Located on the stunning Place Saint Catherine, Mer du Nord is a Brussels institution selling perfectly cooked, freshly caught seafood. Walking onto the square exposes individuals to the sweet aroma of the freshest fruits of the sea. Everything on the menu is exceptional but the two standouts are the seared tuna steak and the shrimp croquettes. The seared tuna is crispy, juicy, well seasoned, and topped with a delightful marinade. The shrimp croquettes are some of the best in Brussels and within the crispy outer shell you find sweet flavorsome north-sea shrimp swimming in a creamy, cheesy sauce.
The smell of freshly fried hand cut potato (frites), floats like a cloud throughout the city every day. It is intoxicating, addictive, inviting, and impossible to ignore. Follow your nose to any of the many friteries in the city and treat yourself to this national treasure. Everyone has their opinion on the best frites in town. Pitta De La Chapelle, located in the square next to the Chapel Notre Dame near the Sablon antique area, is a fine example that won’t disappoint. They serve tasty and fresh frites in an ingenious, yet simple cardboard cone that has a separate sauce reservoir.
This classic Belgian beef and beer stew is one of the most comforting, warming and hearty dishes you will find. Tender chunks of beef dripping in flavor packed sauce are the order of the day. Traditionally, it is served with a side of frites that are perfect for mopping up the sauce. Like frites, everyone has an opinion on the best version in town. The honest truth is that the best is often cooked from long standing recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation. If you don’t have a Belgian grandmother, try Le Bugatti for one of the most authentic and delicious in Brussels.
Kriek, a Belgian sour beer flavored with cherries is used in this dish to stew a whole rabbit to perfection. The bold and sour flavors of the Kriek mellow over the long cooking time to provide a rich and complex sauce. The rabbit meat is fall-apart fork tender and melts in the mouth. This is another Belgian classic you can find in many restaurants, but Fin de Siecle does a fantastic example of this traditional dish.
Le Perroquet sells pita pockets… but not only are there over a hundred variations on the menu, it is all served up in one of the most beautiful Art Nouveau interiors in Brussels. Somehow this place takes the humble pita pocket and elevates it to new levels (without being pretentious). It does help that each pita is served with a selection of four incredibly yummy sauces. It is a hidden gem of Brussels that is even open on Sundays.
There is nothing better with which to wash down these amazing Brussels flavors than a Belgian beer. En Stoemelings, is a small Brussels based microbrewery making some of the most exciting new beer in Belgium. Their flagship beer named Curieuse Neus, (literally meaning curious nose), has a fragrance that is unmistakably Belgian and gives a hint of the spicy yet restrained flavors that follow. The immediate taste is slightly nutty, fresh and well rounded. It is carefully hopped with a pleasant mix of bitterness and floral tones. The malty aftertaste is clean and begs you to be ‘curious’ and go back for more.
By Trent Greentree