Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Brussels Bistro Frederick St Downtown

Twas another Tuesday night and not a lot was happening, so the Juggernaut and I ventured off to dine at the Brussels Bistro. Previous visits had not been disappointing. Continental cuisine was calling. Oui monsieur. I’m rather fond of this bijoux restaurant, with it’s wooden panelling, wall sconces and yellow glass lighting. Gallic music (accordions) sets a romantic tone. You feel a bit like you’re on holiday. They were enjoying a healthy weeknight trade with only a couple of tables to spare. Mind you, it doesn’t take too many people to fill the joint. We were seated with menus and offered drinks. J had a glass of pinot noir whilst I stuck to Perrier water; one of the joys of being pregnant. The menu has a quote from the famous gourmet (never heard of him) Arthur Buchwald. He wrote that ‘the best food in the world is French and the best French food is in Brussels.’  Come to think of it, Belgian and French food do seem pretty similar.  Who has a claim on Moules et Frites? They do a great line in them here but only on Thursdays to Saturdays, when they are flown in from Canada.  Quelle domage. Always on the menu are Gallic classics Escargots $14.95 and frogs’ legs with garlic butter $14.95. I am just too squeamish to try them. They taste just like chicken, apparently. My Dad always told us not to eat with our eyes. Well, I can’t. We were brought some bread and butter, on a neat little wooden board with recesses for the butter dish and knife. I like to have something to eat straight away; more so at the moment, as my appetite makes urgent and sudden demands on me. We had a starter each. J had the soup of the day; Cream of broccoli, for $6.50. Intensely green, well seasoned and just creamy enough; it was well made and pleasingly presented in an earthenware bowl with a handle. Homemade comfort. Extra bread was brought to us with tongs. J said it was the best soup he’d had in a while, as he happily slurped away. My salade maison $8.50 consisted of frisee lettuce, tomatoes, slivers of carrot and green beans coated in a fantastic vinaigrette. The perfect emulsion. Ah, the joy of a good salad. Max the manager saw me scribbling notes and smelt a rat; he came over and asked what I was up to. I had to spill the beans and tell him I was reviewing it. The service had been great up until then but it went up a notch. J got offered another glass of wine. It arrived almost instantly, much fuller than the last one. The slight wait for our main course wasn’t an issue as we’d put away quite a lot of delicious bread. Max kept us updated on our food’s progress and offered an apology. I had the baked salmon with béarnaise and a hearty dollop of Stoemp- a chunky mashed potato and carrot dish, with a healthy amount of butter in it. The salmon was a tad overcooked but still tasty. The béarnaise was a bit too vinegary but otherwise of a good consistency. The Stoemp was an absolute winner though. The Juggernaut went for gold with the Surf and Turf special $38.95. A juicy looking filet steak with béarnaise and half a lobster with garlic butter. Some grilled vegetables brought colour and vitamins to the plate. The steak was perfectly tender and medium rare but the lobster was a bit on the dry side, even borderline tough. I’m pretty sure he ate it all though.Given my license to eat, well, more at the moment, we had pre-ordered a soufflé with Grand Marnier in it. The booze tasted pretty intense to my palate, which has been alcohol deprived for the last few months. To J, it was a more subtle flavour. A soufflé is notoriously tough to pull off; many a Masterchef contestant has fallen at this hurdle, with failure to rise. It was marginally overdone but still good…it’s not something you see on many menus and as such, is quite a treat. Two pert macchiatos followed with some gorgeous little Belgian biscuits. We were the last table in the restaurant but not made to feel rushed.The Brussels bistro makes good, simple food with heart. It aims to please without showing off. I always leave with a warm fuzzy feeling, of having been taken care of. C’est bon, mes amies.