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Image 1: Originally established as an inn, later transformed to a bar, then a brasserie and finally a restaurant run by Chef Gert de Mangeleer. Now, it is not just a restaurant, but a world class restaurant, accelerated through the ranks, earning its 1st star in 2005, 2nd in 2009 and the ultimate 3-star in 2012, making it the most recent 3-star addition to Belgium's culinary scene.
Image 2: A modest dining room with an entirely transparent kitchen for all the guests to see. Gert's cuisine is obviously getting attention beyond the local gourmands as we noticed the table of Taiwanese people behind us and a group from the States and Hong Kong sitting next to us!
Image 3: www.hertog-jan.com Chef: Gert de Mangeleer
Tasting: €155 (6-course) €125 (4-course) À la carte menu: About €80 for main course
Closed on Sunday and Monday.
Image 5: House champagne was a choice of André Clouet Brut or Rosé to accompany the "teasers", a set of five amuse bouches. A foie gras cream centre bounded by a cute crumbly dome, resting on a thin passion fruit base. Rich foie with fruity base enclosed by a sweet pastry, a perfect foie gras treat!
Image 6: The next item seemed to be an Indian influenced snack - a curry dusted poppadom looking disk made of potato with a dipping on the side.
Image 7: This small plate was just about the ingredients - wedges of avocado completely coated with tomato powder and uniquely served with olive oil. I definitely prefer my avocado to be more ripe.
Image 8: The amuse bouche continued with a bowl blanketed by foam. Underneath was a gazpacho cream with basil, green olive and crouton. Crunchy and refreshing on the palate.
Image 9: Small plates kept on coming! At the bottom were lentils and meat from pork's head; layered on top was an onion-dominating salsa and garden herb garnish.
Image 10: And one last surprise, potato custard topped with coffee dust and Mimolette cheese shaving. The cheese was mild enough to allow the hint of coffee to shine through. Seductive! By far the best item and no wonder this is one of his signatures.
Image 11: Fresh bread with butter and olive oil.
Image 12: Our first course, the most simple but the most expensive course of the meal - watermelon, mozzarella, radish and Osetra caviar. Yes, it was a generous quenelle of caviar!
Image 13: The watermelon was sweet along with the mild fresh cheese to highlight the deep saltiness of caviar. Pairing with caviar is always difficult but they cleverly paired with a Belgium beer which worked particularly well!
Image 14: Another highlight of the meal was this beautiful piece of marinated salmon standing on its edge with a long strip of burned cucumber lying on top. This is Gert's version of sushi!
Image 15: The two types of cream were made from soya and rice topped with crispy rice! The comprehensive flavour really resembled sushi, but a much more playful texture. It was a brilliant dish! One more twist was a thin pickled ginger underneath the cucumber. Amazing!
Image 16: More seafood -- lobster tail cooked in vanilla oil
Image 17: ... finished with a lobster bisque sauce and Tonka bean dust. The lobster was fresh and precisely cooked with a wonderful texture; the bisque had a great depth of crustacean flavour. Another excellent dish except for the unnecessary intense acidity from the shallot and vinaigrette mixture at the bottom.
Image 18: As labelled on his menu, "a walk through our garden inspired by Bras' gargouillou", compose of 45 different vegetables, herbs, and flowers - this course was a great way to display Gert's garden.
Image 19: Hmmm, it was not as elegant as Bras' gargouillou... Not only were some pieces too chunky, the flavour of the vegetables and herbs were just not at the same level. It was just a salad plate, a rather big salad plate that we all started to feel full after this course!
Image 20: One more dish before the main. A combination of foie gras with beetroot, cherry sauce, and for some reason a few thin strips of eel at the bottom. What a bizarre combination of ingredients and flavour!
Image 21: A lamb tasting with blobs of carrot and orange cream. A saddle of fillet on the left and meat from the neck on the right. The fillet was fine and tender with a nice pink centre; the neck was well braised to fork tender and cleverly coated with quinoa to replicate a crispy skin!
Image 22: What's better was the deep fried meat from the shoulder which was a fun complement to such a high quality lamb dish.
Image 23: Verbena flower as an interlude before the sweets! Exquisite!
Image 24: A very light dessert to start. A combination of pistachio, sorrel and green tea. Chilled, nutty, herby, a touch of sweetness and bitterness, a wonderful refreshing dessert!
Image 25: The second dessert which looked similar to the first one but was composed of wild strawberry and raspberry, with an aromatic rose water poured on top. A lovely fruity dish!
Image 26: I loved the progression of the final few plates of desserts -- a light start followed by a fruity one, and ending with a powerful finale. The final dessert didn't look too much different from the first two either, but consisted of chocolate, caramel, and hazelnut.
Image 27: For petits fours, three tiny circular chocolate pyramids of three different flavours: milk, sesame, and beetroot.
Image 28: And finally crispy citrus cream rolls to finish.
Image 29: Though there were maybe one or two courses which did not work for me, most of them were top notch courses. No doubt that this is a cuisine showcasing regional ingredients where simplicity is the focus.