Bite Me, Brussels.

Reviewing food for the foreigners, without all the fluff.

Archive for the ‘Tourist Traps’ Category

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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Best Hot Chocolate Competition part 1

Posted by rachelinbxl on October 15, 2012

Of course, one of the things we are spoiled for choice on in Belgium is all things cocoa related!

I have my favourite chocolatiers – Zaabar and Blondeel are on the list. Zaabar for their chocolate bars of different cocoa origins, and Blondeel for their hot chocolates. There are others I must try – Wittamer is one I have often heard recommended. But I stick to St Catherine for this post.

The tea house has varied the selection in the past, but recently stuck to tried and tested – Venezuela – lower cocoa content but with chili powder and lemongrass flavour, Ghana (85% coca) with vanilla, cinnamon and aniseed (not strong), Madagascar (63% simple cocoa and milk), Safraan – more expensive 63% topped with frothed milk and real safran, and the 100% cocoa with mountain honey – that I love but that shouldn’t be considered as a drinking chocolate 😉

Madagascar Ghana – velvety smooth, vanilla undertones
Ghana Venezuela – more milky, with chili powder and lemongrass
The tea room The decor – Mayan?

If you go with  few people, try each! I’m also told their coffees are excellent. Their tea suffers from the typical Belgian problem of not being served hot enough in my British opinion. The Ghana is stronger on the cocoa content, and velvety smooth. The Venezuela was very hot on the chili to start with, with the lemongrass coming through more towards the bottom of the cup. This one is harder to taste the cocoa, it’s somewhat overpowered. The safran one was the biggest disappointment to me. It’s more expensive and much milkier. Maybe my palate is not refined enough, but I couldn’t taste the safran in this. My favourite remains the 100% – but I eat it with a spoon. It is not sweet, nor milky, despite being based on milk and chocolate. The honey adds a delightful wild flavour to the cocoa, but this is not a refreshing drink. It’s a medicinal pick me up filled with endorphins and feel-good factor!

They always put 2 chocolates beside your hot chocolate, as well as a glass of water that is much appreciated. One is their most famous praline based on florentine pieces – caramelised sugar with small nuts in it. You can ask to select chocolates from the counter for a small extra cost to enjoy with your drinks  (the price varies with who is serving!). They offer great flavours – including chili, wasabi, sea salt, earl grey, jasmine and rosemary. At 10 euros per 100g, you will only take away a few chocolates in a plastic bag unless you are on a splurge.

This place is often busy for the sit-down, but worth a visit! if it’s too packed, pop round the corner to Charli to test their pain au chocolat. I’ve since tested their beer and pumpkin seed bread and it is worth the trip!

Frederic Blondeel

Quai aux Briques 241000 Bruxelles
Drinks: A
Atmosphere: B
Service: A
Price: B+
Languages: French, Dutch, English

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Bite Me in Rome

Posted by rachelinbxl on October 3, 2012

Rachelinbxl has been quiet of late – lots of travelling and not much time to test restaurants in Brussels. Have mainly eaten in old favourites with visiting friends. So, I decided to add a restaurant from Rome. Bite Me does this sometimes on our travels, but this is my first posting from abroad. I’ll spare you the delights of Indian cuisine that I sampled on a recent trip and stick to something you might get to try.

We discovered, quite by accident, in the back streets of Rome, a Mozzarella bar. Intrigued by what this could mean we scrutinised the menu while it was closed and decided to come back when it was open. You can try various types of this AOC cheese (i.e. it must be made in a certain place).
I like mozzarella – on pizza, or in a salad with tomato and basil – but it doesn’t have a strong taste. Of course, we get the not-so-good stuff. Here, at the bar, one can choose from the milky white balls, each in separate tanks – like selecting a fish or a lobster in a seafood restaurant! They list the options as:
Paestum (delicate taste)
Pontina (strong taste)
Affumicata (naturally smoked)
Burrata (deliciously creamy)
If you want a tasting menu you can have two. We went for Pontina and Affumicata. We chose to have freshly made focaccia with it rather than a simple bread basket. Also known as pizza bianca, this was the best focaccia I have ever tasted – with rosemary and flakes of sea salt in its crisp, thin layers. Not spongy and thick like focaccia in Belgium!
The waiter was a little bit useless – forgot what we ordered to drink and got very confused, but he could at least advise us to start with the Pontina and then try the smoked. They come on a bed of young spinach and cherry tomatoes with a few (rather poor) black olives – but I wouldn’t call this a salad! The dish was easily enough for 2 to share however, as the cheese is very filling.

Focaccia (pizza bianca) and Mozzarella


I loved the pontina. So much flavour in such a fresh cheese! It was so good we didn’t try the olive oil or balsamic vinegar available on the table. Once we did, we couldn’t stop with those either. The quality is totally different, superior even to most of the olive oils I have had in Italy.
The smoked was totally different – overpowering and more sickly. I was glad I only had to eat half. I also enjoyed it, but half was enough. My friend preferred this one…
We didn’t have space for dessert and at lunchtime on such a hot day we didn’t sample their excellent selection of Italian wines. I looked up where the one in London is, for my next trip ‘home’. I intend to buy a bottle of that excellent olive oil, when I don’t have Ryanair hand luggage restrictions holding me back!

Obika has branches in Italy, New York, Tokyo, Istanbul but also now in London and soon – who knows where!
Obika, Rome
Food: A
Atmosphere: B (street bar in Rome – can’t guarantee they are all the same)
Service: B
Price: B (pricey for cheese and bread)
Languages: Italian, English

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Uccle Punch

Posted by rachelinbxl on April 1, 2012

A guignol is a sort of puppet, a punch character of punch and judy fame. The waitress who welcomed me to this restaurant in a rather out of the way part of uccle reminded me of a puppet show in that she was tiny, but with a large mouth, loud voice and plenty of witty repartee!!
i headed the wrong direction to use the toilets and she informed the chef i was here to make desserts and do the washing up. She asked me if i wanted a drink while i waited for my friend and i answered that i would give him 5 minutes. She came back with “but not 6 right, because then he missed his chance”
But either way the resto is a place with character, and a huge choice of dishes, even before the suggestions.
I went for a risotto with shrimps and mushrooms, which was salty but tasty, with large pre-peeled prawns in it, and my friend for the traditional onglet a l’echalottes, with croquette potatoes.

The meat was definitely only just medium for the cuisson, but the sauce was tasty.
The pinot noir half bottle was overpriced, and rather mediocre. Perhaps a glass of the house red would have been a better budgetary choice. The beer selection is not wide, so wine is definitely more tempting.

For dessert i opted for the tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream, which my friendly judy waitress offered as tarte flambee. I grinned and acquiesced. I wasnt expecting to pay 3 euro extra for the calvados or equivalent that she poured, rather belatedly over the thin pastry and barely caramelised apples, making my ice cream melt rather precipitously. Unimpressed with dessert. My friend’s moelleux au chocolat was ok, but not amazing. Not dark enough in cocoa, perhaps. We didn’t leave a tip.

Le Guignol, Uccle

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

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Kung Fu Noodles

Posted by rachelinbxl on February 25, 2012

There is a cheap eatery right in the heart of Brussels, that is NOT fries! It’s called Au Bon Bol and it’s down the street to the right of The Meridian hotel opposite the Bourse. Just before the giant Asian supermarket (worth a look in if you want to try and prepare this at home). You can often see them preparing the noodles in the window, stretching, spinning and bouncing them into shape. These are tossed, briefly, into hot water and then served in a steaming bowl of broth, topped with either pork, beef, vegetables or prawns. They can also be made spicy, but there is Sriracha sauce on the tables, so you can also choose your own level of pain (I mean spice).

However, last time I tried to go there the small, cramped, of uncertain health and safety standards, eatery was closed for refurbishment. There was a sign on the door saying ‘Kung Fu’ served the same noodles. Well, this is on the square of the Bourse itself.  Next to the Cirio (almost).  Certainly next to the Grand Cafe. I hadn’t noticed this place before, so maybe it’s a new branch. It is quite clean and spacy inside, compared to the ‘original’ and serves the same quick bowl of noodles.

Shown here is the veggie version – which is more generous on veggies than the meat version is on meat. It’s also the cheapest at 10 euros. This is an entire meal! You can choose to go with chopsticks or cutlery. Serviettes are on the tables, the toilets are quite decent and the service is efficient, if not exactly friendly.

My friend tried the stir fried noodles with chicken, which were more generous with chicken, but slightly more expensive. Still decent value for money near the Bourse though… really! Fresh, hand made noodles, open almost all day, you can get chinese beer, or tea, or soft drinks. A good place for a warm up snack, a sit down and a toilet stop.

Au Bon Bol, Paul Devauxstraat / Kung Fu, Rue de la Bourse

Bourse, 1000 Bruxelles

Food: B
Atmosphere: B
Service: C
Price: A
Languages: French, Chinese

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