Moules et Frites, another Belgian culinary specialty. Translated into English: Mussels and French Fries.
On our first night in Brussels, it was only Mussels that I wanted for dinner.
As mentioned in my previous post, the Welcome Hotel is in the Sainte-Catherine district. This neighborhood used to be the Fishmarket district and continues to be home to many of the city's best seafood restaurants.
Our hotel recommended Le Pré Salé for its traditional Belgian food, including Mussels and French Fries.
We were advised to reserve ahead, which we did. Even dining at 7 p.m., relatively early by European standards, we found the place packed and observed many people who just dropped in being turned away.
The dining room is simple and casual...white tile on the walls, an open kitchen, and rows of tables. A blackboard on the wall lists the day’s steamed mussel preparations and prices.
While debating between Mussels Mariniere or Mussels Provencale, we sipped two different Belgian Beers.
I chose the light Leffe and Jim opted for a blond Hoegaarden. Each was served in its own glass. An aside: my local Whole Foods has been selling blond Leffe on special this past week...that's what we are drinking at home now.
Mussels Mariniere is the basic and traditional way to prepare steamed mussels...they are steamed in broth or white wine, with a bit of parsley and garlic. Feeling somewhat vegetable-deprived after our travel day of irregular eating, we both decided on the Mussels Provencale, mussels steamed with fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions, and celery. We started with salads of Endive...possibly another Belgian specialty, since I've always called it Belgian Endive. Topped with Mayonnaise, the salad was refreshing and tasty.
All main dishes are served with Fries, but, curiously, dipping sauces are offered for an additional cost of about 50 cents. I ordered ketchup with mine. I've been told that Belgians prefer Mayonnaise for dipping.
Our meals were delicious, but a bit overwhelming in quantity. I am sure there were at least 4 dozen mussels in my caldron of mussels. I could not finish my serving. The Fries were good too and I did finish those.
Wanting something sweet after our filling meal, we shared Le Pré Salé's homemade Vanilla Ice Cream with warm melted Chocolate...yum!
Another food observation: Dessert choices were limited in the restaurants where we dined and usually included several ice cream desserts. This was not a bad thing, given the large meal servings. A simple, light dessert was perfect.
Looking at what others were eating, I was made aware of another Belgian, or at least Brussels, specialty: Shrimp Croquettes. People were eating them both as first courses and main dishes. They looked good and, at other meals during our visit, enjoyed both Fish and Cheese Croquettes; just about every restaurant offers some version of Croquettes. Le Pré Salé's Stoemp, a potato and sausage dish, and Carbonnade, a Flemish beef stew made with beer, are other popular dishes. I am not sure if I really saw anyone eating an Eel dish, but I know that Eel in a green sauce, Anguilles au vert, is another specialty dish.