Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where to Eat in Brussels, Belgium

Belgium is known as the world's destination for beer. The kind of beer that comes in its own proper glass that's been hand washed and polished - even in the most busiest bars. But does Belgium take its food as seriously?  
It may not be the culinary mecca that is Paris, but many French comfort foods - from Croque Monsieurs to Steak Tartare - can be found in both rustic and refined forms. However, the tastiest eats are found in the number of Belgian specialties; many of them in the very accessible form of street eats. 
Many a waffle vendor can be found streetside throughout the touristy Grand Place area with service via a walk-by window with the scent of warm waffle seductively wafting through the air. There's a waffle for every occasion and for every craving; from the popular Nutella to the tropical kiwi and whipped cream.  
A short walk outside of the Grand Place will lead to a streetside seafood bar called Mer du Nord.  On a bustling Saturday morning, belly up to the sidewalk bar counter for a glass of white wine and a bevy of fresh and fragrant seafood in the outdoor air. 

If you thought the best mussels this side of the Atlantic are found in a restaurant served in a steaming iron pot...you've been deceived. On a disposable plate and consumed standing on the sidewalk, these are the freshest and most satisfying mussels, shrimp and escargot in Brussels.    
A trip to Brussels is not complete without famously crispy Belgian frites. Hands down from locals to food critics the world over, agree the best can be found at Maison Antoine.  It's no surprise, since this Brussels institution has been serving frites and nothing but for over 60 years.  
It's a bit of a trek with it being four Metro stops and a leisurely walk from the city centre. But the route is scenic as you pass by the Musee de Armes and its gardens; and the journey is certainly worth the rewards.

Maison Antoine is a standalone walk-by window shop at the edge of a parking lot in a restaurant-cluttered roundabout. The lines are always about 30 minutes long, but the wait will give you time to decide which of the 25 available sauces you'll want to accompany your frites. Delightfully crispy and served in the traditional paper cone, Maison Antoine is the answer to the country's best street food.
If you're looking to find a little multicultural flavour in Brussels you'll have to dig a little.  While there's no designated Chinatown (unless you consider it the hidden half-block with a handful of Asian eateries) but a hidden gem can be found within it where there are traditional hand-pulled noodles that could rival Pacific Mall's best. 
Back to the sweets, nothing could be more French than gourmet desserts. With some of the world's best chocolate at hand (richer and darker than its Swiss counterparts). Belgium makes the decadent shortbreads, madeleines and truffles among its many sweet specialties.  
---Michelle Tham





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