Earlier this year, my friend and I dropped by Brussels Sprouts, the restaurant by celebrity chef Emmanuel Stroobant which serves Belgian food.
Thanks to the never-diminishing crowd, we had to sit by the bar, which wasn't all that bad since the bartenders were rather friendly. Unfortunately the place suffered from poor acoustics and I found myself shouting, straining to hear myself over the crowd. Since we already had dinner, we decided to get the all inclusive platter.
On any given day, this platter of hand-cut fries, parmesan cheese croquette, grey prawn croquettes, meatloaf and eggs would have been 'gawd's gift'. You just cannot go wrong with fried stuff! It is almost incomprehensible for anything deep fried to taste bad..
However, the fries were a sob story in the making. I was surprised because Brussels Sprouts offers free flow of fries with every pot of mussels, and judging by the number of pots churned out and high turnover rate, one would naturally expect crisp, freshly made fries. Instead, the fries here tasted like they have been grazing the kitchen bench for too long...
The battered and deep fried mussels suffered from a similar fate - rubbery, limp... Not a pretty picture. I don't mean to get all Gordon Ramsey here but if a Belgian restaurant screws up mussels and fries...
The parmesan cheese croquette was well-breaded and broke away to reveal gummy-ish lymphatic insides. The grey prawn croquette, in my opinion, was a disaster. Reminiscent of lobster bisque, the orange gumbo within was fishy and rubbed me up the wrong way. It was an ugly moment.
After the disappointing croquettes, there was pretty much nothing left to gush over, and boiled eggs weren't exactly exciting to begin with. The meatloaf was mildly gratifying, livened up by the aromatic threads of onion and was good with or without the gerkin dressing.
Unsatisfied with what I tasted on my first trip, I went back for another try, spurred by a comment a reader left in my blog.
This time, I lowered my expectations drastically. As I went through the menu, I wordlessly shoved down two frites, which could only be described as "limp blimp".
Relegating all negative thoughts to a tiny secluded spot, my dining companions and I got down to business with the mussels. To make the most out of our visit, we had the highly recommended vin blanc (onion, parsley, celery, butter, white wine) and l'escargot.
I thought the alcohol content of the Vin Blanc was pretty high and I preferred the l' escargot, which was gratineed with garlic, wild herbs, butter, and lemon sauce. More lemon sauce would have better balanced the overbearing garlic butter concoction but the dish was palatable as it was.
The mussels used were small (no bigger than my thumb) and they were good but nothing to shout about. The highlight for carb-loving me was the frites.
When the mussels were served, we were told our frites would arrive a couple of minutes later because they were "still in the fryer..." With this, I perked up immediately. I could hardly resist when they finally arrived. Gingerly, I selected one and bit into the center. The frite gamely scorched the center of my tongue, pronouncing itself a winner. With a heave of relief, I was ready to forgive the initial frite faux pas.
I kept digging into the bottom of the Umbra bucket for my favourite bits- those fried-to-death crispy nothings, which crackled melodiously as I bit into them.
In my opinion, the best part of an animal isn't the rib or belly but the cheeks. Unless your animal is anorexic, given the jaw exercise that any animal undertakes, the cheeks are designed to yield the most tender of meats.
At Brussels Sprouts, they were no exception. The braised beef cheeks disintegrated easily with a stab and a jab. The beer aroma registered strongly, lending a bitter undertone to the otherwise insipid gravy. Interestingly enough, I had something similar to this in Brugge but Brussels Sprouts's version is by far the more memorable of the two. The accompanying pomme croquettes had a fine texture and thin bread-crumbed exterior. If you like yours 'fried' crisp, fish them out before they turn mooshy in the gravy.
The glazed pork belly didn't sound or look all that exciting - but I gotta say, it was pretty darn amazing. The belly itself ceded defeat under the blunt cuts of the knife, and the supple texture was absolutely praiseworthy. What the kitchen does with red cabbage is head-turningly good. Case in point: juniper berry honey and braised red cabbage where each shred was coated in a caramelized sweet tinge.
Overall, this second visit to Brussel Sprouts helped salvage the previous experience. However, with my curiosity satisfied, I probably won't be making any dinner appointments here... unless I'm in the mood for "fried-to-death-frites".
80 Mohamed Sultan Road
#01-12 The Pier @ Robertson
Tel: 6887 4344
Open: Tue - Thur: noon to 3pm, 5pm to midnight; Fri: noon to 3pm, 5pm to 1am; Sat: noon to 1am; Sun: noon to midnight; closed on Mon
|Chen Yixiao of Some like it haute describes herself as being on the right side of her twenties but the wrong side of the weighing scale and could happily live on a regular diet of artisan bread, sushi and freshly cut tropical fruits. She regards food writing as an outlet to preserve her sanity before Business school and the subsequent corporate rat race consume her.
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