Selecto - Brussels

Selecto - Bistronomique & comptoir; That is what it says on their menu and basically describes what you can expect in this restaurant/bistro, a mix of a low benchmark bistro combined with the culinary approach of a gastronomic restaurant. A duo formula where you choose 2 dishes will cost you 33€, the trio formula will set you back 39€ and that is a good price/quality ratio!

The menu offers you a nice choice of original interpretations of classic dishes like saltimbocca of suckling pig with Tiroler speck,fried polenta and eggplant gratin or a veloute of 'Puy' lentils with breaded mussels. All quality products.

I start with a tasty beer from the local Brussels brewery 'Brasserie de la senne', a Taras Boulba.
A fairly light, crisp blond/white beer with a fruity,hoppy taste. A nice way to start my lunch. I prefer having a good beer over champagne/cava as apéritif lately and certainly when it's a quality beer like this one.

As first course I had set my mind on the 'Puy' lentils but unfortunately they were sold out so they offered me a velouté of pumpkin with breaded mussels and a foam of what I suppose was a fish/shellfish reduction.
The foam was needless, didn't really contribute to the dish, both in taste and presentation but the velouté itself was rich, savoury and the plump, breaded mussels were tasty and gave the dice a nice bite to it.

My main was a nice piece of skinseared seabass on a crumble of butternut with Buffala mozzarella, Cévennes onions and cider butter sauce. The fish was prepared perfectly and the 'crumble' was savoury, the melted mozzarella added a nice 'cheesyness'.

Finished with an espresso and left satisfied.
More of this in Brussels please!!



Xtrem Hop - Delhaize

Delhaize, big mogul on the retail market here in Belgium recently launched a limited series of U.S.A. inspired beers. I say US inspired cause all the hops used in this series came from the US yet the beer was brewed in Belgium by the 'Proefbrouwerij'. Also the trend of brewing beers searching for a more extreme bitterness is something coming from US hopheads. A trend that I personally welcome cause I really like some bitter in my beer.

3 varieties were offered with every time the same brewing process but with the use of a different hop variety;
 Columbus, Citra and Sorachi Ace. All in 75cl bottles at the more than reasonable price of 3,50€ the bottle together with a small booklet with some info.

Xtrem Hop Columbus:

This rather young American hop variety promises to deliver a high EBU-EuropeanBitterUnit- of 75 so I was quite looking forward opening this bottle. It poured a nice golden/orange coloured beer with a nice head and a lot of carbonation going on.

 First scent was soapy,dry and some citrus. You could really smell that it was going to be a bitter beer. First sip immediately awakened my tastebuds giving me a tickle in the back of my mouth and leaving a nice dry, bitter aftertaste. I loved it a lot, could be a real good beer before dinner to make up an appetite. The bitter was prominent but not overwhelming.

Xtrem Hop Citra:

This is a new American hop variety but for the Duvel lovers a known one as it was used to brew the Duvel Tripel Hop2012 so I knew what I was going for!
Colour was clearer than the Columbus and the scent gave more exotic,fruity aroma's.

The taste was with an EBU of 59 again bitter but wasn't as prominent as with the Columbus due to the more floral/fruity character of the Citra hop. Again a very nice beer and the most 'open' beer of the 3. I could easily see this paired with some fish or seafood.

Xtrem Hop Sorachi Ace:

The Sorachi hop is an old forgotten Japanese hop that has recently been given attention again by some American hop cultivators and is really unique, like nothing I tasted before.

It doesn't have the same high EBU(68) as the Columbus(75) but I found the bitter being more prominent in this beer together with an exceptional floral, exotic taste...Coconut, mango, herbs(lavender, pine) in the nose and an absolute floral explosion in the mouth together with that typical soapiness of hoppy beers and even some wood. Truely the most Xtrem one of the three! I absolutely loved it, my wife didn't so this beer will surely divide opinions.

Nice effort of Delhaize to bring this limited series of beers on the market, I think all bottles have allready been sold, and for keeping a close watch on the general trends in the market. These beers could easily take a permanent position on the shelves with their exceptional taste and high quality.



117 by Wout Bru

When someone like Wout Bru announces that he's opening a restaurant , even temporary, in Antwerp the buzz gets around! Fast! It was only a couple of days after he opened the reservation site that there were allready a couple of 1000 reservations and all the weekends were fully packed. Hyped? Perhaps....He's ever so present in the media and wether you like him or not he gets your attention so even if you are not passionate about food and everything around it you still want to go and get a glimpse of the 'master' at work.

We decided quite quickly that we would 'try' to get in and choose a day during the week to have our Wout Bru experience as all weekends were allready booked.
The pop-up restaurant is situated in the trendy 'Zuid' neighbourhood in Antwerp, home of the hipsters, and you can see that there's a lot of money invested in the event. The decoration is modern and urban 'chique' and fits the big hall where it is situated. It seems more as a permanent restaurant than a 'pop-up' so maybe the next owner allready signed, who knows?

Wout Bru put together a young crew,led by his wife, which showed in the service that was somewhat clumsy/amateuristic but not in a disturbing way. I suppose he brought his standard 'Provence' kitchen crew with him as it is much easier than training a new crew.

We were advised to chose about 4 dishes of the menu which consists of about 20-30 dishes, amongst them some Bru signature preparations, to have the 'full' experience and a dessert.

Lighting was romantically dimmed which means that all of my pictures are low quality :( Next time I'm bringing a lighting crew with me. I made a collage of the dishes I had, little easier on the eye....

I started with 'Carpaccio of scallops in a cream of north sea crab and shaved truffle' and this dish immediately set standards very high for the rest of the evening. A very earthy dish with a nice mix of the sweetness of the seafood with the earthiness of the truffle! Top!

Sea scallops carpaccio

Next dish were crunchy baked sweetbreads on green beans, aged parmesan, iberico ham and dressed with truffle vinaigrette. Again a very good dish with a good combination of flavours, somewhat an interpretation of the classic 'salade Liégeoise'.

My best friend who joined us for this dinner together with his partner and my wife had a simple dish but with a incredible taste. Simple slices of pata negra on a toasted 'bruschetta' with marinated tomatoes. Again, simple but what an intense flavour packed ham!! It was served in an original way, on the well-known red/white squared paper that butchers use to pack their meats.
My third dish was another favourite of mine, pig's trotters served on a toast. I just love the rich, somewhat gelatinous meat of pig's trotters but this dish fell short compared to the dish my wife had, one of Bru's signature dishes; 'laquered pork belly'. A truely flavour packed dish, at the same time sweet and salty and served on a bed of olive oil/butter mousseline. Truely the winning dish that night but unfortunately not mine.

My last dish was anothe signature dish, the 'suckling pig' served with the skin that had an incredible crackle, rosemary foam/redcution and Port sauce. Another excellent dish!

For dessert I had the 'chocolate tarte', a butter bisquit filled with dark chocolaten soft caramel and vanilla ice cream.

Finished with a nice peatey, Glenrothes speyside single malt Scotch. A nice way to end this experience and as a bonus I had the chance to have a brief talk with Wout Bru and have our picture taken. A nice memory.

I was overall very pleased with this experience, a chance to have a glimpse of the Michelin-starrred cuisine he normally serves but I think he will be settling/opening a permanent restaurant in Antwerp quite soon and that this was also a test to capture the possible potential of a second restaurant. He will have to get everything up to level, the service for istance but I believe it would be a sure hit!