City wanderings - and a pilgrimage to some of the best eating and drinking spots in Brussels. Or maybe not eating or drinking - ah, oh well.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Le Neptune

Pourquoi Bruxelles?  What kind of fish is a féra exactly? Questions are floating in the air, as I try to stay out of the way of a young chef gutting a tuna.  The said tuna is prepared expertly, with a rather large knife.  I'm reminded that I'm talking to someone who has a important job to do, preparing a five course menu for the evening's diners, and I need to summon up some interesting questions or this busy man will give me short shrift.  But I keep focussing on the tuna.  Now I know (sort of) how to gut a fish.
Nicolas's answers come in slick and fast as he moves on to his second tuna. There is no English translation for féra: the fish that featured on the menu last week.  It's a fish from the Alps, caught in Lake Geneva and Lake Annecy.  Together we consider what appropriate English translations might be for various marrow and squash-like ingredients I tasted here, but the English language proves to be more generalising than I'd like it to be. And then we move on to favourite vegetables: mine are probably swede and parsnip (neither of which seems particularly prized in Belgium.)  The chef wants to know what swede is.  I try to explain, aided by some flamboyant hand gestures, that swede is like a small orange turnip.  The attempt fails.

"Delicate" I think is the word I would use to describe my meal here at Le Neptune.  The five course tasting menu was a gastronomic experience with each course introduced at table; something to be savoured, despite straining to hear your friends across the table.  Stay away if ravenously hungry and coveting calories: elsewhere on this blog there are plenty of carnivorous suggestions to sate your hunger until your sides ache.  Instead this is about your taste buds recognising and appreciating flavours: delicate bergamot and sage flavoured broth, a honey sesame biscuit perched on a quince compote....  You'll also notice the absence of butter, cheese or cream.  The 39 euro menu comprises five small tasting plates of well-balanced ingredients.  Flavours work harmoniously rather than stunning you each time with powerful, exotic colours or startling presentation.  If you're impatient for the next installment, there's always the excellent Fournil du Saint Aulaye bread to nibble on.  And there's an extensive blackboard list of seriously nice wines, should you be worried about the lack of menu choice (hah, none!)  Nicolas used to run a wine bar in Geneva, and still orders bottles from growers he knows personally.  You could really splash out here if you wanted to.   

To sum up: a bistrot in a former umbrella shop, where there is only space for about twenty covers, and you have to cross the tiny kitchen to reach the tiny bathroom.  The kitchen is open - open!  This is a chef who has confidence (arrogance, even) and nothing to hide: even the fridge is transparent; rien à cacher et tout à montrer.....  I don't want to be hidden away in a cellar, says Nicolas.   

Questions to a chef....

Favourite ingredients?  Vegetables, fish.  Not meat so much.

Why a five dish menu?. Wouldn't three be simpler? 
Five is more fun.  And this isn't work.

Earliest food memories?  In my grandparents garden around a table in the Haute-Savoie.

One night in Le Neptune Becinbrussels ate:

Tartare de Féra aux courgettes jaunes, sauge, melon et aneth

Aile de raie pochée dans un bouillon de bergamote

Joue de boeuf purée de potimarron, pâtisson et légumes de saison

Assortiment fromages de Julien Harard (+6 EUR supplément)

Compotée de coins, verveine et vanille

Mousse au chocolat

 The evening menu (five courses) is 39 Euro
Lunch menu (three courses) is 25 Euro

48, rue Lesbroussart
for reservations: 04 89 30 33 50

1 comment:

  1. Féra! I tasted this in a rather swish restaurant on the banks of Lake Annecy this Summer. And the chef indeed informed us that there is no English translation. It doesn't matter when something tastes that good :)