You probably don’t think it’s possible to take a two-hour tram ride around our quirky and loveable capital without being serenaded by a guy with an accordion who knows no other tune but Hava Nagila or sharing an intimate experience with someone enjoying Dubstep at volume 11. It’s not only possible but also a very enjoyable evening out. Imagine, if you will, a tram filled to the gunwales with Pommery Champagne, a Michelin-starred menu and only the faintest noise of two chefs working almost effortlessly but barely heard over the buzz of conversation – conversation largely centred around food. This is the evening my partner and I were treated to on our very first outing on the Brussels Tram Experience.
Trams and gastronomy would hardly seem to be a match made in heaven but I will open my account by raising my hat to the chefs for the evening, working diligently and professionally in a kitchen the size of an Ikea bookcase. I often wonder how they don’t kill each other but I neglected to ask, as they were busy. And I was hungry. For those worried about going out to dinner and needing a meal afterwards, have no fear; you won’t need to make any plans after this outing. They manage to serve haute cuisine in portions designed to fill, not to fool around. Don’t worry about your dinner flying off the table either. The designers of the tram experience took the phrase “a place for everything…” to heart, and carved special grooves and slots in the tables so nobody has to part company with their dinner on a difficult bend.
We started with amuses bouches and starters by Pascal Devalkeneer of Le Chalet de la Forêt (2 Michelin stars). The trio of amuses bouches were designed to entertain – a job they accomplished with aplomb. We opened with cauliflower crumble with speculoos biscuits, tripped lightly through an earthy and rich Porcini Cappucino, an umami explosion, and finished with the crème brulée made with Leffe and hay. I really wanted this last one to be special and it certainly was. The best of the three, in my opinion. The starter was a scallop tartare with sweet chestnut mousseline and coffee oil. The coffee oil worked well against the sweet scallop and the chestnut provided the perfect vehicle for both. For me, there was a touch too much chestnut but opinions vary.
Next stop, main course. This was a hind fillet with a Syrah reduction with forest honey and spices, Roscoff onion fondue, black salsify (very Belgian) and caramelized chestnuts. This dish was created by Lionel Rigolet, from a restaurant you may have heard of – Comme Chez Soi (2 Michelin stars). No complaints here and the level of conversation dropped as people ate first with their eyes, then their cutlery. All the flavours were balanced superbly. Rich, deep, light and elegant all at once. An enormously satisfying dish. My concern here was not with the food but the choice of wine. The Viñas del Vero Cabernet Suavignon 2011 from Spain was in itself a very agreeable Cabernet, plenty of spice and well-balanced. For me, it didn’t really pair well, overpowering some of the subtleties of our main course. Life is sometimes hard.
Before the terminus was Christmas Under the Stars (Noël dans les Paillettes) by Pierre Marcolini, whom I believe will need no introduction to Together readers. A white cone of what appeared to be a flimsy shell gave way to the most enormous concoction of sweet and bitter chocolate and praline. Imagine enjoying one of Marcolini’s chocolates. Now imagine it weighed 100 grammes. You’re getting close. Truly a stylish finish.
This menu is their seasonal offering and will be available from 10 December.
Photos: © www.visitbrussels.be