When travelling I am more excited to visit landmark eateries than tourist landmarks. Sometimes I go online and research the restaurants I should eat at beforehand, so that I have a reference point in the city. This has worked for and against me in the past. When visiting Paris 8 months ago, I ate at the infamous Chartier and was very, very disappointed by the food (Choucroute that I could gag on) and the service (having to share a table with a couple).
Another great indication of whether a restaurant has promise is if you see a line of patrons flooding outside the doors. It’s a great sign that people are willing to wait in order to have a fantastic meal.
On a recent trip to Belgium, I used one of my most favourite tactics…asking the locals. And when I say locals, I don’t mean the front desk at your hotel who sometimes make a commission if they refer you to a restaurant. In our case, it was during our ride from the airport to our hotel room in Brussels. The drive was initially silent, but the tension was broken when my dad questioned our driver about the local weather. One thing lead to another, and soon we were on the topic of food.
I was surprised when my dad questioned the driver on the best places to eat in Brussels. Firstly, my dad usually defers to me for that sort of thing, and secondly he always makes fun of me when I set up my video camera and start making videos in the middle of meals. Nonetheless, he got two wonderful recommendations. One of them being Aux Armes de Bruxelles.
The driver in a mixture of a French and English described this restaurant as a Belgian institution that had been around for decades and that was known for its preparation of regional cuisine. My ears perked up like a Jack Rabbit. I had four things I HAD to consume before leaving the country: Moules (mussels), frites (belgian fries), gaufres (waffles), and chocolate (chocolate…I’m funny aren’t I…haha).
Aux Armes de Bruxelles was our destination for lunch on day one. Found on the Rue des Bouchers, we were warned of the eventful walk that we would have to the restaurant by our driver. As he noted, along the street were many restaurants, displaying the most gorgeous seafood displays, and waiters that were greeting us with Namastes, Hello Bollywood Princess, and Yay Hindustan. All to be avoided of course, unless you were in for a mediocre meal.
We arrived at the restaurant, were graciously greeted, and were introduced to an impressive menu. We opted for the prix fixe meal which included an appetizer, main course, dessert, and our choice of wine, beer, or mineral water all for the joyous price of 23 Euro. Can you say score?
My mom and I started with White Asparagus soup, while my dad opted for the Chicken Croquette with Madira sauce. The soup was silky, and had a luxurious mouth feel. It was perfectly seasoned, and was like heaven in a bowl. The croquette was crispy on the outside, but once pierced revealed tender strands of chicken smothered in a cream infused sauce. It too was delicious.
I had requested the Mussel Casserole for my main, but was informed by our gracious waiter that it wasn’t good that day, and that I should choose something else. I love honesty when it comes to dining out, and Belgian waiters dish it out like it is (no pun intended). So we all went with the Salmon course. And was I glad that I did. I have never had salmon as perfectly cooked in my entire life as I did at Aux Armes. It was beautifully grilled, and still pink on the inside. Well rested, so that it was juicy, and tender. The accompanying Bernaise sauce was plentiful and was the perfect compliment to the fatty fish. Things were looking really good.
For dessert I chose the Creme Caramel, because I am a sucker for anything custard. It was delicious, and the perfect cap to my meal.
The entire experience was further enhanced by our amazing waiter who was quick to bring out each course, graciously smiled and cracked jokes throughout our meal (bringing new meaning to Dinner and Show), and was more than happy to get whatever we needed (Gordon Ramsay would be proud). This is the best customer service I’ve ever experienced in a dining establishment.
I have no hesitation in saying that Aux Armes de Bruxelles is one of the best restaurants that I’ve eaten at in my entire life. It was just perfect.
It feels great to be blogging again