What happens when you take Brussels and Brabant classic dishes, deconstruct them and then reinvent them? Can tradition meet modernity? Can humble ingredients steal the show in a top class restaurant? And what happens if you get two foreign chefs from France and Portugal to help you reinterpret these dishes at a six hands dinner.
That is what happened last Tuesday at Bon Bon restaurant in Woluwe Saint Pierre, a commune in Brussels.Two Michelin star chef Christophe Hardiquest invited the inventive Inaki Azipitarte, chef of the famous Parisian restaurant Le Chateaubriand and Leonardo Perreira, formerly at Noma and now about to embark on a new journey in Porto as he prepares to open his restaurant there.
Bon Bon was recently in the news as it will host 20 of the world’s best chefs at the first ever Gelinaz! Headquarters event taking place on 10 November.
Inaki certainty needed no introduction. He is famed for starting off the bistronomy movement in Paris which was considered one of the greatest shifts in French gastronomy as he led the way when it came to changing the more formal restaurant model for a relaxed atmosphere and affordable prices. He started cooking rather late and his unorthodox training and accessible food made him a household name among foodies worldwide earning recognition from the World’s 50 Best restaurants as the top restaurant in France.
On the other hand Leonardo is a young and rising star in the Portuguese gastronomy scene. Having spent time at Noma working with Rene Redzepi, in London and in Portugal, he has now set his sights on opening a restaurant in the Portuguese city of Porto.
Christophe Hardiquest, who needs no introduction in Brussels and Belgium, is also starting to make a name for himself internationally. These events, together with the Gelinaz! event is sure to help in this process of making Brussels more well known to food lovers around the world.
Christophe organised the first in a series of Brussels From/To events last Tuesday. The events will see chefs visit Christophe’s Brussels restaurant and cook together as they work to reinterpret and reinvent Brussels and Brabant culinary traditions. Its also a great opportunity to get a taste of their work and also to dine in a relatively more informal setting.
Most certaintly, the first Brussels From/To event was a great prelude to the Gelinaz! Headquarters event where the restaurant will welcome the likes to Mauro Colagreco, Albert Adria, Enrico Crippa and Davide Scabin on the same day to mention such a few names.
It was interesting to watch the chefs working together in harmony, exchanging ideas, sometimes even surprising each other with what they wanted to serve at the dinner.
When I interviewed Inaki before the dinner (you can read the interview in the coming weeks), he told me he did not really like Brussels Sprouts but he had tried the dish Christophe was preparing and loved it. Everyone I know seems to have a love/hate relationship with this vegetable which is so often used at Christmas time more out of tradition then out of love for this vegetable which when cooked badly can be so uninspiring. Can you use this vegetable and make it one of the star dishes of the evening? That’s exactly what Christophe did and it worked to perfection even if the chef told Food and Wine Gazette after the dinner that he was still not fully satisfied with the dish yet.
Inaki reinterpreted the beef tongue with tomato and a madeira sauce (above). This is a classic dish using an ingredient that you would not normally find at a top level restaurant because it may be considered as a ‘cheap ingredient’. But in a world which is starting to give more and more importance to sustainability and to nose to tail eating, chefs like Christophe and Inaki can show what it means to take a humble ingredient and turn it into something memorable.
The dish served by Inaki is one which will forever be etched in my memory. Cooked slowly for 30 hours it was served with a tomato cooked for a day at low temperature and a Madeira sauce with vinegar (which Inaki loves) and Basque chillis. No words would be able to do justice to the dish.
Christophe is on a quest to reinvent recipes that have stood the test of time and which can be found in many traditional restaurants. His aim is to deconstruct them and then modernise them. While he can do this together with his talented team at Bon Bon, he has decided to open himself to other ideas and influences from around the world. He is curious to see how others can use traditional products and flavour combinations without the constraints of tradition and place.
Sommelier Michel De Muynck had the task of choosing the wines to match the dishes for the evening. The star of the show being a Serbian wine from Francuska Vinarija, made by French winemakers Estelle and Cyrille Bongiraud. But all the selections were inspired.
Christophe started the evening by sending typical fried Belgian snacks. These were a smoked herring and sardine beignet, a mussel beignet, a samosa of shrimps (crevettes grises) and a Parmesan beignet.
This was followed by something by a dish so inventive, so tasty and so new that I could not help wondering how I had never encountered such a dish before, particularly given the fact that rabbit in my home country Malta is the most traditional dish you can serve. Here, Christophe served it in a tartare with bread and a gueze gelee marinated with salt water. This was a marriage made in heaven and one I will definitely want to revisit again.
Crevettes grises are a staple of Brussels and Belgian cuisine. The ‘tomatoes with shrimps’ is probably one of the most common dishes that you can find in any restaurant. When these are fresh, the taste is phenomenal and not much else is needed. Inaki served them with avocado and a ceviche granita. The combination worked very well. As a side, he made a tortilla of shrimps which was so good I could have continued eating more and more like one would do with a great packet of peanuts.
It was now time for the brussels sprouts dish. Brussels sprout leaves camoflagued an ice-cream of brussels sprouts and was served on a bed of ‘earth’ together with a cannelloni of brussels sprouts. On the side, Christophe served a soup of brussels sprouts together with an espuma of speck. The combination of flavours was just perfect.
Leonardo reinterpreted the anguille au vert or stewed eel with a chervil sauce. He served it slightly cooked and blending the fattiness of the fish with a perfect chlorophyll of herbs and celeriac. It was not only a beautifully presented dish but one which did justice to the eel.
His second dish was also really special. He took a light cheese (fromage blanc from Beersel, a village just outside the Belgian capital) and combined it with a red cabbage which was first cooked sous vide at low temperature and then finished on the grill. He combined it with a naturally salty sauce of red cabbage and finished it off with lots of rosemary. A simple yet perfect dish.
This was followed by Inaki’s langue de boeuf (beef tongue) with madeira sauce (see above for the description).
It was now time to move to dessert. Christophe sent out an ice-cold ‘sweet’ called Fraicheur de Speculoos. An explosion of cinnamon flavours to cleanse the palate for what was to come next. First the trio of chefs served Jambe de Bois, a semi-hard cheese refined with the beer Jambe-de Bois from the Senne brewery in Molenbeek.
The three chefs then took the Brussels waffle as their inspiration and reworked it three ways. Chris served it with a yeast ice-cream which combined to perfection with the remaining flavours on the dish. Inaki served his waffle with corn while Leonardo used buckwheat and citrus to finish off the dinner.
Bon Bon Restaurant: Avenue de Tervueren 453 B-1150 Bruxelles Tel: +32 2 346 66 15
The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 12.30 to 1.30pm and from 7.30 to 9pm. It is closed Monday’s for lunch and on Saturdays and Sundays.