Wednesday, August 28, 2013

La Maree - (Brussels, Belgium)

  As briefly mentioned already my 2013 in-between work travels are more gravitated towards eating and re-exploring down to earth local food styles and spending less emphasis on Michelin Starred or Gault et Millau graded restaurants!    Although I still love prestigious fine dining restaurants every now and then,  I find that others just visit these places just for glamour and sometimes for bragging rights.    For me I am just a question child as usual and asks too many questions,   in-between hoping to understand more about food and culture and about life itself!    

  Exploring the more traditional authentic flavours and experience is always high up on my agenda,  as some of these institutions are gradually disappearing over time.   It’s imperative that I can record these with some valuable photos of my experiences and  1 day I can hopefully share these online as some kind of active archive.    I also really wanted to capture the traditional taste sensations before they evolve and become extinct,  and to imprint them into my head before I forget their tastes..



La Maree in Brussels -
They specialize in Belgian and Flemish seafood dishes here.  
Online ratings of here are in the 4 to 4.5 / 5 range.  Pretty high I believe?


Bread -
Pre-packaged butters,  it’s horses for courses.    The bread is quite run-of-the-mill stuff here but it’s at least fresh…     ~  6/10


Hoegaarden White -
White Ale served in the bottle,  I was virtually stunned by how great this bottled beer tasted when drinking inside it’s motherland.   Actually in general I wasn’t overly impressed with many Belgian beers except for a few artisanal ones.    The overseas draught version of this Hoegaarden is much sweeter and honeyed-liked,  with the bottled version also sweeter and tamed down.   This local Belgian sourced bottle was really refreshing and fairly strong on citrusy peels and minty-lemony.     Having drank this bottled version and their draught beers from kegs in different cities for decades,  I was still flabbergasted by how alive this bottle tasted when closer to home  ~  12/10

Local Belgian Mussels in White Wine, with Celery and Herbs -
I hope I don’t sound like a recidivist from a previous review,  yet my mussel meals here so far were all let-down by an overly one dimensional aromatic white wine dominated broth,  plus the mussels were more like really fragile infants and not so unami packed sweet as I would expect  them to be.  *It wasn’t that warm yet when I visited Brussels but to be fair it wasn’t exactly peak season either.  But that still didn’t fixed the monotonous tasting broth which was too wine-dominated and I could feel I was getting drunk by every scoopful of the sauce…  It was enjoyable but I have had better and even pinpoint the exact restaurant where I ate them.   May be I haven’t been visiting the best places however!!  As for here…   ~  7/10


Fries -
Fries came with the mussels.   They were on the softer side and not too floury crispy.  I sometimes appreciate a softer style of fries provided they have potato flavour and not soaked in oil.  But that approach cannot fix my bemoaning of these rather white and lacking-in-potato taste fries..  Fairly generic and expected if you ask me.   ~  7/10


Endorsed by the Michelin Guide for the Recent Consecutive Years.
There is also a 1-Starred La Maree restaurant in Paris,  which I was planning to visit last year and that seafood restaurant is unrelated to the one here in Brussels.  It was definitely decent and executed well.   Yet at the end of the day and coming down to the denominators,  only the final taste will be it’s own best judge.




Price:   Euro 35,00
Ease of Access:  3/5
Food:  ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Opening Hours -
Tues to Sat:  12:00pm to 14:00pm,  18:00pm to 22:00pm
Mon and Sun:  Closed

Address:  Rue de Flandre 99, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
Ph: +32 2 511 00 40

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Noordzee Mer du Nord - (Brussels)

 This shop’s name literally means North Sea which historically encompassed the Flemish region which covers modern day Holland and Belgium and more.  I was really glad that I was referred to here again by the lovely people behind who live in Brussels.   I was told in unconditional terms,  their Fish Soup here is likely to be the best in the city and it can become super crowded during lunch rush hours.    Apart from the astonishing  Liege-style waffles which I have just posted previously at (Elisabeth Chocolatier),  this was the 2nd food I tried here which was also so amazingly done.   Seafood bouillabaisse from Marseille in France or a Suquet de Peix in Spain are also popular but they are assisted slightly by respective Crustaceans and Shellfishes input and perhaps Saffron.   The version here was purely fish based for once,  but it was equally naturally sweet if not more sophisticated and therefore become much more appreciated…   




Menu, Ordering whilst Standing Up -
Brussels isn’t cheap on average,  but this place was well priced.
No wonder both locals and travellers flock to here for a quick meal..





Scampi Fritti – Euro 7,0
I ordered these thinking they will be Fried Scampis,  the type you associate with the white clawy hard-shelled crustaceans in the Mediterranean Sea,  Atlantic Ocean or in Australian-New Zealand region.   These turned out to be just fried prawns and apparently that’s how they are called here – don’t shoot the messenger.   Decent enough and very crunchy and fresh bar the misinterpretation in namesake by international standards.  Served with ok tartare sauce   ~  8/10




Fish Soup -
Plenty of aromatic vegetables base with boiled fish(es) flavour.   I don’t become impressed too easily but this was honestly one of the best fish soups I have ever tried by a great margin -  and I think it wowed me so simply because it was naturally sweet with heaps of fish flavours all compacted together and at the same time those aromatic vegetables flavours remained clearly present throughout in the background.   All of these delicate flavours were there without the help of Crustacean cousins…   If you look to the right side, the baguette bread is topped with what amounts to a Rouille spread,  or to me an attempt at reproducing the Marseille’s famous version when it accompanies a Bouillabaisse stew by default.    In my head instantly,  I thought phew this was another rip-off version and plagiarizes from another city.  On the other hand my taste bud tells me this fish soup and not a stew version is simply too good to be true as I haven’t had better yet anywhere ...   ~  12/10





All Fish and Vegetables Based -  no Crustaceans Input
It’s freshly tomato-ey and fresh fish flavour balanced,  with judicial amounts of aromatic vegetables.  Strong in their independent flavours which sung individually but never murky.   Good old recipes cooked very right in this city,  or more accurately at this seafood shop.





They also serve as a Local Seafood market shop -
Which probably explains for the super freshness of the seafood!





Some Local Belgian White Wine to accompany it all -




Lunch Time -
This was one of my cheapest meals in Brussels.   Money issues aside,  the taste factor somehow registered to become one of my most memorable meals on this planet  (not that I have visited the other billion x billion stars anyway).    Yet to this day I still cannot believe how that normal in appearance and clear seafood soup was so packed with fresh fish sweetness,  aromatic vegetables influence and fresh tomato flavours and herbs, so homely but yet so well structured.    Yet within that same bowl of soup,  some really succulent pieces of fish meat can be spooned up and eaten and were not too broken flakey.  I think there is a secret recipe hiding in there somewhere!   And all only for Euro 4,50 !   I can have this Fish Soup everyday honestly..  Amazing stuff that you take for granted but can’t usually find.   Will miss here definitely so much indeed!!




Price:   Euro 15,00
Ease of Access:  3/5
Food:  ♕♕♕♕♕ 1/2  (I will ever only mark down this score,  until that day when someone shows me a better fish soup and that isn’t Crustacean or Shellfish influenced.  All of the elements really sung in solo here and were easily detectable in different layering of depth.  Sublime for the overall package!)

Address:  45, Rue Sainte Catherine, Brussels 1000, Belgium
Ph: +32 (0)2 513 11 92

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Liege Waffles by Elisabeth Chocolatier - ( Brussels, Belgium)

I was informed by fellow foodie friends living in Brussels (@ ) that the best Belgian Liege style of waffles are found served at Dandoy Tea Room.   I planned to visit there definitely since good waffles will give a man his much needed morale boost!!   I  ended up struggling to navigate around Brussels however as I was much shorter on time than I had anticipated plus I drank far too many beers in the name of research!   Was never sober during my whole time here lol.   The other irony is that the above-mentioned Dandoy Tea House has a Chocolate Maison right next door to this Waffles shop, yet they don’t sell fresh Liege waffles there.  What a pity.. 



Run by Elisabeth Chocolatier a few door down -
There is a very long queue here..  The shop totally dispenses with a front name sign other than this small printed piece of paper.  Very low profile.



Belgium Liege-style Waffles =  Aged Dough cooked in a heavy Cast Iron grill
The recipe is very different from your typical waffles! 
It uses Dry Yeast,  Eggs,  Honey and also a Belgian Pearl Sugar,  the latter melts slower within the risen dough,  to give it that craved after, external caramelized effect at the waffle edges…      If you ever work with dough, surely you will appreciate this extra effort vs a poured batter version.  And logistically and storage wise it is much harder to prepare the waffle dough to the exact degree before you bake it to serve customers… 



Liege style Waffle -
This was amaze balls.  The well caramelized dough base was cooked in very heavy cast iron,  it was dense and syrupy,  fragrant!   You can see the well caramelized edges on this pic as well which gave it a slight crunch when it cooked.   It is also less SQUARE than the normal Brussels style waffles such as here  (Review:     Liege style waffles can also be ordered with fruits, nuts, chocolates and cream but I was told refrained from doing so because it is best served on it’s own.   ~  12/10




Liege Waffle Centre -
Chewy,  caramelized sugary,  fragrant with a good dough and eggs taste.  Sublime.   The other more normal Brussels style waffles are much lighter and crispy,  which do you prefer? 



Maison Dandoy -
Dandoy Tea House
was said to be most famous for their Liege-style waffles.   This chocolate shop outlet which was nearby unfortunately didn’t sell it.   Next time then..




I Came back for Second Round on another Day,   when I was again in the vicinity -
The Liege waffle was still just as addictive!  The elongated irregular shape and a dense dough with chewy bite and good bits of caramelized local sugars,  certainly makes for a marked difference with the usual Brussels style Waffles.    Even the color looked ever so right…   I could eat this everyday!




Price:   Euro 2~3
Ease of Access:  3.5/5
Food:  ♕♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Opening Hours:
Address: Rue au Beurre,  Grand Place, 1000 Brussels, Belgium

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Le Dauphin - (Brussels, Belgium)

 Le Dauphin in Bruxelles  puts  some emphasis on being an expert on cooking Anguille Eels in a Flemish style.   At least that’s what they claim…  After perusing the menu,  it piqued our curiosity enough to give it my final quota for the day with my foodie friend who lives in town.   Actually I do find it very difficult to pick a restaurant to eat in Brussels,  with the whole town inundated with so many touristy places and this is very apparent reading their menus.   I could have planned my meals better yes,  but better places are scattered all over town and to be honest,  I did also looked up some Michelin restaurants before my arrival but I just wasn’t so keen on them going by visual alone ..


Daily Specials Written in French -
It’s quite pricy eating in Brussels. 
The Asparagus season in Brussels falls slightly behind the normal European cycle as it was just peaking on my visit.   By default,  Asparagus refers to the White variety here and not the Green type. 



Duvel Blonde Beer -
From a bottle and not draught kegs,  this was trying to be artisanal in style.   With dry hoppy aroma and a golden hue,  this in my mind has always sat at the forefront of the best commercial beers in the world.   Ultimately however,  we are in Belgium and therefore great and fresh craft beers can be found easily around town,  rendering this Duvel Blonde a little redundant,  even if it is quite enjoyable!!  ~  7.5/10


Anguilles au Vert -
Freshwater Eel in a multiple Green Herbal Sauce.   This is one of the local regional dishes that is Flemish in origin and can also be found in France closer to the modern Belgium side.   The eel was slightly overcooked tense to me,  and the herbal sauce was too weak and artificially thickened up with starches rather than really concentrated in flavours.   They also sell this at many local fish markets as a cold prepared dish.  The version here was ok?  ~  6.5/10



Bread Basket -
It came with the commercialized whipped butter and some severely under-baked breads. 
A little commercialized …  ~  6/10




White Asparagus and a Sauce Gribiche Coming for the Rescue! -
  This was my favourite dish out of the many picks tonight only because it was agreeable in taste.  The White Asparagus were young and tender and topped with herbs and an eggy-gribiche sauce but which was more drier than usual version.   I give it a pass but there’s no doubt the White Asparagus were in top form and very young compared to the consumable norm.  ~  7.5/10




Moules Au Vin Blanc -
Mussels in White Wine.  The wine and soup base was surprisingly thin.   I don’t mind a thin soup but it was quite alcoholic and too watery rather than filled with shellfish flavour.  The mussels themselves were plump enough yet they weren’t too flavourful or sweet.   The White Wine version is said to be the most ordered Mussels dish but this wasn’t very convincing to me – I have definitely had better in quite a few places.  The fries were also decent but could be crispier or have more potatoes taste.  ~  6.9/10




Mussels and White Wine Soup Base -
It was good but somehow it was missing that depth of Seafood and Shellfish input and real freshness.  




Price:   Euro 35 Per Person
Ease of Access:  3/5
Food:  ♕♕♕ 1/2 to ♕♕♕♕

Address: Quai aux Briques 34, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
Ph: +32 2 514 22 58

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fritland - (Brussels, Belgium)

 Belgian frites or fries are famous all over the world,  it was said that the French Shoestring Fries was an adoption of their neighboring country’s earlier invention.   Apparently back in the days,  fries in Belgium were universally fried in Beef Tallow  (and so were fries in McDonald’s).   Yet much like the fries in France are becoming less and less common to be fried in duck or goose fat nowadays for cost and health reasons,  most of the fries I ate in Belgium during this trip didn’t seem to carry any beef tallow flavour at all anymore either..



Menu -
I discovered this time that Brussels speaks predominantly French everywhere.   The Flemish/Dutch language seems to be taking a backdrop nowadays…   The items here were named differently in French but truth be told,  a lot of the food here are virtually the same as one finds in Amsterdam bar the naming differences.  Lots and lots of fried food is definitely common between the neighboring countries



Belgian Fries from a local fritkot,  avec sauce Euro 3,20 -
This shop Fritland was established in 1978 although there seems to be quite a number of famous fritkots in town,  and Fritland receives a very high review score online and seemed overwhelmingly popular here with their long queues.   Good scores online or queues doesn’t mean much to me -  I have just got to taste it, right?  *Glutton mode on.     The fries here were dry and fluffy,  and also crispy on the outside,  not bad for Double Fried chippies.   However,  I did found a potato taste present yet it was borderline detectable,  plus on top of that the Mayonnaise could do with a tad more egginess taste.  This was fairly good mind you but I have simply had better especially from Holland side which some fries could make you cry in ecstasy like you cannot imagine.      ~  8/10



Fries were Crispy,  Fluffy & Floury -
Yet they had no beef tallow aroma nor an abundance of potato taste either,  the mayo was also quite good rather than great quality.    It is above normal standards here without doubt,  it’s just that I have had better overall packages to compare it with within the region.  



Traveling past Belgium - This wasn’t to be my only Fries experience obviously 
But on the whole I was pleased but not impressed with the fries I had encountered on this trip  - which is opposite to my amazing Waffle journeys here.   This was still very good by any standards but I just cannot forget those wowing moments when I bite into amazing fries in Amsterdam or in France, or even in Melbourne or simply my own home-made versions.   However for only 3,20 Euros with a big dollop of Mayo sauce included,  you shouldn’t really complain for a very handy street food!



Price:   Euro 3,20
Ease of Access:  4/5  (Walk downhill from Brussels Central Station)
Food:  ♕♕♕♕ to ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Opening Hours:
Mon to Thurs – 11:00am to 13:00pm
Fri to Sat – 11:00am to 16:00pm

Address: Rue Henri Maus 49, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
Ph: +32 2 514 06 27

Gaufre De Bruxelles - (Brussels, Belgium)

 The Belgian Gaufre waffles are copied all over the world.   The locals however might argue it’s not the best waffle representative.  That gong goes to the Liege Waffle variety,  which is made from a proper risen dough and not a poured liquid batter. 


Bruxelles Central Train Station -
I like the font!


Jupiler Beer -
The biggest selling beer in Belgium.  It reminds me of Stella Artois beer -  both are characterless and commercialized for sales volume.  With so many great beers steeped in history within Belgium,  I don’t see the point of drinking this either.  Except to test it’s freshness here..   Yawn.



Front Counter -
They are smacked in the middle of the most busy area in the city.  
I did wonder if I ventured into a tourist trap.




‘Square Shaped’  Gaufre Waffle, 
served with Icing Sugar,  Strawberries,  Vanilla Ice Cream & Speculoos Spread -
The most typical way to serve a Bruxelles style waffle.  The waffle batter was decent but quite airy soft,  wasn’t very crispy but still enjoyable.     It was the fresh fruits on top and the Speculoos cookie spread that made it really likable.   A really nice combination but the waffle base was a little underbaked if you ask me.  ~  7.5/10


Gaufre De Bruxelles -
Brussels is a beautiful city.
It’s also very touristy,  hate it or love it




Price:   Euro 11,50
Ease of Access:  4/5  (Walk downhill from Brussels Central Station)
Food:  ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Address: Rue du Marché aux Herbes 113, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
Ph: +32 2 514 01 71

Monday, August 12, 2013

Duck de Chine 全鴨季 - (Beijing, China)

 Somehow if you walk around the back streets of Sanlitun,  you may or may not find this secluded 1949 Complex,  it took me a while to locate here.   I was told to give Duck de Chine some serious thoughts as they make a killer of a Peking Duck.   Their brick wall and timber construction oozes class in an exotic and Asiatic way but felt almost contrived.   It’s a relatively newer establishment in town and the restaurant group which owns it has several notable establishments in Beijing and Hong Kong.   Their Peking Duck is very famous out of the blue and has garnered a cult following steadily,  but surprise surprise?    The Chef here is from Hong Kong!


Modernized and Exotic Beijing Hutong look -
It reminds me of restaurant Hutong in Hong Kong!



Serious About Tea Here -
This is such a Beijing thing…  they are like Kyoto of Japan in comparison,  no wonder it is the Capital City and also considered the most Artsy and Cultural city in the whole of China..


Whole Duck Arrives,  All for Myself -
Peking ducks in Beijing are much tinier than anywhere else in the world,  they are like eating plump young ducks.   But 1 duck for 1 person is still a bit too much I guess? 


A Swirl of Sauce and Fried Garlic -
Made by the staff in front of you.  
I liked this M31 Galaxy kind of pattern !
The Tian Mian Jiang 甜麵醬 base here was very fruity and likeable.




Cucumber,  Scallions and Rose Heart Radish -
All sliced or julienned neatly.   Shops in Beijing do pay utmost attention to such finer details..

Belly Skin on Top – Other Meats at the bottom
Carve sliced really beautifully table-side, there is not a single restaurant in Hong Kong which can do ducks presented to this standard.  I instantly recognized too,  that the Peking Duck here looked darker in skin complexion compared to other lighter ducks.  The skin marination was stronger but it was so airy crunchy.   The duck meat underneath was also soft,  but like most ducks in Beijing they don’t have much duck meat flavour.   Overall this was definitely one of the best ducks I have eaten.  *But someone visited here and said the duck was served too cold,  so hope you arrive in on a lucky day!   ~  8.5/10



Holy….   Duck Skin 




Crepes and Sesame Buns for the Duck -
The crepe was probably the best one I have tried with a translucent look.  The sesame buns arrived really cold and grossly under-baked though.. I remembered this clearly as it was a sudden abruption to otherwise a great experience.



Duck Meat -
One of the moister ones.   Don’t expect a lot of duck flavour though,  most Peking Ducks in Beijing I tried suffered a similar problem and they are mostly on the leaner side too.




Whilst I loved the Duck here -
And waxing lyricals about the perfection level they have achieved,  for some reason the texture and the skin marinade wasn’t very normal Pekinese style to me.   I have heard mixed reviews of here but on my night of visit it was very good.  Definitely one of the top picks I would return back to – although apparently there are other very decent places too which I am yet to visit !




Price:   RMB 250 - 300
Ease of Access:  2/5
Food:  ♕♕♕♕ 1/2 – ♕♕♕♕♕

Address:  Gong Ti Bei Lu, Chao Yang District, Beijing (behind pacific century place)
北京朝阳区工体北路, 太平洋百货南门後面, 100027
Ph: +86 10 6501 8881


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