Postcard From Tom: Brussels

Sunday, April 4, 2004

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema's monthly report from the road.

One of Brussels's claims to fame is its chocolate, and one of the best places to indulge is the shop known as Galler, off the Grand Place. For more savory moments, check out these winning restaurants.

BONSOIR CLARA (22 Rue Antoine Dansaert, 011-32-2-502-0990)

Warm in jewel tones and polished wood, the interior looks as if it were conceived by an artist. And the food, stylish and appealing, fits right in. Plates you really ought to say yes to include the hot shrimp-and-cheese croquettes, salmon tartare with hazelnut mousse, duck breast sweetened with figs, and steak ignited with green pepper sauce paired with a cone of fat French fries. Entrees $17 to $23.

COMME CHEZ SOI (23 Place Rouppe, 011-32-2-512-2921)

The cab driver smiles when I tell him this is where I'm headed. "Ah, number one for dining!" he cries. Sure enough, the food at the venerable art nouveau destination is both beautiful and luscious. The seasonal menu currently stars baby rabbit, sole with a mousseline of shrimp and wine, and suckling pig with perfect spring vegetables. The complimentary pre-meal nibbles alone linger in my mind. Tasting menus from $80 to $180 per person.

'T KELDERKE (15 Grande Place, 011-32-2-513-7344)

A hit with locals and tourists alike, this underground tavern with a vaulted brick ceiling and sturdy wooden tables marks the ideal spot to hoist a Belgian beer and explore such local dishes as beef stew, stoemp (a rib-sticking mash of potatoes and other vegetables) and mussels prepared nearly a dozen different ways. Bonus: You're right on the romantic town square. Entrees $10 to $21.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company