Archive for November 28th, 2007

Mussels at Les Brassins in Brussels

Written about in the New York Times a few months ago, Les Brassins is no secret. I was a little worried that it’d be Florence redux, and I’d be sitting among a million other tourists eating mediocre food at inflated prices.

Well, it turns out our meal at Les Brassins was with locals, eating delicious comfort food, and at reasonable prices. The Tourist Trifecta!

The dining room is kitschy bistro warmth – all amber lighting and posters of vintage ads. The half-timber ceilings gave the place a cozy Alpine chalet flavor, and the tables were ridiculously close together. But that was a good thing, because it enabled Jon and me to hear that our neighbors were all French-speaking and to peek at what they were eating. And the couple to my left, who live in the neighborhood, decided to strike up a conversation with us about the trappist ales we ordered. Who knew that a Chimay Blue and a Rochefort 8 would be the key to making new friends?

Although there were only two servers to wait on a packed dining room seating at least 100 people, both were surprisingly attentive and friendly.

Of course Jon and I started with mussels, which were hot, plump and fresh (photo at top). The loads of celery was a surprise, but it added a nice lightness to the usual buttery wine sauce. Eighteen euros was more than fair for such a generous and tasty portion.

My onglet with shallot sauce was a mixed bag, but still made for a delicious main course. For some reason, I was served two enormous steaks (either one on its own big enough to constitute a meal). One was perfectly bleu (rare) and juicy, and the other one old, chewy and totally inedible. So to make a good meal, all I had to do was eat the one good one and ignore the bad one. The shallot sauce was super sweet, which made me think it was more an onion sauce, but no complaints, because of course the key part is that the sauce went perfectly with the crispy, hot, salty frites. Those Belgians, they really do know their frites.

Jon’s carbonnade (which is pretty much boeuf bourgignon with beer instead of burgundy) was meaty, fork tender and rib-sticking like a good winter stew should, and when I tasted Jon’s dish, I found the stew tasted just like my “onion sauce.” I concluded it’s probably the same sauce, which is a little bit lazy of the kitchen, but it still tasted good, so I should let it go.

For a cold, wintry night, Les Brassins was the perfect warm escape serving Belgian classics well-prepared. Our tab for four beers, an espresso, mussels, steak and carbonnade totalled 60 euros. I’d definitely go back.

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