciated!

I go to Brussels a fair amount for work, and have a few favorites there. For bars, while Delirium gets all of the notice, my favorite place is the fairly well-known Bier Circus, right up by the Theater Circus. Patrick is a friendly, incredibly knowledgable owner, and the bottle list is very nice, including the vintage beers. A bit further down, closer to the Grand Place, is A la Mort Subite, which has a much more traditional feeling and also a nice collection of beers. Good atmosphere, too.

My favorite place to get mussels and fries is Restaurant au vieux Bruxelles, a bit out of the city center. It's small, and in an area that some of my Brussels friends don't typically go to, but I think it's very worthwhile, simple cooking done well. Another place that I like is Restaurant Switch, on Rue de Flandre. Accomplished cooking, not fancy but interesting. At a higher end I like the Museum Brasserie, a good spot for lunch. At a much higher end, I've had two excellent meals at Restaurant Kwint, but the prices will give you expectations that they may not be able to meet.

In Bruges, I have fewer recommendations, but it's hard to skip t'Brugse Beertje, my second favorite beer-drinking bar in the world (after Bier Circus). For a restaurant, I like de Pepermolen--again, nothing extraordinary, but an interesting, changing menu.

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@booklovingbabe: Thanks! :)

@Joe H: Thank you! Yes, The Chocolate Line was on our list of chocolate shops to check out. Though the cover of that book is a little, um, weird... We have about 4-5 places picked out for Brussels. However, I am a Francophile when it comes to chocolate, so we'll see how this measures up. :)

@SVT: Awesome! Thanks for all the recs. Looking forward to trying some of those places out. I am not sure of the exact location of our hotel, but it seems like it is pretty easy to get around the city. Bier Circus sounds like a given.

Great intel, much appreciated.

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Has anyone been lately? I am going for a work related trip at the end of April (just for a 3 nights) and we are looking for some good recs. We have 2 nights/2 days in Brussels and 1 day/evening in Bruges. Nothing fancy, just some good, solid, un-touristy cooking. Bars and other food-related establishments wanted also. Much appreciated!

Spend one meal at a local moules-frites place (I've only been to the Paris outlet of Chez Léon which is reliable in a Flunch sort-of way, but you can surely do better than this.) If it were me, I'd be looking for local mussels (anything but PEI rope-grown), good frites, and mayo worth dunking into - preferably for lunch, maybe sitting on a patio and sipping a Belgian beer - I can imagine life being worse than this.

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Spend one meal at a local moules-frites place (I've only been to the Paris outlet of Chez Léon which is reliable in a Flunch sort-of way, but you can surely do better than this.) If it were me, I'd be looking for local mussels, good frites, and mayo worth dunking into - preferably for lunch, maybe sitting on a patio and sipping a Belgian beer - I can imagine life being worse than this.

We did this in Brussels when we went years ago. Just wandered around town and looked in the windows, choosing a busy place when we got hungry where the food looked good and the people looked happy. Since I don't eat shellfish or drink much beer, pretty much all but the frites were lost on me (but I can eat a LOT of frites, and I think I had some other kind of good stew), but everyone else was positively blissful. We also did a brewery tour, which smelled great, and even I tasted some lambic beers. I think (it's been a while) we went here.

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15 years. I remember a really great Chinese place right off the square in Brugge though! Owner spoke not a word of English, we had no French or Flemish or any dialect of Chinese.

That doesn't help you one bit, does it???

Say hi next time? I was there 15 years ago as well...went to both Brugge and Brussels. Although I can dig up my notes from then, I doubt that they are relevant at this point. :rolleyes:

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@booklovingbabe: Thanks! :)

@Joe H: Thank you! Yes, The Chocolate Line was on our list of chocolate shops to check out. Though the cover of that book is a little, um, weird... We have about 4-5 places picked out for Brussels. However, I am a Francophile when it comes to chocolate, so we'll see how this measures up. :)

@SVT: Awesome! Thanks for all the recs. Looking forward to trying some of those places out. I am not sure of the exact location of our hotel, but it seems like it is pretty easy to get around the city. Bier Circus sounds like a given.

Great intel, much appreciated.

One thing I forgot to mention: if you have a chance, I'd highly recommend visiting Cantillon brewery in the South of Brussels. A bit hard to find, but just what one wants to see in a historic gueuze/lambic brewery.

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Just returned from Belgium. Thanks to all for the advice. Here is basically what I ate/did:

-Flew into Brussels Friday morning and made a beeline from the airport to the town of Kortrijk (on the French border, near Lille). I was going there to pick up some chocolate supplies from IBC and to visit with a small chocolatier named Geert Vercruysse. He is in the middle of renovating his shop, so we had plenty of time to chat and share mutual interests. He makes a wide variety of bon-bons, using a variety of different couvertures. Also pastry. Great little shop if you ever to happen to find yourself in Kortrijk. ;)

-From there i received a ride to Antwerp from one of Geert's friends and went two chocolate shops (The Chocolate Line and DelRay). Chocolate Line store was nice, and the chocolates had some interesting an unusual flavors (bacon, fried onion, black olive and tomato, sake, etc..) Some were interesting, others pretty disgusting IMHO. The shop was nice, but the chocolates were a bit beat up and I am pretty sure he uses either Belcolade or Callebaut (as do most chocolate shops in Belgium). Nice to visit and one of the better places in Belgium. DelRay was industrial/moderately priced. ho-hum kind of stuff.

-Took the train to Brussels and stopped in to see Laurent Gerbaud and his shop. He is probably one of the better chocolatiers in Brussels and we had some time to chat and I got to see his workshop and taste a lot of his stuff. Another reason his chocolates are so good is that he uses mainly Domori (an Italian chocolate manufacturer) in his bon-bons, bars, and dipped fruit. Nice, young guy doing some great things in Brussels. ANd that was the end of day !. Ate food in a crappy, no name restaurant near my hotel that night. Overcooked and dry rabbit with so-so frites

-Spent Saturday in Brussels. Great breakfast at Charli (a very small boulangerie neat St Catherine). Definitely worth a stop if you are there. Visited Frederic Blondell's chocolate shop in St. Catherine, which was a very nice shop and tearoom. Chocolates were just okay, again, mainly Callebaut stock type stuff. Some interesting flavors. Also went to Marcolini and Wittmer on the Grand Sablon. Wittmer was not that great and the Marcolini shop was very nice and very expensive. However, new to the Sablon is Patrick Roger, an excellent French chocolatier with a beautiful shop. By far my favorite shop of the trip. Yes, in my opinion, the best chocolatier in Belgium right now is French. :) Had dinner that night with friends at Les Brassins in Ixelles, which was really good. Simple brasserie preparations with decent beer list. Not expensive and the service was pleasant an efficient. After more post-dinner drinks, we got frites from the famous Maison Antoine in Place Jourdan. So, so good!

-Sunday in Bruges was nice. Did the brewery tour at DeHalve Maan brewery and then had dinner at Bierbrasserie Cambrinius. Food was decent, but the beer list was extensive. Sat at the bar and drank and ate. Chocolate shops in Bruges were mostly geared for tourists and not very impressive.

-Monday we headed to Ghent, which is a very nice town if you ever get the chance to go. Just ate simple soup for lunch, but the town is great, definitely recommended. Headed back to Brussels that afternoon and had beers at Moderer Lambic (sp??) on Place Fontainas. Great, great unusual beer selection. Cool place. Definitely worth a trip. That was followed by a return trip to Maison Antoine for more frites and dinner at a great Thai place (Deuxime Element, SP??) in Ixelles.

Flew back this morning. Great trip and good food. As for the chocolate scene, well I will elaborate more on that in another post.

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Had an opportunity for a few dinners in Brussels last week. From okay to best:

--Le Quincaillerie: in an old hardware store, this seafood specialty spot held us for a large group dinner and did a nice job. Nothing was particularly spectacular, but the building is special and the food solid enough. 

--Le Joue de Vache: This was a comfortable Brasserie just a few blocks from Place Leopold. Very nice, solid brasserie food--my veal mignon with Frites was nice; the marrow starter with toast points was just okay (not a fair comparison, but not nearly as garlicky, salty and delicious as most marrow preparations that I've had over the last few years.

--Le Mess: in an old prison building (though it must have been the administrative offices, or the warden's home), we had a nice 3-course dinner. The dessert course was molten chocolate cake, served with an enthusiasm suggesting that they were at the cutting edge of pastry culture. The main course of fish was beautiful, though.

--Brasserie Bozar: This Michelin-starred restaurant was fantastic, the dishes exacting, somewhat mysterious, and delicious. The beef tartare starter was a perfect appetizer before moving on to a second course of mackerel (perhaps prepared sous vide before being torched to crisp the skin) served over a not clearly identifiable vegetable/fruit preparation (a Chinese colleague thought that it was radish; I think that it may have been some sort of citrus peel that had been pickled/cured--something. The texture was mildly crunchy and exquisitely well-paired with the fish. The entree of chicken breast was also mysterious and the topic of major discussion; it appeared that they had inserted a pouch (of mushroom pate/ragout wrapped in spinach leaves) underneath the skin, then roasted the breast. It was served with a beautiful, mild sauce and roasted root vegetables. The dessert course was, for me, almost a riff on the Michel Richard kit kat, except it was almost the Snickers version. It was delicious.

Beyond meals, I also had nice frites at the food truck (temporary) at Maison Antoine, and some nice lambics/krieks at Moeder Lambic.

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Recent trip to Brussels took me to La Canne en Ville, in Ixelles. It's a quaint restaurant, maybe 20 seats total inside, and operates in that privileged sphere of 'feels like somebody opened up a good restaurant in their living room'. Spring and summer time are likely glorious here, with ample room for al fresco dining. My take on it was that it is French cooking with some Belgian influences (perhaps they would say Belgian cooking with French influences?). The foie gras starter was substantial and worthwhile--the toast points as delicious without the mousse as with, as they perhaps should be--but I followed that up with a filet that was even more substantial, and then a dame blanche. I did it to myself, but this was lots of food...nicely accompanied by a light French red (Cotes du Rhone, maybe? I wasn't the wine selector and my memory is too foggy now). Service was efficient but very warm. Definitely worth reserving a table (and please do so--this spot fills up with neighborhood diners every night, I'm told).

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Dinner last night at BaoGo was fine. This place calls itself an Asian fusion burger place, and does a pretty good job of it. The burger itself was good, as were the Xi'an spicy fries. I wanted the bao bun to be a bit less dry, and more like the somewhat squishy, moister bao buns that I'm familiar with, but oddly it wasn't too far away from a brioche bun. Paired with a nice La Chouffe, it was a good meal. This is right down in the middle of tourist central, just off of the Grand Place, and while it isn't the most adventurous menu, it's a nice evening alternative to the myriad moules et frites places that are down there, if you don't want to venture out to some of the more interesting places in Ixelles and are looking for a fairly inexpensive meal.

After I walked over the grab a Brussels waffle, and it was the perfect cap to the night. 

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A couple of "beer" places in Brussels that I did not see mentioned above:

Le Poechenellekelder (The Puppet Cellar) - a quick whiz away from Mannequin Pis - really chill beer bar, pretty decent selection of various Belgian styles.  They have a food menu, but we only drank here one midafternoon.

Nuetnigenough (Never, ever, enough?) - a favorite of none other than Greg Engert, local beer guy extraordinaire.  Hearty Belgian fare, great beer selection!  Mix of locals and tourists.  A little small and cramped, and they do not take reservations.  We waited 30 minutes for a table (party of 5), but had a beer at the back bar while waiting (with the guy who pours at Cantillon Brewery and his pals), and then a great time once seated.

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Dinner at Foro Romano (on the Rue Joseph II, not so far from the Courtyard by Marriott) isn't groundbreaking, but this restaurant has a short but worthwhile menu of first and pasta courses, and then one or two entrees and a 'classics' dessert menu. We skipped the first courses and all went for pastas--all were very good to great. My strascinati with eggplant and cherry tomatoes was a classic preparation, while one of my dining companions had a cheese ravioli that was beautiful and then covered--really covered--in black truffles. The other two pastas were similarly great--one served in a parmesan crisp bowl, the other a perfect pappardelle. These were filling and we went straight to espresso to end the night. Service was traditionally Italian, so we had lots of time to relax and talk, and enjoy the nero d'avola. I don't know for certain if they make all of the pastas in the kitchen--they might, or alternatively they just source great, great dried pastas (which isn't so hard to do in Brussels).

 

I've now had dinner at Izakaya (Chasseurs de Vleurtgat, I think, not too far from Place Louise) several times, and have never been disappointed. It's smoky inside, from the grill, and it fills up fast (reservations are almost always necessary). The fish is extremely fresh, and everything that comes off of the grill is beautifully prepared. The sake collection is nice--I heard last night that they buy most of it from Tagawa , a market just a few doors down.

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So, Izakaya has apparently closed, unfortunately. 

I had dinner at Toshiro last night, and was very impressed. We had the seven course tasting menu, and the flavors were extremely bold--in some cases almost (but not quite) overpowering. What impressed me most were the wine pairings; several of the wines were just a bit 'off-kilter' when tasted in isolation of the food, but were tremendously well-paired. This restaurant has only been open about 6 months, and is firing on all cylinders at the moment; definitely worth the visit.

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We had a late dinner at Fernand Obb in the Saint-Gilles neighborhood of Brussels. This is a small space that looks something like a cross between a classic US delicatessen and a classic US diner. There aren't too many tables--maybe 10-15 2-tops--plus some bar stools. I was very impressed--the shrimp croquettes, apparently now considered the best in Brussels, lived up to their billing--perfectly fried and creamy and shrimp-y on the inside. I was hungry, and ordered two--they were substantial but delicious. I also tried the Porc/Veal sausage hamburger, served with pickles and a mayonnaise, I think, on a crusty roll, and would have had another if I hadn't ordered the croquettes--it was really delicious. We also sampled the gaufrites--a dauphinois potato that was formed and fried like a waffle. It was good, served with a sriracha mayonnaise (perhaps?) but less exciting for me than the burger and croquettes.

I paired all of this with two beers that couldn't be more disparate in style, but both old favorites: the sour Duchess du Bourgogne, and the creamy, lightly hoppy La Chouffe. Service was extremely friendly and fast, and I will absolutely go back the next time I am in Brussels; with so many great restaurants right now in this city, I can't think of higher praise.

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Dinner at Toucan Brasserie was very good. I shared a seafood tower of clams, mussels, oysters, crevettes, crevettes-grises, and some other shelled treats. Beautifully prepared; I think (but am not positive) that the mussels were raw, or exceedingly lightly steamed; the texture was unique and not entirely to my taste, but interesting nonetheless. I continued the theme with the chipirones (octopus) in a Spanish sauce with pea shoots. Perfectly prepared. Service was deliberate but friendly. This place is definitely worth a visit; in the beautiful Ixelles neighborhood.  

Lunch at Be Bo Bun was good--nothing really special, I guess, but well-prepared Vietnamese food. The Bun bowl was very filling, and a good deal at around 12 Euros.

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A second visit to Toshiro confirmed to me how interesting it is. Again, a 7-course tasting menu with some of the same ingredients as I had in November--duck was again a prominent player, as were scallops, Jerusalem artichokes, and carrots--but new preparations and a wealth of interesting flavors and combinations. Starting the evening off with a bergamot/champagne aperitif was bold and for some at my table a bit too much, but we quickly slid into the amuse bouche--4 of those, I think--before jumping into the full menu. As before, the wine pairings were challenging and transformed by the dishes that they were served with. I hope to come back again sometime later this year; out of all of the places in Brussels that I've been fortunate to dine at, I think that this has now been established as my absolute favorite.

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Perhaps an off-night, but I was underwhelmed by dinner at San, for which I had high hopes. There were a few nice dishes, but nothing really spectacular. A 5-course tasting menu, with a two-course add-on, made for a long night. Perhaps the problem lies in the concept--all courses, save the bread course, were designed to be served only in bowls, and to only be consumed with a spoon. Even writing that seems somewhat goofy.

The service, on the other hand, was practically flawless, a great combination of professionalism and friendliness. It made me want to like dinner more than I ultimately did. Our server also made some very nice recommendations for wines, which helped to make what could have been a much more disappointing night not quite so.

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On 3/21/2012 at 4:50 PM, Andelman said:

Has anyone been lately? I am going for a work related trip at the end of April (just for a 3 nights) and we are looking for some good recs. We have 2 nights/2 days in Brussels and 1 day/evening in Bruges. Nothing fancy, just some good, solid, un-touristy cooking. Bars and other food-related establishments wanted also. Much appreciated!

I'm headed there in early April and have a very similar itinerary and the same questions. Not looking to do any fine dining on this trip. Will be staying in Marolles, but was thinking of going into Ixelles one evening if there's a place worth seeking out. 

Seanvtaylor, have already taken some notes from your posts, thanks!

Btw, I will be solo if that makes a difference in any recommendations.

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First time back to Brussels for a week since early February 2020. Long time.

Dinner at Beiruti down in the Ste Catherine area was nice. It was the last day or two of the (current) need for a COVID Safe Ticket, and after scanning I sat down and removed my mask. Dinner was a variety of Lebanese Street Food dishes, with a lamb/hummus/tomato mana'eesh and a nicely roasted cauliflower with tahini and pistachios. Both were delicious. I don't think that they serve alcohol, but I had a fizzy lemonade that was worthwhile. Service was easy and friendly; I was there at the beginning of their evening service and was treated well.

Dinner the next night was across the street at Pizzeria Nona, a Neapolitan pizzeria that was full and clearly popular with people streaming in. It stresses the simplicity of their pizzas--always a good sign--and is very vegan friendly, in my view. The olives were massive, thumb-sized green chunks of flavor. Their 'veggie' vegan pizza of the month was a pumpkin cream pizza with walnuts and mushrooms. It was too big to order two, but honestly it was so good that I would have if I could. With a de Koninck dark beer (not sure which one, mildly bitter), it was delightful. I wish I could have gone back again on this trip; next time.

Dinner at Chou was refined French cuisine--not Michelin-star level, but this small restaurant puts out interesting dishes. The sweetbreads with shrimp was a mildly sweet on sweet starter complemented nicely by a lobster sauce. It was nicely balanced but also decadent, and an interesting starter. The main that I had of salmon with potato mash and roasted vegetables was perfectly fine but after the starter homey and somewhat pedestrian. I still finished the plate; it was well-prepared, just less interesting than I'd hoped. Service was brusque, but I was with a larger party and that is always a tough task for a server in a small restaurant, I think.

Finally, another group dinner at Dolci Amaro was a blow-out, with our host wanting to try multiple wines throughout the evening. Service was very good, and the plates were very nice. The grilled octopus starter was a large, multi-tentacles affair, and was fantastic. My sea bass entree was lightly roasted with butter (I think) and was again quite substantial and worthwhile. Service was fine, and the wine card was interesting to read. I wish I knew more about Italian wines to have contributed to the deliberation about what we should sample next.

It was really nice to be back.

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