Belga Queen (Brussels, Belgium)

Most any time we end up traveling with my brother Dan and his wife Sophie, we usually try to go out for at least one fancy dinner and live it up a bit. When we were in Belgium, we figured this would be a good opportunity to check out Belga Queen, one of the trendy Brussels restaurants that has been a hot spot for several years. Located just down the street from the Royal Theater, Belga Queen is fashioned out of an old 18th century bank, back in the era when banks were pretty much expected to have elaborate, over-the-top, marble interiors. And Belga Queen didn’t disappoint in that respect.

The concept behind Belga Queen is simple enough: it’s basically a showcase of Belgian food and beer. Typically Belgian food is mostly brasserie fare, and the menu at Belga Queen is basically a dressed up version of that to match the impressive environs: upscale steaks and meats, good seafood, good beer and wine, and dessert featuring the famous Belgian chocolate. They even have a Menu Brasseur (Brewer’s menu) matching up a price fixe four-course menu with different beers.

Carol and I, however, opted to try their main a la carte menu, starting off with the Shrimp Croquettes. A fairly common dish of the Benelux countries (in particular, Amsterdam has more croquette vendors than I could count, ranging from fancy down the the FEBO automats), these were actually some of the better croquettes I’ve had in recent history: the shrimp itself was properly cooked (oh, how I dislike overcooked, rubbery shrimp, which seems to be a mainstay of many cheap European meals), combined with a rich cream sauced and nicely encapsulated in a very crispy breaded shell. These were pleasant croquette, and a good start to the meal.

Our main course was the Charolais sirloin. Named after the nearby Charolles region of France, Belgium prides itself on having good and flavorful beef, and this dish was quite good. The combination of a really nice sirloin that’s been properly aged, combined with the Belgian cooking style (like the French, Belgians seem to be rather reluctant to ruin a perfectly good piece of beef by overcooking it, so things tend to arrive on the rare side, much to my enjoyment), and this was a perfectly flavorful sirloin accompanied by a good Bearnaise sauce.

Looking over at Dan’s plate, who had opted for the Brewer’s menu, he had done quite well, too, with a main course of a flavorful and tender slow-cooked duck.

Dessert-wise, I think this is where Belga Queen shined the best. While several items on the menu tempted me, I ended up opting for the trio of chocolate mousses. Chocolate mousse is usually a dessert I avoid, since while it is supposed to be a smooth and creamy dish, I often seem to end up getting some sort of sticky-sweet and chalky or grainy confection. But Belga Queen had it nailed, not just once, but three times, with dollops of white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate mousse. Each was creamy, deep in chocolate flavor, and delicate without being overly sweet. If I could reliably get a chocolate mousse of this quality, I’d be ordering it more often.

One thing that is worth noting: most any review of Belga Queen at least mentions the restrooms, which are rather unique (I’m putting them on my list above L’avenue and Loring Pasta Bar on my “most interesting restroom” list). I won’t spoil the surprise, but it’s rather an interesting experience. The first is learning that the restrooms are “through the curtain over there”. The next is going through the curtain, and instead of finding two doors (one for men, and one for women), you find yourself in a unisex washing area. As for the final surprise? I’ll leave if for you (just google “Belga Queen” if curiosity gets the best of you).

Overall, I’m going to put the Belga Queen in the “somewhat overhyped” category. What worked really well was the architecture and decor, this really is a splendid restaurant space (and does indeed have some truly unique restrooms). And the food was quite pleasant enough, ranging from nicely done croquettes to a really impressive trio of Belgian chocolate mousses. But taking the price into account? I’m sure there are a dozen places with an equally good steak we could have gone for a fraction of the price. I’m not regretting the trip to Belga Queen, but I’m not sure its really living up to it’s potential.

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