Bite Me, Brussels.

Reviewing food for the foreigners, without all the fluff.

Archive for the ‘Feeling Carnivorous?’ Category

Not such a cool bun

Posted by rachelinbxl on April 6, 2013

Well…. I finally made it out to Cool Bun. It was for a friend’s birthday. That’s my excuse and I am sticking to it! I certainly didn’t need a burger after the Hard Rock overdose… but I did feel the need to check out the last in the competition.
So, Cool Bun near Place Stephanie. Well, the service is good. The decor is a little boring, but not bad. The toilets weren’t up to much, but were at least clean. My difficulty was finding it. I thought it was closer to Place Stephanie, but you actually need to go up past Mig’s World Wines (a favourite wine shop of mine on Chaussee de Charleroi – but this isn’t a wine blog)….
Saturday lunchtime it is open till 15:00, which fits well with the generally late shift of my habits on Saturday. It was even quite busy up till the kitchen closed.
The 2 waitresses were welcoming and even a bit fast to try and take our orders. In fact we both opted for the Apple Jack Burger, since the special I wanted to try with echalottes fried in Westmalle and mushrooms was off the menu. We both went for ‘a point’ – I don’t like meat too bloody, especially a burger. This burger includes onion rings, oven-dried tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and BBQ sauce (with a choice of spicy or plain). I took spicy and it wasn’t really spicy.
The onion rings weren’t a highlight for me. They weren’t bad.. but not outstanding. The fries were a mixed bunch. My dining companion actually got a fairly decent plate of chips, I got little crispy bits of potato. We realised later on that he preferred the crunchy bits and we could swap so I could have something resembling potato…. but I still have to give their fries the thumbs down. This is Belgium. We have standards.
The homemade bread was good, and I liked the little salad that comes with the burger. The meat was good, not over seasoned, and cooked as requested. I still prefer Ellis Gourmet Burger and Les Super Filles du Tram/ Houstiplou. My last gripe would be the prices here. The apple jack is one of the cheapest burgers at 15 euros (includes fries, not the case at Ellis). The specials are at about 20-22 euros. This is over my limit for a burger. The wines and bio beers are not overpriced, but not cheap either, and I thought the wine selection by the glass was a bit poor. I chose a beer.

Cool Bun

Apple Jack Burger

All in all, not a place to avoid: I encourage bio, friendly restos near the centre… but not an outstanding burger.

Cool Bun
Rue Berckmans 34
1060 Saint-Gilles (near Place Stephanie)

Food: B-
Atmosphere: B
Service: A- Friendly but card reader broken so I had to wait while my friend went out for cash
Price: C
Languages: English, French

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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… )

hardrock 003 hardrock 009 hardrock 012 hardrock 013

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!

hardrock 017 hardrock 018

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.
hardrock 005 hardrock 016thumb

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!

hardrock 008 hardrock 011

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.

hardrock 021
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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All you can eat Curry

Posted by rachelinbxl on April 15, 2012

I have posted in the past about my difficulty to find satisfactory curry in the ‘Gourmet Capital of Europe’.  See Desperately seeking curry and Indian Welcome.  I had been meaning to try Sawad and Anarkali for a while. This post is about the latter, which was easier to get for for a few friends who decided to join me for curry.

I hear they used to serve a la carte.  It is now exclusively a buffet restauarant. The lunchtime buffet is just 12 euros, and in the evenings it is 18 euros. There is a reduced selection available mid-week for a bit less, I believe, but we were there on a Friday. The 18 euro buffet price includes a dessert and a tea or coffee… beers are 3-4 euros extra, as are lassis. I had a beer, so I can’t comment on the quality of the lassi.
The service was a little patchy. I arrived first of the party and since we hadn’t reserved I went inside to squat a table for 4. The waiter brought me poppadoms and a plate with various dips and chutneys, but didn’t ask if I wanted a drink. 2 more guests arrived and he was still nowhere in sight. The fourth arrived and she hardly got her coat off before he wanted to know what we wanted to drink!

One friend almost immediately spilled his beer over the table, the poppadoms and the chutneys. The waiter could only supply serviettes to clear up the mess, but was decent enough to supply a spare beer. He did not clear away the beer soaked napkins or plates until the end of the meal, however.
While we were on our first tour of the buffet, 4 legs of chicken appeared at the table (no idea which one this was, it was slightly spiced grilled meat). A naan appeared shortly afterwards. It was an excellent naan, hot, buttery and fluffy… but getting another proved to be impossible. Good thing there was plenty of other things to try.
I tested the lady’s fingers (okra): OK, not too spicy.. I’m still not an okra fan
The chicken with mango and pistachio was in a creamy coconut sauce. Tasty, but only in small quantities.
The tikka masala chicken was made with tandoori chicken (breast roasted in a very red marinade. The sauce was a bit liquid and not balanced enough on the various spices for my taste).
The lamb vindaloo was my first attempt at the spiciest curry on the menu. It was spicy. The first mouthful felt fine, the second was still flavourful (though no way to detect the cardamoms that were floating in the sauce and were listed as a prime ingredient), the third mouthful was with lots of sauce.. and I suffered afterwards. Burning lips and throat. Thanks goodness for rice, naan and beers!
The pilau rice with cardamoms was fair, but I was trying to restrict the starch intake to be able to test the curries
The daal was pleasant, not very spicy. The chana (chick pea) curry was also good, with bay leaves. I enjoyed the cold chick pea salad more though – more coriander.
The mixed vegetable curry was not too spicy, but the vegetables were inevitably a little overcooked. The vegetable samosa was a highlight for me. I couldn’t find the pakora/bhajis that were on the menu, which is probably good as I adore those and would probably have truly overeaten!
As it was, after 2 visits to the buffet, we were all sated and couldn’t contemplate trying any more, though there were still flavours left to explore (after the vindaloo, not much was registering though).

We didn’t wait long for him to come and ask if we wanted dessert. I ordered kulfi, and one of the party tried simple ice cream. We all took chai; I checked it was made with milk, but forgot to ask if it was masala chai (spiced) or plain. It turned out to be plain, and made without sugar, rather unusually.. but quite pleasantly less rich after all the food. The kulfi was good.. cardamom and pistachio and a bright green colour. The chocolate ice cream came drowned in cream and with little pieces of the candy that you find in the Indian digestive spices chewing kit – which came with the bill and that I enjoyed. This was the first time I have been served that in Belgium.

All in all, for 21 euros, I felt that the choice and the quality was satisfactory. Next time I am craving curry I may just stick to one flavour! But next time, I may have to test Ashok’s (see below).

I never know how to photograph buffets. Does one walk along, opening each bronze coloured bain marie and photographing the content? Or does one take a picture of a mixed plate and try to identify the mixed content? This time, despite having my camera with me, I opted not to take pictures. Buffets are eaten with the taste buds, not the eyes. No plate with a mix of curries looks appealing. So excuse the lack of photos on this blog.

Anarkali
Rue Longue-Vie 33 – 1050 Brussels
Food: B
Atmosphere: C
Service: B-
Price: B+
Languages: French, English

Cycling back from the japanese supermarket Tagawa today, I went past Ashok’s, which I hadn’t heard of. Another to put on my list of places to test! Perhaps Brussels will make it to a good curry this Brusselicious year!

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Burger and beers in Brussels

Posted by rachelinbxl on March 18, 2012

There have been a few blogs on the best burger in Brussels recently (see Ultimate Burger Guide or Burger Wars).  I confess I am not much of a burger fan, but every once in a while I get a hankering for this oversized, overly meaty sandwich, and McDonalds, or the recent strange Quick ideas will NOT hit the spot.

So, it’s always good to test a new spot in Brussels for burgers.

I tested the Burger Republic near Flagey, but on a day that I was playing vegetarian (a challenge during Lent this year in the Flemish community  to sensitise people to the ecological footprint that producing meat requires. see dagenzondervlees for more details). Their version with a huge portobello mushroom, roasted bell peppers, cheese and a mustardy sauce was OK, but I didn’t really enjoy their fries and thought the white bread bun really lacked taste. Also, the burger disintegrated in my hands. I realise mushrooms are more slippery than meat, but there must be a way to get the cheese to stick this together. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t pay 12 euros for this burger a second time.

I preferred Houtsiplou, where I tested the “Super chouette” back in December last year. I went without a camera, so there is no photographic evidence of this burger. It was a bit heavy on the cheese, but the pepper sauce was good. I hear it’s owned by the same people as Super Filles du Tram – hence both serving fries in flower pots! The service was friendly and very bilingual (was dining with a Flemish friend, and he was most impressed to find this in Brussels, and so near the Grand Place).  I like the place itself also, on the small square, opposite the insanely expensive Comme chez soi and l’Horloge. I read in a guidebook that this square used to be the arrivals hall of the main station in brussels. The Horloge restaurant is where the large train clock stood, and the statue in the middle welcomed visitors off the trains in Brussels.

Houtsiplou
Place Rouppe, 9 – 1000 Bruxelles
Food: A
Atmosphere: B
Service: A
Price: B+
Languages: French, Dutch, English

Burger Republic,
Chaussée de Vleurgat 7, 1050, Ixelle
Food: C
Atmosphere: C
Service: B
Price: C
Languages: French,  English

I called this post Burgers and Beers, and that is because I also keep up my exploration of Belgian beers (soon a post on a visit to the Cantillon public brewing session and the Gruut brewery, run by a woman, in the centre of Gent, where they make beer without hops). A ‘new’ beer shop has opened on Place de Jeu de Balles which will help me in my quest to try all of the beers listed in my book ‘100 Belgian beers to try before you die’

Au nom de la bière
12, Jeu de Balle
1000 Bruxelles

This is right on the square with the flea market. It is open Thurs-Sun, or ask at the Marseille bar on the corner, where the owner clearly spends a great deal of his time. He has a good selection, not cheap.. but he is friendly and knowledgeable. I’m sure there are better, but they often require cars to get too. Here I can wheel my little shopping trolly from the Sunday pilgrimage to South station market, collect a few more bottles, and hop a tram home! So.. should you need to sample some of the rarer Belgian beers: I recommend Les Rulles, Owa and the WinterKoninkse. Skol

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I’m singing in the snow

Posted by rachelinbxl on January 16, 2012

Le fou chantant on ave de fre in uccle is well hidden from passers-by. It is set back from the street down a small path that could almost be a driveway for cars, but isn’t. to note at this point: it doesn’t offer parking for clients which, given its rather off the beaten track, is rather a disadvantage. I found it thanks to a fan of the establishment who hosted his birthday party there. He booked the entire restaurant so i cannot comment on usual lay out or clientele. It was the day of snow in brussels, dec 2011, and getting down the drive was perilous. But i digress.
The crazy singing man is so-called because the focus of the cozy room with its mezzanine is a grand piano, where an expert comes to sing old favourites (mainly french language). There are song books on the tables and diners are encouraged to sing along. Dinner and karaoke. A few great classics by the likes of the beatles and elvis have made the list, but otherwise you can go observe the massacre of Jean-Jacques Goldman, Johnny Halliday etc.
The food is based around a grill. The open fire heats BBQ style grill prangs and the meat is high quality. We started with oysters, then a plate of foie gras. Neither of these is really my favourite, but the pate was good, served with onion jam and bread.

Foie gras

Foie gras


The piece de resistance is the steak, however. They came round to ask how you want it cooked and I would advise against saying anything darker than saignant-bloody. This is the third grade after bleu and rouge. I had never even heard this first, i think it means raw!!
I took bloody and enjoyed all but the very centre of my very thick slab. Had i had a thinner piece i think I could have eaten it all. It came with caramelised witloof, which is one of my pet hates in Belgian cuisine, and the ubiquitous fries. The witloof was actually edible, with sauce. 3 different sauces were on the table, of which the pepper cream sauce was my favourite, but the bearnaise was ok too. The tartare was too much like garlic mayonnaise for me. The wine was a robust french offering that went well with the meat.

Singing started in the middle of the main course. Dancing started once we could safely stand after all that food and only paused when dessert arrived. By this point i was not at all hungry but tested it out of gourmandise. It was a chocolate mousse cake on a wafer base with a fruit coulis. delicious, and luckily small. But I shouldn’t have indulged!!
Since this was a private party i cannot comment on the price of a normal meal in the resto, though I have read mixed reviews on that front. However, if you are looking for a sing along grill, look no further! A great time was had by all…

Le Fou Chantant
Av. de Fré 176
1180 Uccle

Food: B
Atmosphere: A
Service: B
Price: ??
Languages: French, Dutch, English

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