Category Archives: Fine Dining

Quique Dacosta 2017: Terroir and history

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DNA La Búsqueda, that is the name of the new culinary proposal of three Michelin starred chef, Quique Dacosta, for 2017 at his restaurant in Denia. It fully puts the attention of his clients on his terroir. And boy do we know how much Quique loves his terroir! From flavours of his childhood to typical preparations of local shepherds from the hills behind Denia to the delicious rice from the region, and of course the magnificent seafood, with the absolutely queen, the Red Prawn of Denia… Taste combined with ancient techniques with a personal Quique twist, that is why you should travel to this restaurant! A unique cooking style with a razor sharp view on how a plate should look, smell, taste…

To make things complete, there’s a magnificent wine list with really interesting price levels and the exceptional service by Didier Fertilati and his team.

In a world were trends and techniques are copied and duplicated at warp speed, it is so satisfying to see a chef with a clear vision, with respect for his terroir and culinary heritage and most of all, with an almost obsessional love for his profession….

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(pictures courtesy of Quique Dacosta Restaurant)

 

Yes we can! High level gastronomy in Luxembourg…Ma Langue Sourit/Moutfort/L/1*

I had a very good meal at this restaurant in December 2014… As I wanted to share my experience with a few fellow foodies, I came back here this week to enjoy chef Cyril Mollard‘s most recent creations.

After a series of tasty appetizers we got off to a great start with the Moelleux de sandre, oignons des Cévennes, truffes noires, pain de mie croustillant…a perfectly executed fish quenelle with fried onions and truffle…a deep, rich flavored dish…We would love to see how this dish would taste if a saltwater fish would be used to add maybe a more intense fish taste to the quenelle…16/20

Second was the Noix de Saint-Jacques saisie, beurre salé, pieds de  brocolis, choux pointus, jus de coquillages…a lovely preparation of scallop, grilled on the shell, with textures of brocoli, green cabbage and a light creamy shellfish jus….a classic of chef Mollard and one hell of a good dish…18/20

The chef really likes to work with pork from the famous Livar pig, so we continued with Poitrine de cochon livar braisé, pomme de terre alliance, mousseline aillée et croustillante, potage parmentier...very very good…17/20

A final fish starter was served: Médaillon de lotte cuit vapeur,  épice rêve de cochin, bouillon anisé, poireaux, fenouil…again a well balanced dish showing the skill of the chef both technically and in his way of composing his dishes…17/20

We got a little extra dish the chef wanted to try on us and boy were we happy he did! The dish that came next is the textbook example of what I really look for when going to a high level gastronomic restaurant…the dish that leaves you speechless…perfect execution, perfectly balanced, great textures and flavors, well measured acidity…a thin slice of marinated John Dory, a sorbet of Kalamansi, confit Kumquats, a crunchy sesame cracker and a lovely soy based sauce….THIS IS IT….This dish makes a visit to this restaurant a MUST….really..20/20.

On to the mains…a very good heart of veal sweetbread was served with a cylinder of salsify and a mille feuille of turnip from Les Paniers de Sandrine…a local organic veg farmer..Sadly here, the veal reduction was slightly to salty…Noix de ris de veau, réglisse, salsifis, millefeuille de navets boule d’or, Sarazin torréfiés…14/20

Following this we had Pièce de Blonde d’Aquitaine rôti, poivre kumpot, carottes, moelle fumée, condiment confit , jus au genièvre…A straightforward, tasty preparation of beef aged for 45 days that worked really well…18/20

On to the last part of the meal…desserts…

First up was the Ganache chocolat Illanka du Pérou, café, crumble cacao, marron glacé… a dessert that made someone who’s not really into chocolate like me eat every last bit on the plate….the chocolate taste was not overwhelming (63% of cocoa)…great…17/20

Chef Mollard is smart enough to know that the last dish may very well be the one the customers remember best…so he decided to blow us away once more with his Tartelette citron Meyer de chez Bachès, confiture de  pamplemousse, sorbet épinette…a divine combination of delicate, perfect pastry, airy light lemon foam and a pine sorbet…magical!!!…19/20

In december I was already impressed and happy to find this level of cooking but what Cyril showed us today was without doubt some of the best cooking I enjoyed in Luxembourg so far…

A special mention also for the sommelier who, after the bottle of white from the already legendary Abi Duhr which we picked ourselves, made us discover two really nice reds, one from the south of France and one from Germany (Pfalz)…he did a great job!

Service was, as always, very efficient, friendly and professional.

Conclusion

Yes we can!!! High level gastronomy in Luxembourg…it’s possible…this is cooking that can stand the test of comparison with many ‘fine dining’ restaurants in Europe…I even see potential for this restaurant to be amongst Europe’s finest in a few years…I’ll definitely be back….soon…

Based on today’s visit, I give Ma Langue Sourit an overall rating of 18/20

http://www.mls.lu

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DINNER BY HESTON/London (UK)/2*/SPTOP50 N°5

IMG_7377_3I have to confess, I waited an awful long time to go to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. A chef, creating some of the most innovative dishes/dining experience revisiting some historic dishes dating back to the 16th Century…It felt awkward…I couldn’t help thinking about liquefied black pudding and stuffed colibri ice cream….no thanks… Also, the stratospheric rise of Dinner all the way to the 5th place in the 2014 San Pellegrino Ranking of the world’s best restaurants made me suspicious…

All changed when my friend Mark Hastings made a move from general manager at Hakassan’s HKK to Dinner. On one of my trips in late 2014, I decided to drop by and say hi as a welcome pause from shopping at Harrods with the Mrs. I was immediately won over… Mark gave me a tour of the beautiful dinning room, overlooking Hyde Park and of the huge kitchen with the number one eye catcher…the wood fire over which the pineapples for the epic Tipsy Cake were being roasted. On top of this, a few of my Belgian Foodie Friends and Chefs had been to Dinner during this period and they were all enthusiastic about their visit…

So, after a few long weeks of waiting, it was my turn to step into the kitchen of Dinner to take my place at the Chef’s table, next to the pass, for a dinner I would not soon forget! Indeed, only here can you have the tasting menu. Subject to seasonal changes, it is composed of eight delightful dishes. The rest of the restaurant is à la Carte…quite impressive at a 2* level…especially if you know that they serve several hundreds of customers a day here…Madness!!!

As the Executive Head Chef of Dinner, Ashley Palmer-Watts was working very hard with Heston on the other side of the globe for the opening of the Fat Duck Melbourne; one of the excellent sous-chefs was at the pass tonight, Allan Herrick. Allan took all the time we needed to explain every single dish and to answer all our questions. At the same time he mastered evening service in the most perfect way. A Buddhist temple could not have been quieter and calmer than this kitchen, except for Allan’s occasional announcements to his staff and their swift ‘Yes Chef’ replies. Service tonight was in the very competent hands of Andrew Lewis; he did a brilliant job at making us feel at home in this very special place in London.

Back to the food…here’s what we had tonight:

Hay Smoked Mackerel (c.1730)
Lemon salad, gentleman’s relish, wood sorrel & smoked roe
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An assortment of tasty raw vegetables (mainly salads), cold smoked (on hay) mackerel, gentleman’s relish (a delicious garlic and anchovy based sauce historically used as a preservation method)…the freshness and acidity of the veg worked really well with the fatty smoky fish and the relish lifted this dish to the next level… 18/20

 

 

Roast Scallops (c.1830)
Cucumber ketchup, roasted cucumber, bergamot & borage

IMG_7360_3Scottish hand dived scallop, roasted, with a zingy cucumber ketchup made of chardonnay vinegar, cucumber juice and pickled sjallots, roasted cucumber (vacpacked and finished on the plancha) and herbs. Again an outstanding dish bringing together very balanced flavours and textures. Pure delight. 19/20

 

 

Meat Fruit (c. 1500)
Mandarin, chicken liver & foie gras parfait, grilled bread

IMG_7369_3Truly legendary dish in itself makes a visit to Dinner worth your while… The most amazingly smooth, creamy chicken liver and foie gras parfait, covered in a triple dip layer of mandarin jelly, using freezing techniques to obtain an identical texture as the actual skin of a mandarin. Presented with a generous slice of toast, grilled in the Josper oven. It takes no less than three days to make a meat fruit…and in one week, Dinner serves out over a staggering one thousand meatfruits! Perfect. 20/20

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Frumenty (c.1390)
Grilled octopus, smoked sea broth, pickled dulse & lovage
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Next up was grilled octopus, cooked tender at 85°C for four hours, garlic butter coating and seared on the plancha. Served with loveage emulsion, a deep smokey sea broth, seaweeds and pickeled Buddha’s Hand. Great dish. 18/20

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Chicken cooked with Lettuces (c. 1670)
Grilled onion emulsion, spiced celeriac sauce & oyster leaves


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Succulent perfectly prepared juicy chicken, crisp wedges of chicken skin, lettuce, mayonnaise, oysterleave…aka Chicken Oyster….amazing flavours and textures, once again… 19/20

 

Beef Royal (c. 1720)
Slow-cooked short rib of beef, roast onion, calf’s tongue, red wine, anchovy &truffle

IMG_7409_3After all the very original, but high level dishes, we felt that this dish brought us back to reality… Of course, the 66 hours slow-cooked beef short rib, truffle, smoked carrots, mushroom ketchup and triple cooked fries were technically perfect and yes, if I had just this dish, I would have been very happy about it, but somehow, the magic, which was so well built up, seemed a bit lost here… 16/20

 

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Gingerbread Ice Cream (c.1600)
Salted caramel, mulled wine poached pear & smoked walnut

IMG_7414_3Very nicely presented winter dessert with the full flavours of lush ginger bread and mulled wine…and pear, but hey…I am to extatic about the next one that I will just keep it at this… 16/20

 

 

 

 

Tipsy Cake (c. 1810)
Spit roast pineapple

IMG_7420_3Simply EPIC dessert…you HAVE to eat this one at least once in your life!!!!!! Spit roast, syrup coated pineapple….gently roasted over a wood fire in a corner of the kitchen…served with a cocotte filled with the lightest, airiest brioche I ever had, sugar coated and with the most divine caramel at the bottom of the cocotte….wow, just wow…..THIS IS AMAZING….. 20/20

 

 

Nitro Ice Cream Trolley

IMG_7451_3A reference to the almost scientific approach of food at the Fat Duck in Bray with this last dessert…A Crème Anglaise is turned into ice cream using a specially designed tableside icemaker and liquid nitrogen… More of an attraction than a real culinary treat if you ask me…but then again, I was still floating on a wave of pure delight following the Tipsy Cake 😉 15/20

 

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CONCLUSION: OVERALL RATING

18,50/20

At 200 GBP a head, the tasting menu may seem to come at a steep price, but to me, this experience was worth every penny. Having the chance of tasting all these divine dishes, seeing them being prepared just feet away from where you are sitting, having access to the chef, getting all the explanations and the excellent spotless service made this to me one of the very best restaurant experiences I ever had. Of course, I would return any day in the main dining room because I am sure that the meatfruit, the tipsy cake and all the other dishes are equally delicious sitting here 😉

www.dinnerbyheston.com

Table d’Amis/Matthieu Beudaert/Kortrijk (B)/1*

Matthieu Beudaert and his charming wife, Sofie Delbeke are about to spend their last week at the initial location of their Kortrijk based 1* restaurant Table d’Amis. Indeed, they are leaving the current 1892 built house and move to a new location in the historic center of Kortrijk.

So I was just in time for my first visit to the place where it all started, where the Michelin star was won…

Matthieu serves very nice, daily changing dishes based on arrivals of high quality produce like prime Spanish veal and superb fish. He cooks clever, well balanced dishes with a lot of care for maintaining the identity of the main ingredient in every dish.

Tonight we went for the à la carte, but for sure I’ll try his tasting menu next time. The delicious sweetbreads , the superb veal, cooked to perfection…the perfectly matured cheeses….everything was high level and a great motivation for a next visit!!!

I wish Matthieu and Sofie the best of luck at their new place and I will certainly visit them once they have settled in… They are friendly, passionate and very down to earth people who love their job and who take great pride in what they do.

A restaurant to watch…www.tabledamis.be

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A place full of history…and great food: La Paix/David Martin/1*/Anderlecht (B)

Brasserie La Paix/David Martin/Anderlecht (B)/1*

This beautiful brasserie opposite the former Anderlecht meat market/slaughterhouse is a historic place. It opened its doors in 1892 and was a favourite amongst butchers and meat wholesalers for decades. They would come in, early in the morning for their sandwich (pistolet) with minced meat (gekapt) and a pint of world famous Geuze to wash away the adrenaline and excitement from the market. It has been in the same family for generations.

Today, David Martin is behind the piano in the kitchen. His wife, Nathalie is in charge of the spectacular traditional dining room and even her parents still help a hand. David has worked in a few well known restaurants, like Bruneau.

The restaurant offers two main options: the refined and technically perfect cuisine of David and the grilled meats that have been served in this iconic place for over a century.

We opted for the first and from the photos you will see the pure delight that we have been served…of course accompanied by some of Belgium’s finest beers! Light, elegant dishes in which David perfectly integrates some Japanese elements…memories of a trip to the land of the rising sun in a not so long ago past…

At the end of my meal, the Chef took me down to the basement to show me where he aged the beautiful cuts of beef served in his restaurant…a nice experience and a real honour. For sure, this is what I’ll try during my next visit….the sooner the better actually 🙂

Despite the fact that the chef is French, it does hardly get more Belgian than here…a must visit if you want to be able to say ‘I have been to Belgium’

http://www.lapaix1892.com

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Flemish Food Bash 2

Foodies, chefs, waiters, mixologists…foodsuppliers….if you love eating, drinking and having one hell of a party with likeminded cool and groovy people…you HAVE to block Sunday July 5th in your agenda! FLEMISH FOOD BASH 2 is coming….!!!!!

C U all there!!!!! Belgium will be ready and waiting for you…..

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Photo Credit: Lazy Monday (http://lazymonday.be/)

Consistency check: Great meal again @ Bruut in Bruges, B

After a first impressive meal at Bruut in Bruges, I was keen on going back to see if this restaurant could really be as good as I thought it was….A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of dining at Bruno and Bas Timpermans’ restaurant for the second time…Once again, I enjoyed a menu that was creative, well-balanced, consistent and original. Lovely pickeled carrots, grilled mackerel, beets and scallops, cauliflower and cod, venison, and a deliciously bold desert made for another most interesting and delightful experience. The harmony of textures, flavors and visuals was spot on.

This restaurant really stands out in Bruges…which does not mean that my other favorite restaurants in Bruges have all of a sudden become boring, but Bruut is by far the most original one of them all… You can feel that the chef almost has a religious, strong bond with the ingredients he uses. He’s passionate about working with seasonal ingredients, sourced locally….and he does so in a very clever way. There is no point in me writing much more about this really, as I already feel that I am repeating myself when I think back at what I wrote after the first visit…everything has been said…just enjoy the pictures…and try to visit Bruno and Bas ASAP! A truly great restaurant and a must visit in Bruges! www.bistrobruut.be

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