One of my college friends used to curse the “fun food” fad in America. In the states we enter the restaurant and are immediately tempted by bright signs with plates full of heaping, colorful, artificial-looking food. We pop deep fried things into our mouths and wash it down with a “big gulp”-sized drink. We top it off with a sugar-laden dessert. And we usually do it all in less than an hour.
Soon after I arrived in Belgium back in September I learned that Belgians eat for all the right reasons: to socialize, to relax, and, most importantly, to enjoy food. They eat slowly, thoughtfully, perfect-sized portions of fresh, real food. They drink something that compliments the meal, not to wash it away. They (generally) don’t get antsy if the service is slow, because what’s the rush? After the meal they leave the restaurant satisfied and pleasantly full.
After nine months of lovely, if all too-infrequent dining experiences, I knew I had yet to experience the best of eating in Belgium. I think in one of my first posts I noted that Belgians are proud of their culinary culture and believe that what they offer equals if not surpasses their French neighbors. After my experience at Beluga I agree whole-heartedly.
N, S, and D took me to Beluga as a sort of “final hurrah.” After a drink on the Oude Markt we headed over to this tiny restaurant tucked away in the Krankenstraat. The dining room consisted of only 5 or so tables, laid out in front of the kitchen which was run by a young-ish husband-and-wife team. We began with a light sparkling wine from Italy and a raw oyster on the half shell. The wine: lovely. The oyster: could have done without. BUT my culinary experience only went up from there. The first course consisted on a delicate white fish seasoned with a nutty cream sauce. This was followed by a tasty mussel soup (my first and only time eating in mussels in Belgium!) The main course was a very nice white fish with a risotto and vegetable (my memory gets a little hazy here as the wine was flowing rather freely at this point!) The dessert was a perfect little spice cake with ice cream, and, thanks to D, I managed to get two servings of it. As the restaurant emptied out we were left to visit with the owner, W, who proceeded to bring out a very fine port and grappa to polish off the meal. After 7 hours were finally stumbled out, drunk and happy, and headed to the Oude Markt for one final drink. When I arrived at home the sun was rising and the birds were singing.
Eating out will never be the same.