Roka Akor is one of my favorite restaurants in Scottsdale for two reasons, they have a great Omakase menu that changes with seasons and they are one of few restaurants that can cater to my wife's vegan dietary restrictions - and do it well. Roka Akor is a upscale steak, seafood and sushi restaurant that features Robatayaki style “open charcoal” cuisine. One of the best spots is the bar by the grill and watch the cooks prepare the food. Fish is flown in daily, and sushi and sashimi are carefully handpicked by region and seasonality. Chef Jason Alford always serves up something spectacular and surprising as well, which makes every visit unique.
Like I said, I frequently pick the Omakase menu and there has been instances where it is has been just too much food but this time - the servings and the variety was just perfect. I started off with some seasonal oysters and they were delicious, very creamy but with a nice salty finish.
The next two courses was also excellent - the first one was an octopus salad where the octopus was cooked to perfection. The charred flavor gave it a nice extra level of flavors. The Chefs sushi selection was also very good. 7 different nigiris that had increasing depth and complexity as you moved along down the plate.
My two favorites was a wonderful bite topped with shaved black truffles - never thought that would work with sushi, and finally my food flavor winner of all times - sea urchin. The umami flavor was really rich and it felt like the sea urchin was picked up from the ocean an hour ago.
The next course was probably the most surprising of the evening. Good mussels in Arizona?? I am a mussel guy - give me a good moules mariniere and I am happy. But I havent had decent mussels ever in Arizona - they all tend to have a muddy hint of sewer...and I have tried a lot. But these mussels at Roka Akor - they were huge, perfectly cook and with just a crisp saltiness - amazingly good!!
The course after the mussels is a common item on the menu - Bone marrow and brioche. I like bone marrow but and this is cooked well. But I have had better.
The next course was much better, seared scallop paired with a delicious pork belly. Both elements of this dish were cooked to perfection and ina strange way worked really well together - I loved this dish.
My final dish before dessert, was A5+ Wagyu which is always fantastic. The beef is served with three kinds of salt that gives three distinct flavor profiles. The smoldering leaves it is served adds a very pleasant aroma as well. It is great way to end the main part of the dining experience.
What about my wife's vegan menu? Above you see a selection of her dishes - I tried all of them and the kitchen really makes an effort to create a variety of flavors and textures. Her favorite dish is picture below though. She claims that Roka Akor and Nobuo at Teeters House has the best Tofu in town and I tend to agree with her. I am not a big tofu fan but the Grilled Organic Tofu with Barley Miso & Yuzu Daikon is smooth, creamy and packed with flavors. If this was on the plate every day - I could go vegan for a year.
The Omakase menu ended with a two nice options - a great sorbet and a beautiful Almond chocolate torte.
The restaurant is designed to be the spitting image of a London Japanese restaurant, Roka (“Akor” is Roka spelled backward, hence “Roka Akor”) but it works really well in Scottsdale. They have a good wine selection and some very interesting Sake choices. The service is good and knowledgeable. Overall, the restaurant has a nice ambiance and you always feel welcome. But the shining star is the food and the creativity of the kitchen - I would highly recommend a visit!!
Flagstaff is a beautiful town in Northern Arizona - a perfect escape for the summer with cool temperatures in the mid 70s. Flagstaff hasn't been known as culinary hotspot but that is slowly changing.
Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar opened in Flagstaff, Arizona’s Historic Carriage House during the spring of 2006. They are committed to sustainability and conservation, and driving a strong farm to table culture.
The restaurant is small, only 13 tables (and there is also the option of eating at the bar) -- so reservations are a good idea. They also have a wonderful patio area which during the summer is probably the best way to enjoy the good cuisine of Brix.
Brix's inventive menu rotates, so you will always find something new on the menu. Since it is a wine bar, they have an extensive wine list as well as a few beers and a full bar. We had some inventive cocktails before our dinner.
They were able to accommodate my wifes vegan dietary restrictions and the menu actually calls out which dishes are vegan - a nice touch.
For appetizers we tried a couple of items and they were all very good
My wife tried the Caramelized Cauliflowers and she enjoyed it quite a lot. They added golden raisins, pinenuts and panko to the dish to give it some crunch. Rich appetizer and quiet delicious.
I tried the Roasted Beets and the Cornmeal Fried Washington Oysters.The Oysters were the best choice - candied bacon, spicy aioli and collard green added some texture to the dish but what really lifted this course was the local ocra. It added some sour notes to the dish which really worked well with the other ingredients.
For the main course my wife was served an amazingly crisp and visually stunning Roasted Beet Risotto. I tried the daily fish which was Halibut. The daily fish is normally served with the same ingredients but the fish changes depending on what the fish supplier think is fresh and of high quality. A great concept which works quite well when you serve white fish.
I also tried the Roasted Duck Breast with blue corn gnocchi, duck confit, aragula, pine nuts, preserved lemon an a huckleberry reduction. A delicious course even though the duck was slightly overcooked. The huckleberry reduction had just enough acidity to compliment the duck and the gnocchi. A well composed dish with savory flavors.
Brix also have a great list of desserts. I decided to go with the bread cake and I wasn't disappointed. I don't normally order bread cake because I often find it too gooey, but at Brix it still had some crispiness to it which was delicious.
The restaurant staff at Brix is attentive and shared recommendations on other places to go and things to do in town as well. The Brix is a very friendly, warm and comfortable place to enjoy outstanding creative cuisine!
They have a great wine selection, and it is a very pleasant dining experience - definitely the best we have had in Flagstaff. So in conclusion, if you are looking to get away from the summer heat in Phoenix or if you are only passing through on your way to the Grand Canyon - make sure that you make Brix your dining choice - you will not be disappointed.
Canlis is a Seattle institution. The restaurant itself was built by Peter Canlis in 1950. He chose a magnificent view location just three miles north of the city center, and, with characteristic vision, hired up-and-coming architect Roland Terry to make his vision a reality.
Sixty years later, Peter Canlis’s architectural and culinary jewel is still going strong by the next generation of family restaurateurs, Mark and Brian Canlis. Together, the family has preserved the traditions of this famous landmark while adding their creativity and energy to the restaurant.
In 2008, the family hired Jason Franey, who at that time was Daniel Humm’s executive sous chef at EMP in New York, to run their kitchen. Franey’s presence led to a departure from the traditional steaks, chops and sauced fish filets that made their restaurant a Seattle institution, and instead signified a shift toward the kinds of elegantly composed, modernist dishes that symbolizes the cuisine today.
They used to have a seven course tasting menu which gave you the full taste of Franey's kitchen, and according to our waiter - this tasting menu might be back on popular demand. Instead I went with a four course menu and it was excellent.
The dinner started with a trio of Amuse Bouches - all very flavorful and tasty. It was a great way to tease the appetite and my favorite was a little pastry filled with Gruyere cheese.
One of the restaurants signature courses is Peter Canlis Prawns. The prawns are cooked to perfection and served with a sauce of dry vermouth, black garlic and lime. The flavors are sublime and compliments the lightness of the prawns perfectly.
The next courses were Sunchoke and Hen Egg. My favorite was the Hen Egg - a slowpoached Hen egg with with watercress, fermented garlic, and vin jaune. It was so light and airy with a very silky texture and complimenting flavors. It is great course if you like egg.
The next course was fantastic - a 14-day dry-aged duck breast, roasted whole and accompanied by orange marmalade, fennel purée and pearl onion brûlée.
After a beautiful presentation of the whole roasted duck, a breast slice was served with the condiments.
This is probably the best duck I've had to date. I have had Peking Duck in China and in many three star restaurants over the world but this one was perfect. The skin was perfectly crispy, almost a potato-chip crisp skin over rich meat that was savory and not too gamy. The saltiness of the skin worked perfectly with the fat from the duck. The black and white sesame seeds on the sweet-crispy-salty skin as well as the plums gives it a very Asian touch. The orange marmalade was sweet and piquant, rounding out the rich and sweet duck breast. It was delightful!!
The dinner ended with a nice cheese platter and a light cheesecake dessert. Nothing spectacular but a good ending.
Canlis is a wonderful and historic landmark restaurant in the Pacific Northwest. It has a great wine list, the view from the restaurant is very scenic, the restaurant in itself still looks modern even though it is over 60 years old. Franey's cuisine is classy, well composed and feels modern. The service is attentive if somewhat stiff.
All in all - if you are in Seattle, a visit to Canlis comes highly recommended...and make sure you order the duck - it is well worth it!
Hedone is in Chiswick, west London, and it got it's name after the Greek word that means "pleasure". The chef and owner, Michael Jonsson from Sweden, leveraging his background as a food sourcing expert, puts the ingredients in the focus. After training as a chef many years ago in Sweden he switched career and became a lawyer, but always held on to his passion and interest for food. Besides running Hedone he also writes the influential Gastroville blog and he has advised some Michelin starred restaurants in Europe on ingredient sourcing. Hedone was recently awarded with one Michelin star.
The main dining room has beautifully exposed brick walls and a very cool open kitchen, with a few seats at a bar looking into the kitchen in addition to the main dining area. We chose to dine at the bar so that we really could observe the action taking place in front of us with Michael and his team constructing dish after dish. For a foodie, it is wonderful to see how the well-organized team almost seamlessly and for the untrained eye, with little effort, put together creative plates. There is a restroom downstairs with a private dining room, and this is also where the wine cellar is located. As always, when given the option, I went with the tasting menu.
The menu started with two delightful amuse bouches. Light, fresh and with a lot of flavors. The service from the attentive staff was very good already from the start, knowledgeable but also with humor.
After the starters, I had a rich tomato soup with mustard, complex flavors and very fresh. A wonderful start. It was followed with poached oysters, where the fresh apple made a wonderful contrast to the creaminess of the oyster. The dish was completed by the savory taste of shallots. Well composed and cooked perfectly.
Out of the next two course my absolute favorite was the Isle of Mull scallop sashimi, it was extremely creamy and flavorful. I spoke to Chef Jonsson about it, and he said that I should have been there the previous week because then the scallops were even better. It was very hard to grasp that statement, since these were some of the best raw scallops that I have had so far.
I felt that the next two courses were hit and miss. The first one was somewhat of a miss. Cevennes onions that had great flavors but it was simply to much onion in this dish. It was overpowering - a smaller serving and it would have been great. The second dish was a smashing hit however. Perfectly cooked sea bass with and amazing black olive infusion. The infusion was so flavorful and didn't taste like black olives at all. I have no clue how the kitchen created this infusion but I am sure that it is a long process in order to get the different layers of flavors.
The next course was a wonderful crab dish, where the foam really elevates this dish.Rich, flavorful and with perfect texture. After the crab I was served a liquid Parmesan ravioli, which worked a s fun play on a classic Italian dish. The Parmesan flavors were intense but not overpowering. The dish worked really well.
The next dish was an amazing Suckling pig with beetroots, plums and radishes. Not only did it look fantastic, it tasted just as great. And the sauce...I am not sure that you are supposed to lick the plate but I just barely was able to control the urge. Another great dish from the kitchen.
The final savory course was a wonderful Scottish grouse with a side-dish of some of the best sweet corns that I have had. They had a smoky flavor which really complimented the bird. The sauce was rich and definitely worked well with the rest of the dish.You are served a breast and a leg, with feathers and claw intact. The dish smells fabulous. I loved the gamey flavor of the grouse, and the other ingredients works fabulously together.
What about my wife's vegan dietary restrictions? Chef Jonsson did a tremendous job accommodating her throughout the dinner. We had a long discussion with the Chef about how hard it is for a restaurant to accommodate a pure vegan and still be able to be innovate, use ingredients in a creative way and get the same kind of texture, flavors and variation that you will get in a non-vegan meal. It is even more challenging if you like Hedone changes your menu very frequently based upon the philosophy of always using the best and freshest ingredients. I must say the Chef Jonsson did an awesome job accomplishing just this. And my wife concurred, Hedone is one of the restaurants where she truly feels that she would revisit because she felt the kitchen really tried to be creative and supportive of her restrictions. Above is some of her favorite courses served throughout the dinner. I would also like to add that my wife doesn't really like black olives, but she loved the black olive infusion served with her lentils - another compliment to the Chef.
The sweet section of the menu consisted of great cheeses, a fig dessert and a raspberry dessert. It was very refreshing of not ending the meal with the traditional and heavy chocolate dessert. I enjoyed this approach much more - you will not leave Hedone willing stuffed - just pleasantly full. My favorite dessert was the raspberries (I have never seen raspberries this big before) with hibiscus, coconut and cinnamon. Wonderful combinations of flavors and did I mention...the raspberries were enormous.
I was very impressed with the attention to details and the quality of the ingredients. Chef Jonsson is ultra passionate about what he does he truly lives and breathes his craft. It was an absolute pleasure to sit down and enjoy our own little trip into the world of Hedone and watch the courses being put together at the bar. Being born in Sweden I was very proud to see a fellow country man put out food that can be held to the highest level. Chef Mikael Jonsson was very attentive to our needs, his staff was personable and very educated in the dishes, the wine pairings worked really well, the atmosphere is laid back and when all those things come together, you can only draw one conclusion. Something great is in the making in Chiswick and I am looking forward to the next time I will come back to London and experience the continuous evolution on one of the most exiting restaurants in London right now.
En middag att minnas, Chef Jonsson (Swedish for "A dinner to remember")!!
Hertog Jan is a three Michelin Star restaurant in Zedelgem, just a few miles outside Bruges. Gert De Mangeleer took over Hertog Jan with his culinary soulmate Joachim Boudens in 2005. The duo have been a refreshing addition to the Belgian gastronomic world ever since, championing the motto “driven by simplicity”.
The restaurant was originally a 180-year old barn that has been completely redesigned inside while retaining some of the original features. The architecture is unusual, with a very modern building extended out on one side from the original barn exterior. The new dining room looks out over the extensive vegetable garden.
Before sitting down in the dining room we took a long walk in the vegetable garden, that Hertog Jan uses to create its innovate and exquisite dishes. The garden symbolizes the departure point for the guests’ journey of discovery and changes, like the dishes, with the seasons.
I decided to go with the big degustation menu and they were able to match my wife's vegan dietary restrictions course for course. I will tell you about her dishes and experience later. My dinner however, started with six starters, small amuse bouches that packed tremendous flavors and was very visually appealing. The biggest surprise and also my favorite was a raspberry meringue, filled with goose liver and dusted with beetroot powder. A fantastic combination of flavors and textures.
The following course was very representative of the whole menu. Stunning colors, fantastic arrangements on the plate, great use of vegetables (in this case tomatoes) and filled with immense flavors. The variety of tomatoes in this dish was unbelievable and it all came together in a wonderful way.
The next course was a smoked eel with foie gras, fennel salad and miso. The salad was sublime and amazing. The smokiness of the eel worked very well with the liquorice aspect of the fennel and the smoothness of the miso. It was followed by the pepper with iberico ham. The pepper was cooked to perfection and the crunch of the iberico ham created a beautiful balance in the dish.
The next course was the only letdown of the dinner. Yellow beetroot with lobster and sea buckthorn. There is nothing wrong with course in itself, but together with the all the other fantastic dishes it gets lost. It was followed by cockles and dill served together with Nasturtium which I dont think I ever had in food before. Nasturtiums are related to garden cress and mustard, and has a peppery and somewhat tangy flavor. It worked very well together with the cockles. The fresh dill added another layer of flavor which completed the dish. Beautiful to look at, wonderful to taste.
The following dish was called “A walk through the garden”. It’s an amazing plate of raw and barely cooked vegetables and salad held together with caviar d’aubergine in the middle. We were told to taste them all individually. This dish is such a good representation of the chef’s philosophy. Chef De Mangeleer is confident enough in the quality of his fresh produce to let it speak for itself.
To end my savory section of the meal, the waiter brought me two plates, one was filled with snow peas and young onions, the other has three wagyu sirloin pieces cooked to perfection. The meat was melt in your mouth good, with a peppery flavor and together with the snow peas and the young onions the course came together really well. It was a great way to transition into the sweet part of the menu.
What about the vegan options served to my wife. Above you can see a selection of the courses she had. Incredibly beautiful to look at as well, using the full vegetable garden, and showing innovation and creativity even with vegan restrictions. My wifes favorite was the eggplant with a miso paste. It was not as good as the one she had a L'Astrance in Paris but it was pretty darn close. And combined with the other courses that was served, she felt that Hertog Jan serves one of the better vegan menus in the world.She also enjoyed a visually striking dish of avocado with tomato powder, fleur de sel and olive oil.
They had a great selection of cheeses, and I went with two blue cheeses, two cheddar's and two comte's. They were all great. After the cheese trolley we were served the first dessert of the menu. A silver ball was brought to our table and dropped into a plate from 2 feet up. When it hit the plate it broke and displayed a wonderful dessert of apple, mint, herbs, elderflower and pop rocks!!! The pop rocks elevated this dish with a strong fizz which scored high on the fun factor scale.
My wife had an assertion of berries, and I had to highlight this dish in the post as well. The picture doesn't give this dish justice, in real life the colors were even more eye-popping and every berry had an intense flavor. A simply stunning dish.
The final sweet course before the petite fours was another visually striking dish with chocolate, wild strawberries and violet. Delicious, delicious, delicious!! Now I was feeling pretty full so when they rolled up the selection of petite fours on a huge trolley, I could only muster three. They were all very good though.
The waiters are very friendly, Joachim Boudens was a perfect host for the evening making our visit to Hertog Jan a great experience. I was surprised how pleasantly full that I was after the dinner, especially after enjoying the degustation menu at De Karmeliet earlier during lunch. Little details as a stool to put your handbag on, and a hot towel after the finger food appetizers adds to the dining experience. After the dinner we had the opportunity to check out the kitchen. It was huge and the uniforms the cooks were wearing was entertaining. They all looked like gardeners.
All in all, Hertog Jan is a great experience and well worth their 3 star rating.
Focusing on the ways flavours, structures and contrasts take shape, Chef Gert makes sure that his dishes touch all the senses and carry his signature style. And I loved every moment of it. It highlights local produce, especially vegetables and herbs, and demonstrates how varied the flavors from these food groups are.
The wine pairings were spot on, the service was personal and effective, the barn is beautiful and the food is some of the best food that I have ever had. I can only think of a handful times where I have had a similar or better food experience. Hertog Jan must be in your list of places to visit when in Belgium. It is worth the trip.
De Karmeliet is a restaurant in Belgium, lead by chef Geert Van Hecke.
Geert won a Michelin star in 1985, and another in 1989, the ultimate accolade of three Michelin stars coming in 1996, which it has retained since. The restaurant is located in a lawyer’s old house in the heart of the historic Bruges, which is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It is fitting that such a pretty place also hosts a very good restaurant. Geert van Hecke's cuisine is traditional french but with a flemish touch. He manages to bring beautiful dishes that are based on his classic cooking background but at the same time being very contemporary. When you enter the restaurant you can decide if you want to enjoin some champagne in the lounge while looking through the menu or if you want to head up to the dining room immediately. We were having lunch but I still went with his tasting menu, The Brugge Die Scone.
The service is reserved but very professional, the courses were delivered at a good pace and properly introduced so that you really knew what you were having. The menu started with three great Amuse Bouches where they favorite was some very delicate potato chips.
The following two courses were both amazing. First I had some very delicate sardines with flavorful tomatoes and an interesting spice mix. The saltiness of the sardines worked extremely well with the sweetness of the tomatoes. A great start to the menu. The next course was a perfectly cooked turbot but the shining stars in this dish were the grey shrimps from Zeebrugge. Packed with flavors they lifted the dish to another level.
The next course was somewhat of a letdown. I really wanted it to work because it sounded great and it looked even better. Who wouldn't like langoustine, foie gras and eggplant? The problem was that the ingredients by themselves were great, cooked to perfection and very flavorful, but when you combined them, the flavors didn't work as well as you would have thought. The disappointment was shortlived though because the next course was a knockout. A tart made of cepe mushrooms, that had an intense umami taste that worked so well with the cream of parmesan. It was a perfect combination which could easily had one of the ingredients overpower the other but not here - perfect balance and a perfect dish.
The kitchen was able with very short notice to accommodate my wife's vegan dietary restrictions. We let them know the same day which is often challenging but the chef was able to produce matching dishes throughout my entire tasting menu. Here are some pictures of her favorite dishes. She said that all of them had great flavors and she was very thankful that one of the dishes was pasta instead of only vegetables. Unfortunately it seems like a lot of restaurants only serves a mix of vegetables when they serve vegan menus - if you add pasta, rice or even quinoa, it creates much more variety in the dishes,
My next course was excellent, a well cooked partridge with all the right ingredients complimenting the bird. It was also rewarding to find 3 buckshots in the bird proving that it was hunted and not farm-raised. The only complaint might be that the kitchen should probably looked for these buckshots and taken them out before serving the course. But the partridge was so flavorful that I forgive them.
As a nice transition to the sweet section of the course, the lady of the house, Mrs Van Hecke rolled out a cheese trolley and served some wonderful blue cheeses and local comtes. Great selection and she is also a wonderful hostess. We talked in lengths about the Van Heckes visit to New York the week before and how they loved Le Bernadin but that Eleven Madison Park was too modern for their taste.
The sweet section of the tasting menu was almost as good as the savory. Great dessert creation with fruits and berries. We were getting pretty full, and heavy desserts would almost have ruined the experience for us. Thankfully, Chef Van Hecke kept the desserts very light and fresh. Above you can see a sample of what we had.
The course ended with some great petite fours as well. All in all, we were extermely happy with our dinner at De Karmeliet, Chef Van Hecke has a sense for details, every course looks and tastes amazing. The wine selection was good but we didn't go all in with wine pairings since we were only having lunch. The staff is professional and the restaurant is stunningly beautiful. We had the opportunity to talk with Chef Geert after the meal and I told him that we thoroughly enjoyed our experience and that we can't wait until we come back. I am happy to say that Bruges have several reasons for a visit, the town itself but also a three-star rated gem called De Karmeliet.
Heist-aan-Zee is a prominent summer beach town about 30 minutes from Bruges. By the beachfront Bart & Sandra Desmidt run Restaurant Bartholomeus, Sandra is in charge of the front and Bart is back in the kitchen. This restaurant is definitely worth the trip to Heist. Bart Desmidt never went to cooking school, instead he worked hard and gained experience in several good restaurants in Belgium. Like he told us when we were there, "I try to do this my way, we are trying to find our identity, instead of copying other chefs." And Chef Bart's way is working. Two Michelin stars and great reviews from those who dine at this beach-front pearl.
The dining room is modern with some fun artwork on the walls and even sitting on the floor. I ordered the Terre et Mer menu which includes a glass of champagne to start, a great touch that immediately sets a very positive tone for the dinner.
We start the dinner with two wonderfully fresh Amuse Bouches. Light, crisp and delightful, they get your taste buds going while working as a great teaser for what's coming.
Chef Bart makes wonderful chocolate! No fear, I'll be showing you some great examples of this when we reach the Petite Fours. You can sense this background in chocolate is the inspiration of the first dish. It was a wonderful Wagyu tartar with oysters encased by sour glaze and nestled on lemon snow. The flavors of the Wagyu blend oyster blend incredibly well. This was all perfectly packed into the bowl. It is truly a visually stunning dish, which matches just how fantastic the dishes is.
The next course is a great combination of lobster, melon and tapioca served two different ways. This is a fun way to serve a dish, use the same ingredients but take two different approaches to it and see how different they can actually be. Not to mention, it's a great conversation starter at the dinner table, "which one did you like the best and why?" Here is my answer, I liked them both!!!
The next course is a stunner, white Alba truffle with Sole and Pasta and with a wonderful Verjus sauce. The aroma from the plate is breathtaking and when you dive into this dish, it also works amazingly well together. I think what really makes this course stand out is the verjus. A fabulous combination.
Chef Bart made an amazing effort to accommodate my wife's vegan restrictions. He successfully managed to keep these dishes connected to the philosophy of the kitchen. Clean, crisp and innovative with beautiful plating that highlighted key ingredients. She was overjoyed with all her courses, especially both desserts, scoring each a perfect 10. Sommelier Marino Opsomer chose for us some beautiful wines as well that worked surprisingly well with both my and my wife's menus.
The main course highlights the chef's philosophy as well. Partridge, potatoes, cepes...don't over complicate it - let the ingredients shine and the end result - an amazing dish that I can't wait to have again. The dish had tremendous depth of flavor and the bird was cooked perfectly.
The sweet section of the menu is simply stunning. Our waiter serves us a plate with dots of what seems to be fruit gel or puree. Then suddenly a big chocolate globe is dropped on the plate and when it breaks the inside reveals pure sweet goodness. It's a very creative dish, visually stunning and just really, really good. It was followed by another playful dessert, an edible sandcastle with gelato. You have sweetness, you have smoothness, you have crunch, and you have a great dessert.
The dinner concluded with some incredible petite fours. The variety was excellent and the flavors were spot on. What a perfect way to finish a meal!
Bart employs the philosophy that everything should be made in-house and with heart and soul. The restaurant is an extension of his philosophy. Bart and Sandra are personable, great people who share a love for food. The food is exquisite, visually beautiful and modern. Bart changes the menu frequently and uses seasonal produce as much a possible. I will make certain that the next time I am in Belgium I take a detour and stop in Heist, because I can't wait to see what's next on the menu of Bart Desmidt and Restaurant Bartholomeus. I highly recommend that you do the same.
Bruneau is a renowned restaurant in Brussels, and the chef and owner Jean-Pierre Bruneau has run the kitchen for over thirty years. Bruneau is situated next to the impressive and beautiful Art Deco dome of the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg.
The food is classic french with a Belgian twist. This is a delightful restaurant that offers superb service and wonderful food, at a price that is high but not outrageous. And it is also opened on Sundays which is an additional plus.
I opted for the Menu Decouverte, which was the tasting menu. They don't have a menu in English but the waiters did an excellent job describing the courses for us. They tried hard to accommodate my wife's vegan restrictions and did a good job matching our courses. We started with a trio of Amuse Bouches where my favorite was a wonderful pea soup. Very rich and rewarding - a good starter.
My next two courses were both clean and simple but very fresh. I had a wonderful tartar accompanied by an oyster with caviar and dill. I haven't had the combination of oyster and dill in a while and I forgot how good it is. Two great dishes with lots of flavor.
The following two courses were both amazing. The first one was rich sea urchin soup. Sea urchin is one of my favorite things to eat and this soup was to die for. Light sea urchin flavor, not overpowering, but very rich and rewarding at the same time. One of the better soups that I have had. The next course was deer, with mushrooms and potatoes. Nothing spectacular but the flavors were spot on. A great sauce elevated the dish - classic french food but so good!!
Above is the four vegan alternatives that my wife was offered. She was very happy with all four but the one that stood out was the mushroom tart, she said that it was very good and the mushrooms were cooked beautifully. She also loved the Truffle Soup, it was not on pair with Guy Savoy's version of this dish, but then again, I don't think anybody can beat this dish.
Bruneau was a pleasant surprise for us. I read some online reviews before booking it, also knowing that over a couple of years it lost some stars, it still holds one Michelin star though, so my expectations were not great. The food was classic french but really, really good. It was well put together, it was cooked with precision, the flavors were spot on and they were able to put great vegan alternatives on the plate for my wife. The sommelier was able to match our food with some great wines and the service was impeccable. It was an evening that we truly enjoyed and at the end of the day, isn't that was dining should be all about.
One of the most widely sought after table delights in world dining are truffles. Black Perigord truffles are known as Perigord truffles as they predominantly found in the Perigord region of France. They are mild in flavor, a sweet aroma and they are mainly grown beneath hazelnut and oak trees. These exceptional diamonds of the culinary world need a first-class setting to show them off – La Truffe Noire is a restaurant dedicated to elegance and refinement, and to the magic of this extraordinary ingredient.
Here is a restaurant that excites all the senses, and if you love truffles like I do, you'll adore this place. The owner, Luigi Cicirello, welcomed us to the table and was an incredible host the whole dinner. There isn't anything he doesn't know about truffles - types, how to get the best out of them, where they're from, whether they'll store or not. We know that putting together a vegan meal for my wife, with very short notice is sometimes difficult for kitchens but Luigi and his team made a great effort and my wife was very, very satisfied. Luigi was extremely personable and made our evening absolutely wonderful.. From the introduction of himself, his menu, his method, and his experience - it is very rare to have that kind of attention at any gourmet Michelin restaurant. I ordered the Privilege Menu and they put together 5 courses for my wife as well. We started off with a trio of appetizers, a Caramelized Tomato, a Foie Gras Creme Brulee and Carrot Juice. My vote for best appetizer went to the Foie Gras Creme Brulee but they were all good.
After the trio of appetizers, Luigi rolls up a table and starts preparing the best carpaccio I have ever had in my life. He puts it together step by step and lets you smell the flavors as the dish becomes more and more complex. Tender fresh beef covered with grated truffle and white truffle oil with a similarly treated salad. Then add some Parmesan cheese, and finally sprinkle the most divine truffle juice over the whole dish. It is simply an amazing dish.
Together with the bread we were served an amazing olive oil, L'Olio Tenero which is an extra virgin olive oil obtained by the single variety "Ascolana Tenera". In ancient times Ascoli and roman nobles families used exclusively this variety for infant feeding because it showed exceptional organoleptic characteristics. It is an amazingly smooth and rich olive. The next course was a ravioli filled with truffles with a rich cream sauce. Wonderful truffle aromas and great depth.
The highlight of the menu is “La Croque au Sel” - a whole cooked Périgord truffle - it is hard to describe this divine dish and have the words make it justice.
The dish is a whole 40g Périgord truffle cooked in a rich sauce, which sits in its own small detachable bowl in the middle of a specially handmade terracotta dish. On the plate, a row of tiny slices of melba toast are laid out together with a small bowl of fleur de sel and a quenelle of creamy white truffle butter. Luigi demonstrated how to eat it, placing a sliver of butter on a piece of toast, then adding a tiny piece of truffle in its wonderful sauce, and sprinkling a few grains of fleur de sel on top before popping it into your mouth. It is so rich and so flavorful. One of the better dishes in my life!!
Like I said, my wife was extremely happy with the dishes that Luigi was able to put together for her. Her favorite was the mushroom and truffle salad. She said that it was probably the best salad she has ever had. She also throroughly enjoyed the Melon Sorbet.
The next course was two different cheese with lots of truffle flavors. First I had a Swiss Tete de Moine shaved paper-thin and fashioned into exquisite flowers, drizzled with honey and flakes of Cohiba tobacco. It was a great cheese with rich flavors and very tasty. The next cheese was a Brillat-Savarin with truffles. A fun touch, since it was french food writer Brillat-Savarin who named the black truffle the "Diamonds of the kitchen".
After the savory section we were served fresh desserts, my favorite was the wonderful curacao infused pineapple with a red fruit sorbet. Visually beautiful but very fresh and light, which is exactly what you want after all the truffle decadence.
When it gets time to leave after three hours of truffle heaven, Luigi is there to say goodbye. From the truffle-themed napkins to the unique tableware, La Truffe Noire bears testimony to his passion and dedication of food in general and the truffle in peticular. The evening was spectacular, and La Truffe Noire is a must visit when in Brussels. For the food, for the amazing aromas, for the wonderful truffle and for the man himself - Luigi Ciciriello. We cannot wait until we return!!
The Ledbury is a beautiful restaurant located in Notting Hill. The corner-positioned building, with a walled-off alfresco dining area on one side and small potted trees on the other, makes a statement in bold black. Chef Brett Graham has built a gastronomic palace and he is dishing out great dishes with tremendous flavors. He has been rewarded with two Michelin stars and he definitely deserves both of them. The Ledbury is also ranked nr 10 on the Pellegrino's list.
The food is modern, vibrant, innovative and with generous servings. The wine selections is very good as well, and the staff is both attentive and has great personality. They did an excellent job of catering to my wife's vegan dietary restrictions and I will highlight some of her best dishes later. I went with the full tasting menu of course and it was great - and compared with a lot of other restaurants in London, very affordable.
After we have ordered some Champagne from the wine list the menu starts with canapes. Small, bite-sized, mouth-fulls of food awesomeness. If Chef Graham gets bored with serving gourmet dinners he would have a bright future putting together high-end pintxos or tapas. One little canape after another is served and they are beautiful to look at and very tasty.
The first course is a salad of green beans but pimped up by grated foie gras. I have never liked green beans, I don't like the texture and the crunch you get when you eat them, but these were amazing. Smaller in size, they were cooked perfectly, and with the addition of the creamy foie gras this became a spectacular started dish.
It was followed up by a flame grilled mackerel which was even better. It has similarities with the previous dish in the fact that i historically never liked mackerel either, but this was also so good. It was so good, that I am inclined to say that mackerel might be my favorite fish at the moment. That says a lot about how good this dish was.
The next two seafood courses was also spectacular. A playful version of risotto where the Arborio has been exchanged with squid cut to simulate the rice. The shellfish makes the dish rich and with great depth. The next course was a cornish turbot which a thin layer of black quinoa. The quinoa made the dish beautiful to look at but also added some wonderful crunch to it. The complimenting artichoke cream was rich and velvety smooth.
The next course speaks for itself, pork jowl, bacon and crackling. Add some walnuts and some mushrooms and you have a gorgeous and very flavorful dish.
My wife's vegan menu was exceptional as well. beautiful dishes, her four favorites are depicted above. They were well put together, with many layers and made with the freshest ingredients.
The final and main course of the savory section of the tasting menu was magnificent lamb. The dish is stunning to look at, the colors are amazing and when you bite into the lamb you quickly realize that this is lamb perfection. It melts in your mouth and it has an intense and vibrant flavors.
The Ledbury served a great cheese platter and the pre-dessert was a good palette cleanser. Not spectacular, but very good.
The tasting menu ends with a great raspberry tartlet with enormous berries, jam-packed and bursting with flavors. The Petite Fours are creative, innovative and very good as well.
After the dinner we had the opportunity to visit the kitchen and spend some time with Chef Brett and his crew. Even though they were in the middle of a busy dinner service they took time to show us around the kitchen, they were able to recommend some really good restaurants in Belgium (where we were headed next), and we had some really inspiring conversation about why my next kitchen tool should be a commercial convection oven. We spend almost 20 minutes in the kitchen and got to try small samples of new items on future menus. What a wonderful experience!! This great attitude towards customers paired with amazing food and world-class service makes it very easy to recommend the Ledbury. You should make it a must-visit when in London.
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