Bite Me, Brussels.

Reviewing food for the foreigners, without all the fluff.

Archive for March, 2013

Burger wars rock on

Posted by rachelinbxl on March 22, 2013

There have been a few blogs on the best burger in Brussels (see Ultimate Burger Guide or Burger Wars) and I myself added tests of Houtsiplou and Burger Republic. Since then I have tried Ellis Gourmet Burger at St. Catherine and was pleasantly surprised by the decor, the speedy service and the burger quality.
I am not generally a big burger fan, so my tests have not included the recommended Cool Bun (yet). It’s taken me 3 years to try 4 burger joints. I could not resist, however, an invitation, to try ALL the Legendary Burgers at the recently opened Hard Rock Cafe on the Grand Place. This is my first ‘blog perk’ – an invitation for a foodie who reviews in English and an opportunity for them to therefore get free publicity.
Win – win really!
So, I grabbed a couple of friends and took them out for a feast on me. We tried all 7 burgers.  Luckily they made mini versions, or we might have died trying to accomplish a mission impossible.

For the record – the list was:
Legendary 10 Oz – burger with bacon, cheddar and a fried onion ring,
SOB burger – Chipotle spiced patty, Jack cheese. guacamole and grilled onions, served with a homemade salsa
Hickory BBQ Bacon – burger with BBQ sauce, caramelised onions, bacon, cheddar
Big Cheese – you can choose American, Jack. Cheddar or Swiss but we couldn’t in the mini
Red, White and Blue Burger – burger with spicy Wayne sauce and cajun seasoning topped with a fried onion ring and swiss blue cheese.
Mushroom and Swiss – smothered with mushrooms sauteed in garlic and red and white wine and topped with swiss cheese.
California – ranch dressing, cucumber, guacamole and Jack.

ALL the above burgers came in a bun made with potato flakes to ensure the bread isn’t sweet or salty, and served with lettuce, tomato and pickles inside.

I debated long and hard on which order to present these burgers in – the order tasted; my order of preference; or the order of votes that we took at the end from everyone present at this tasting. In the end I choose to eliminate a few from detailed descriptions. The original ‘legendary’ is a burger, the Big Cheese suffered the most in miniaturisation I think (there was only one slice of cheese in our version, which can hardly be called cheesy at all), and the Hickory BBQ was not to my taste (this patty was the most chargrilled, but I don’t like BBQ sauce… )

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From the left we have the legendary, the Hickory BBQ, the Red, White and Blue and its accompanying Wayne Sauce.

The Red, White and Blue was a popular vote. The sauce is spicy – i tried it separately first and was wary of putting it on the burger, but I had faith in our Venezuelan/Portuguese chef (Miguel came to explain each of the burgers to us) and tried it. The blue cheese actually damps out some of the spice, and the combination really works. I enjoyed this a lot. I’m not such a fan of coated onion rings as simple fried onion, which is perhaps why this didn’t get the top vote. I also think a regular portion with that much blue cheese might knock me for 6!

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Here we see the Mushrooms and Swiss and the California without the top bun on. The mushroom and swiss also suffered in shrinking. The mushrooms, as Miguel carefully explained, are fried in garlic and both red and white wines. They have a great taste, but not many fit in a mini bun. As a result, this burger was dry and I didn’t think the big one would be.

The california was our maitre d’s favourite. A Spaniard, who gave us an interesting introduction to Hard Rock over a banana flavoured cocktail, said he was sad it was the last on the tasting list, as we wouldn’t be able to appreciate it. However, 4 people voted for this as their favourite. The ranch dressing was the major reason, though the homemade guacamole and cucumber made this the most moist of the burgers. I liked it a lot. It would have come second.
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Here I show the fries, made with skin on, and a tray of mini Mushrooms and Swiss burgers. The fries were a very pleasant surprise, but perhaps because my expectations were low. I was expecting American fries – stick thin and full of mash. These were not Belgian frites  (they are only fried once, for sure), but they are fresh-cut real potatoes, with the skin left on. A special secret seasoning is added to the frying (Miguel said he can’t even reproduce these at home, so secret is the mix). The result has a slightly breadcrumb taste, but on a real potato base – a bit like thin potato wedges. This said, the first 2 plates we devoured were much better than the third offering, where the oil had gotten too hot and the chips were dry. Mind you – it was better that we stopped by then!

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We got to see the real portion size. The far left is the SOB (this stands for South of the Border, not anything ruder) with accompanying salsa, and the Original legendary. On the right, the big Cheese, which is done more justice in real size.

The SOB was my favourite. I loved the slight kick that the chipotle gave the patty and the homemade salsa was brilliant. We identified at least tomatoes, fried onion and coriander but I’m sure there are more ingredients. Adding this to the burger made it even more moist and juicy. For me this was a clear winner, however it only got 2 votes in the final. Hickory got 3, Legendary 1 and Big Cheese 0 (confirming that this should be eaten BIG). Mushrooms and Swiss also got 0, perhaps because of the size, or perhaps the in-between nature. People either preferred an original burger, or a special/ spicy one.

All in all I enjoyed the burgers, but didn’t think there was a huge variety. They are all the same price (currently 15.25 €), which includes fries. This makes them a tiny bit more than Ellis (but the portions are larger) but cheaper than Cool Bun. I must add that the location on the Grand Place is worth a great deal – and of course the traditional Hard Rock decor with souvenirs from various stars. There is a vegetarian burger on the menu, that also offers  salads and sandwiches, but the burgers are clearly the stars. In fact the veggie burger is the only veggie offering I can find at first glance.

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Dessert at Hard Rock Cafe Brussels

The dessert was a bonus surprise and everyone present groaned when he said there was a little extra. Once we got the little mini portions of chocolate brownie, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, however, there was silence as we all kept testing. This was excellent and really finished off the ‘meal’ of 7 mini burgers, too many fries, and a cocktail and a beer. I had a wonderful evening.

One can guarantee that this restaurant will speak English (and French), and be busy most of the time. As we left, I saw that it was very busy downstairs – a big change from when we had arrived. The shop is of course also popular, with the traditional T-shirt sales. I may well be back to test the bigger version of the small samples – when I feel I can stomach another burger – which might not be for a while!

Hard Rock Cafe,  or their facebook page,
Grand Place 12A, Brussels!

Food: B
Atmosphere: B – though an A for America. It’s just not very Belgian
Service: A Very friendly
Price: B
Languages: English, French

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Brussels to Brittany in 20 minutes

Posted by rachelinbxl on March 17, 2013

I am a huge fan of Breton pancakes. The savoury version, often made with buckwheat flour, are richly tasty, with a bitter aftertaste that marries really well with cheese and other toppings. They call this ‘sarrasin’ or ‘ble noir’ and generally call the pancakes galettes rather than crepes.
There are a few places offering these in Brussels, but they are simple to make at home, so I had not ventured to a restaurant. But, of course, if you want more choice of toppings, it is easier in a resto, so my boyfriend persuaded me to test this place, near me in Uccle, yesterday. We wandered in at about 8pm without a reservation and got the last free table. This little place on Avenue Brugmann is a bit offset from other food establishments, and so is not particularly busy. It can only seat about 22 people in total and a party of 10 had made a booking, meaning the rest of us were somewhat crammed together. This was fine as most people finished before we got our food – not that the service was slow, it was impeccable.
My boyfriend took La Jersey – which has cheese, ham, egg, tomato and onion. This was a really filling mix that he loved.

La Jersey

La Jersey

I went for the goats cheese, apple, lardons and honey galette called La Belle Ile. This was because my boyfriend doesn’t really like goat’s cheese, so we don’t use it when we make them at home, but he tried this and decided that with the honey and apple offsetting the bitterness of the goat’s cheese, he actually really liked it. I had to fight him off trying more of it! The pancakes themselves were crispy and delicious and a good serving size. We were also pleasantly surprised to each receive a small salad with our galette – really just a small bowl of iceberg lettuce and carrot with some dressing, but pancakes can feel rather heavy with no fresh vegetables, so I appreciated this touch.
La Belle Ile

La Belle Ile

We were tempted by the offering of a beer from Brittany, but in the end stuck to tradition and took a half of the dry cider. This was still quite sweet, and dangerously drinkable. I love cider with buckwheat pancakes and cheese. I think it’s more refreshing than beer, even if it often gives more of a headache!
Bol de Brut

Bol de Brut

We both were really hoping that they would have salty butter caramel crepes for dessert, and had already checked for it while we were choosing the main course. We were most disappointed when we didn’t find it. Since the waitress was occupied with the party of 10 when we finished our main course, we waited quite a while for the table to be cleared. She was then on a cigarette break and the chef himself asked if we wanted dessert. We confirmed and he offered his speciality – salted butter caramel. We both beamed and immediately ordered two. The result was a delight.
Salty Butter Caramel

Salty Butter Caramel

The crepe itself was not hot – clearly they are prepared and just warmed before serving (the speed of service also told us this)… but this is best since the caramel was also cool and came with vanilla ice cream. They did not skimp on the caramel.. my heart was palipatating at the thought of all the butter I was ingesting, but it was divine. When the waitress came to take the plates (that we had to resist licking clean), I expressed our joy at finding salty caramel, and she pointed out it was on the suggestions board. I suddenly realised that ‘crepe salidou a la glace vanille’ was the salted butter caramel. I felt it wasn’t clear as an option, when others explained far more their content.. but it confirmed for me that we will be going back, if only for dessert!
The restaurant is small and friendly. clearly also family friendly as the two tables next to us both had small children drawing with coloured pencils provided by the owner. They have a dog, but a very well behaved one. The decor is bright and breton, nothing overly chic. We ate for 20 euros each including drinks, so I’d say it is very good value for money. It’s also a fast meal.

Le Triskell, Ave Brugmann (corner of Berkendael)

Food: A
Atmosphere: B
Service: A Very friendly
Price: A
Languages: French

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