Do they eat and drink better in Belgium?
I thought we were going to Oasis, the pub whose scampi I'd dropped at the Taste of the City a few weeks back. Instead, Frank took me to a new place near where he works, (a great part of downtown near the city's luminous library and several great bookstores) an amazing Belgian bar called Chambar. Although food service didn't start til 5:30, they allowed us in and let us sit in the sofa-strewn "living room" type area. All the seats in this massive place were reserved.
I ordered a strange beverage called Tin Tin and the Nashi Pear, described in the drinks menu as "Vanilla infused sake with fresh pear nectar and vodka, finished with caramel liquer and a sliver of pear." Fumiyo's home town Kamagaya, where we lived for a decade, calls itself the pear (The Japanese pear variant called Nashi) capitol of Japan, and produced pear wine, pear brandy and assorted pear foodstuffs. I thought I knew Nashi. But the drink was.......strange? Frank ordered a Palm beer from the beer menu. Oh, they have a beer menu, I discover after ordering the pear oddity. Not just a beer menu, a Belgian beer menu, far vaster than Stella's micro-collection. Wish I'd known before I'd order the pear thingie. Well, it was finished quickly and I promptly ordered a Bandisthe Blueberry Beer by Crannog Brewery. A draught. The pear was merely odd. The blueberry was undrinkable. The restaurant was filling up. Frank ordered a Nostradamous, which he described as tasting like a meal. I had a sip- yes, a very hearty vegetarian meal. Stil in search of something drinkable, I ordered a Tripel Karmelite. Ah! This is the kind of great beer I remember from my brief sojourn in Brussells 25 years ago. It was full of subtlety, a virtual Magritte of unexpected realities. So, I don't have to go to Belgium to drink its great beers after all. I am relieved. We order some food.
Frank was happy with his risotto, with shrimp. My Thon au Safran (described in the menu as: lime and panko seared albacore tuna & crab stuffed pastry shell. Candied ginger saffron, citus cream) deserved to be on the C restaurant menu. Yes, it's that good. Do they have food that good in Belgium? Anywhere?
Crab/tuna do not go with rich Belgian beers, so I ordered a glass of wine, pronto. And pronto, a glass of chardonnay appears. Now this is a large restaurant/bar that is packed with people. It's hard to get prompt service in a small, empty place but this was phenomenal. The COLD wine was a perfect complement for the tuna.
After dinner, I had a Chambar Coffee- Chambord, cinnamon and creme de cacao. Perfect ending to a splendid meal. Actually, it wasn't a meal so much as a visit to an enchanting bar with a bit of food to go with the booze- just the bill was restaurantesque. But cheaper than going to Belgium. And I doubt they do anything better with tuna there.