Review #2: Funky Gourmet

19 January 2018

I got back to Athens after a very busy and trying week in Egypt. As mentioned, my foot injury was deteriorating badly all week thanks to me pushing it harder than I should, but I had little choice. By the time I got to Athens it was extremely bad, and I was limping slowly.

Most of my short stay in Athens was ruined thanks to this, but I wasn’t going to let it stop me from eating. The first of two nights back I headed back to Funky Gourmet for their first night back open after the holiday break. My last meal here almost a year ago was so good I was so excited to head back, although several of my friends I’ve recommended this place to were far less enamoured of it than I was…

I’m hoping for a stellar night, to help forget this painful foot, and not have a flashback to December’s less-than-stellar night at the previously fantastic EquiTable (which for a specific reason I declined to re-review)…

Up the stairs gingerly, and I flopped at my table and not moved for the entire meal… It was bound to be a busy Friday night, but this was an early hour, far before the locals go and eat. I relaxed and before I could order a cocktail they already went into the service and that meant the pairing began, with a bubbly…

I’m not too fond of being rushed at the start, especially if the day has been trying like today. But whatever. They brought out the first snack already, the bottarga and white chocolate…

01-chocolate bottarga_edited

As I said during my last visit, an odd combination but strangely worked quite well. I know the servers all go through a script, but they know I’m a repeat customer so why describe things like I’ve never seen them? Also odd was that my excellent server from that night last year seems to be running tonight, and she was the only one that described the dishes like I knew them (since she knew I knew them) during those rare times she brought the items. But anyway, that’s nitpicking. Good start, then we have a “find the truffle” game…

02-truffle

It’s a wee thing that represented the essence of the local winter truffle without the harsh texture. I was told some of the truffles in the bowl would be grated onto a later dish. Nice. Then the third snack, the beet rose.

03-beet rose

Much similar as last time, I really enjoy the earthy base here. But oddly 2 of the 3 snacks were exactly the same as before. Next up was some microbrew beer from Chios and the picnic…

04a-picnic_edited

Well, it seems to have grown a bit from last year’s version. The cute basket is still there, as well as the kitchy edible packaged nuts and so forth. The tarama was excellent, as was the quail egg. The passion fruit “drink” with tapioca was a very nice new touch. Nice selection, I always found this fun and nice.

Relaxed with the tail end of the beer and then the larger dishes started to appear. First up was focused on lettuce…

05-lettuce

Hmmm…baby gem is nice and all, but a bit of an odd “salad” dish. The herbs were nice, but even for someone who loves good vegetables this was a miss. It needed something more, or to have the herbs as the central part of this dish instead of the baby gem. I’m sorry, lettuce is lettuce. The local muscat was nice tho. Then switching to another local white we get the pasta dish.

06-urchin pocket pasta

They changed this a little from last time. The urchin is still a bit understated, but this pocket pasta was done better with deeper flavours in total. Nice dish. Then the “usual” Greek salad ice…

zzz

Good like last time, but I’m starting to see way too many repeat dishes. It’s not surprising with tasting menus, but it’s been a year… Anyway, then the truffles from earlier in the night reappeared with the foie…

08-foie_edited

This worked very well, on a bed of trahana. The foie was cooked very well, delicate yet firm, totally delicious. The best dish of the night by far. Excellent, with a cab franc-merlot blend to go along with it. I chilled out for a minute reflecting on this dinner so far. Service has been okay, but not spectacular like last time; still puzzled why my excellent server last time was just running tonight. Too many repetitive dishes, and some weak items. But again it’s their first night back after the holiday break, so… Then this showed up…

09a-pastrami log

Hmmm, they eventually removed one of the “logs” and plated it. Pastrami?

09b-pastrami log

Well, this was not good, unfortunately. The texture of this is just awful, tasted as if it was partly mangled by sous-vide and partly charred, or some other odd combination. The flavour is lacking also. A rather poor dish in nearly every way. Sigh… Gimmick over taste, sadly…

Then I also realised this was the end of the savouries…wow, this was far, far less substantial than last year’s dinner. We moved into the sweeter side with kumquats…

zzzz

Oh, this is the cheese dish, with feta hidden…all to be spread on the bread. Not bad, the combination was good but I was still kind of disappointed we’ve left the savouries already. Then more kumquat with this citrus combination…

11-citrus kumquat

All the dry ice stuff but it was an okay dish with a combination of lime and lemon and so forth, but it could have been a tad tartier. Then finally, the chocolate bomb…

12a-chocolate

Yes, it had a wick and it didn’t quite burn down… Rich, nice tasting tho. And sadly this was the end already. I ordered a nice tsipouro to try to dull the foot pain before having to face those stairs going down. Anyone with a foot injury knows it’s far worse to go down stairs than up…

end box

The firewater came with a LOT of end-of-night snacks, but only touched 1 or 2 things. I wish the savoury courses ran a little longer and had more substance. Certainly was nowhere as good as the previous visit. The service was okay but a little less smooth than last time. The food was less interesting; the “funky” stuff didn’t change much, and they removed some of the best stuff from last time (like the lamb brain). Too many new dishes didn’t work, like the lettuce or the pastrami log (how apt that description from the poor texture), though the foie was excellent. Unfortunately, like EquiTable in Zürich, my second visit after being blown away the first time rocked me back to earth…

Oh well. A painful hop down the stairs, with the toilets in a basement with even more precarious stairs, I was happy to jump into the cab back to my hotel. Damn, I hate not being mobile… A downer of a night after a downer of a day…

Funky Gourmet
Παραμυθιάς 13 [Paramythias 13]
Αθήνα, Ελλάδα [Athens, Greece]

Advertisements

Bucket List is Almost Done: the Cairo Edition

15-18 January 2018

I had dreamed of visiting Cairo since I was growing up in Hawai’i, when I first discovered Egyptian history and mythology. Then at the time one of my favourite bands, Iron Maiden, released Powerslave, which was based on Bruce Dickinson’s similar love of the theme, adding to my lifelong fascination. But with so many other things going on I never made the trip — until now.

I got from JFK to Amsterdam, then to Athens. A quick overnight and I was off to Cairo. I was a bit worried as a few days before my trip I had hurt my right foot badly from a ill-planned hike on icy, hilly terrain. Problem was in the days between that initial injury and the trip, I under-estimated the damage on the left foot (which I also overdepended on the days after). So by the time I got to NYC it was my left foot, the tendons were just in awful shape. And the more I overcompensated one side, the other side got worse…

I got to my modest hotel after a typical traffic jam and had the night view from the roof deck…

20180115_212401

The next morning the foot was not good. But I needed to walk a crapload in Egypt, and I had promised myself that when I get to Giza I would hike up to the Pyramids like I always imagined I’d do.

20180116_080833

I kept that promise, but it was painful… I also fell into a hidden trench during the hike, the fact it was millennia-old didn’t quite make it much better. But I fought on. No camels, all on my own power. But it was a dream come true, and I basically had the site to myself for good part of the early cool morning. Less touts than usual due to the cool temperature, and few tourists at that early hour.

20180116_083041

I really spent a good part of time at the Pyramid of Menkaure, which was always my favourite over the years because it’s more isolated and it’s more “human” for some reason… And I had it for myself…

20180116_083104

I hiked for several hours before heading back down and back to my hotel. The constant movement helped and I was walking okay, but I knew it’ll hurt like a mother later — which won’t be helped by the afternoon’s further activities… But then before I left my hotel I got this final view…

20180116_115146

That afternoon I devoted my time to exploring Saqqara, the set of historical monuments and tombs near the ancient capital of Memphis. Most people make a beeline to see the famous Stepped Pyramid of Djoser, which was sadly surrounded by scaffolding.

djoser

In fact, what bothered me was the sheer amount of reconstruction here — and unfortunate Chinese grafitti I see on tiles. One of the worst things about mass tourism is this kind of crap… But explore a bit and staying away from the touts, you find less visit tombs of various officials, including that of Ankhmahor.

Mastaba of Ankhmahor - 07

Amazing when you look at the details crafted over 4300 years ago… But I was spent and my foot was killing me, so we headed towards my friend’s place in Maadi. So glad to catch up with dear friends after nearly a decade not seeing them (last time was at my much-missed restaurant in NYC).

Church of St George

The next day I devoted the morning to the Coptic area of Cairo. Foot still not being too happy, but nevertheless I limped to the Metro and got to the area and explored the various historical churches of the area. But more importantly, I devoted a long stay at the amazing Coptic Museum, which is totally under-visited. I felt like the only visitor there, seeing priceless works of art, historical treasures and religious relics — even reading a page of the Nag Hammadi scrolls with my own eyes. No photos, and I happily respected it.

20180117_105146

I of course explored the large Coptic cemetery in the complex, which so few people to because they just focus on the churches. But you see something very interesting in these tombs too. My foot was a little better, so I walked north and visited some other churches and the German Cemetery (I had to find a specific grave there for an Estonian diplomatic legend). Then I headed north again by Metro (now very crowded) to the Egyptian Museum.

Since I became facinated by Egypt in the 1980s, I have been dreaming about this moment. Didn’t imagine limping between several sets of metal detectors would be it, nor me shouting at Chinese tourists rubbing priceless pieces of history or LEANING on them… But it is just breathtaking…

Scroll through some of these Instagram posts for some amazing pieces of art… And more here… And slowly making my way around, even more. It was busy inside, but most of the people were focused on the bling and other things. I found the carvings and sculptures the key. And anyone familiar with Egyptian history and mythology would find things like this beyond fascinating…

20180117_123530

After several hours of happy wandering (and unhappy wandering yelling at folks getting too touchy again), I had enough. It was also filling up with post-lunch folks, so I decided to find lunch. I was tired, so I just hiked over to the InterContinental — cuz I figured I can get a cab afterwards. So limped over there and went to its Lebanese restaurant, Sabaya.

zzz

Nothing too special. The baba ghannoug was okay, the halloumi squeakily salty, and the mixed grill burnt to a crisp. Sigh… And worst of all, when I asked the doormen for a taxi (instead of a limo) they told me I had to get out and get one on the street myself. Fine. Shitty hotel, glad I’m no longer a loyal customer of this failing brand. Limped down to the street and found a cab and headed back to Maadi to rest that foot…

20180118_105856

The next day that foot was still not good, so employed the help of a driver more. First up was the Citadel, which was a nice climb and hike around. Foot was far worse than previous days, so hopped back to the car and then to the historic mosques across the way. The details of the Sultan Hassan Mosque-Madrassa is amazing…

20180118_121437

Explored both, then we hit the first of the 2 cities of the dead. First up was the South Cemetery, and the fantastic tombs of Sultan Mohammad Ali’s family. Scroll back on this to see some of the fantastic tombs. Then we headed to the heart of Islamic Cairo and I headed to explore more tombs…

Oh no, the crowds this Thursday. I was told today was the last day of exams so the place was overrun by joyous students celebrating. It was impossible to navigate this and I did it as best I can. Plus, several of the tombs were inexplicably closed… Oh well… Then we headed to the South Cemetery and my foot was pretty much gone at this point, so I limped around a bit and had to call it a day…which is way too bad…

As much pain as I was in, at least had a nice meal with my dear friends that evening before my flight out Friday morning — which was a painful experience at utterly disfunctional Cairo Airport, of course… But despite all the pain, I would not have traded any of this — especially Giza and the Egyptian Museum. That’s a 30+ year dream come true, so I fought through the pain and walked and walked…

I was almost immobile by the time I got to Athens…ugh…

Sabaya
InterContinental Hotel Semiramis
Corniche El Nil
Cairo, Egypt

Review #2: Radiance

13 January 2018

I stopped quickly in NYC en route across the Atlantic once again, and once again I made a quick lunch stop at Radiance in Midtown East. Last time I was here had a surprisingly good dimsum lunch, so I thought to repeat it. My server remembered me and made a recommendation I would not have looked at otherwise — and I took it.

I relaxed with some wine (one of the good things about dimsum here, they have very drinkable wines, especially this pinot gris) and soon enough my starter arrived, the black rice shumai.

01-black rice shumai

Very tasty, some people think it’s too much, but I like it. It adds an interesting kick to it all. Then came the recommended dish, Chilean seabass.

02-chilean sea bass

Wow, this was fantastic. I already love this rich fish, but this was done perfectly, keeping all the wonderful flavours internally in the juicy flesh, with just a tad of external flavouring to enhance. Really surprisingly delicious. If I had known this was one of the most delicious things I would eat this entire upcoming trip I would have screamed, but…

I really enjoyed that. And as I was trying to kill some time, and since I do not eat (or drinking anything except water) on flights these days, I ordered a few more things to keep me going until tomorrow evening (long flights coming). So with a bit more wine I relax until they appeared…

03-shumai

An excellent seafood shumai, then those delicious duck rolls I enjoyed so much last time…

04-duck rolls

Mmm, as good as before. This was a good lunch. I was full, and I thanked my server for the excellent recommendation and good service. Headed out very happy! Highly recommended!

Off to JFK. Off to Amsterdam-Schiphol. Off to Athens-Venizelos. Off to Cairo…

Radiance [Midtown East]
208 East 50th Street
New York, New York

* See why I needed to eat? Won’t be eating again until Egypt tomorrow night…

Review: Alexandre

16 December 2017

I apologise for the late posting of this entry. I thought I had posted it before I left for my most recent trip, but I had forgotten…

After that solid lunch at Bruneau, I had a long afternoon getting soaked wandering Laken… Oh the joys of fighting the Brussels public transport system, where in the weekends it crawls to a state of near-paralysis. I went back to dry off and to deal with some logistics, before I headed out to dinner.

Tonight’s destination is Alexandre, a 1-Michelin restaurant — at least in 2017. It seems it had lost the star for the 2018 guide, which honestly I’m not sure what to think anymore. Michelin has become such a joke that I can’t be sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing to have lost that star…

I got to the small eatery on this busy Saturday night and things began nicely for sure with a good martini. I happily went with the tasting and pairing and chilled out. The service was excellent as we started and the early amuse items all featured beets in some way — which makes me happy, as I love these things. First was in a shell…

AB1a-beet eel horseradish

The filling was horseradish and smoked eel, which wasn’t bad. A tad understated like lunch, but I suspect it’s just because I like my horseradish strong… The next amuse incorporated foie…

AB2-foie beet

This time with a slice of yellow beet, a pretty good bite, though perhaps a tad sweet. The place was now full and things slowed down quickly. Took about 15 minutes for the last amuse, which focused on goat cheese with a thyme syurp…

ab

Hmmm…this didn’t really work here. You can see the before and after pix here, but for me this was just messy, and that syrup was just odd. Anyway, a good enough start. With a very generous pour of assyrtiko we start with mackerel.

1

Not bad, far better than the ones I got last night at Sea Grill. The sauce was surprisingly helpful here. Tho again, another 15-minute gap tho. I wonder if they’re timing things…which is terribly annoying to the single diner… However, it was tolerable because of the big and early wine pours. Not a bad start, but the next dish took about 20 minutes to come out…

2

Wee langostine here with quinoa. Far better than yesterday’s gimmicky version, this was smaller but nice. In fact everything on this plate was on the cute side. And checking my clock, it indeed is being timed as it was almost again exactly 20 minutes before the next item comes out, sweetbread.

03a-sweetbread

Pretty good here, but there’s a lot of sunchokes here…and that just wrecks my digestive system, so I brushed it aside. Not bad, but as someone who isn’t a genuine fan of sweetbreads (in fact it’s probably my least favourite of all offal), I could have gone with something else here. But not bad. It’s not standing out much, but…

The wine pours have been generous, but now it’s not coming before the food, which is annoying as I’m just sitting and waiting. This time it took 25 minutes before the next dish, the venison…and of course it came before the wine…

04-venison

Really boring version here, the texture was not good, the flavour pretty mediocre. Again, nothing unusual here, nothing stands out. The wait did not help certainly, as I asked them, if possible, to accelerate things a little. It came out a little quicker, but still on the slow side…

05-cheese

Okay, this was just odd. The cheese here is just overwhelming, to the point that my lips were having an adverse reaction to it — along with the really acidic paired xerex. What happened here? I had to ask for another wine as for some reason this is just hurting my lips badly. I couldn’t even finish this…lovely flavour, but there’s something here that’s causing this unpleasant reaction…

I’m puzzled, and at this point too tired to think about it. This meal is starting to look like it was gonna run into the 4th hour — despite it being a 7-course dinner. Then the last item, the chocolate…

06-chocolate

Not bad, but I just wanted to finish this dinner. This dragged on way too long, and you can tell the service got a bit overwhelmed with the larger parties, which is too bad. I can see this is a small operation, and when you get big parties (especially on weekends) it could turn a bit pear-shaped. Especially near the holidays. So oh well…

Anyway, they were very pleasant and although things were rather ordinary, it was a generally okay — albeit slow — night. I won’t really recommend this place, but considering the crap that was last night at Sea Grill, which for some reason kept both of their Michelin stars, I won’t dissuade you from a visit here. Perhaps on a less hectic night things would run a bit smoother here and some of the issues that somewhat drained me this evening would have not been an issue.

Sigh, Brussels, sigh…

Alexandre
Zuidstraat-Rue du Midi 164
Brussel-Bruxelles, België-Belgique

* If you’re wondering why this trip’s reviews drop off here despite one more night in Brussels, then Basel and Zürich, there are good reasons. I won’t go into them, but there are…so until the next trip…

Review: Bruneau

16 December 2017

I got up feeling ropey, probably not helped by all the idiocy that was yesterday. The dinner at Sea Grill certainly didn’t help. And it was pissing down outside… I spent some time visiting the Cathedral of St Michael & Gudula, which for some reason had ridiculously kitchy and ugly nativity scenes BLOCKING centuries old relics and artwork that people wanted to see. I ended up being on the recieving end of complaints from an irate French tourist about how the crap is covering up the art — she thought I was a church employee…

Now when French tourists are complaining…

I left the church shaking my head, more frustrated about this disfunctional city in a disfunctional country. Many of the other sights I had less interest in, all keeping mind that so much of Brussels is built on atrocities committed by those under the greed of Leopold II

Oh well, enough pontificating. I wandered around more and eventually headed to lunch. Today my destination is the venerable Bruneau, the most classic of all Brussels eateries. Chef Jean-Pierre Bruneau, who opened the restaurant in 1975, has seen the dining world change beyond his wildest dreams (or nightmares) over the decades. He got his Michelin star here in 1977, and got his 3rd star in 1988. Then it’s gone down, losing one star in 2004 and the second in 2010. As of the end of 2017, it remained a 1-Michelin restaurant, and some of the reviews I read online were not very pleasant…

It’s old school in many ways. I got there and was first to be seated. However it filled up pretty quickly, all with locals. Service was smooth, unlike last night’s disaster. I ordered and relaxed with a glass of wine. Then Chef Bruneau came out to say hello, and it was an honour to shake the old master’s hand. He seemed pretty relaxed.

I enjoyed sipping on my wine when the first amuse bouche arrived, which was worrisome…

AB1-waffles

These “waffles” are supposed to be ham and cheese? Where’s the ham? Hmmm. I’m starting to worry and remembering some of the reviews I’ve read about the place recently… Then the next set of amuse was somewhat calming…

AB2-cod fritter brulee duck mousse

Not a bad set, which included a cod fritter, duck mousse and a mushroom brûlée. Again, pretty ordinary stuff, but at least the flavours came out okay. Let’s see what comes with the items I ordered…

01-smoked fish mosaic

The starter was the smoked fish mosaic, which featured jellied smoked eel and salmon. This was actually quite delicious, the jelly working perfectly between the two distinct smoked items. I wish the horseradish was a bit stronger, but overall a good dish. Then after a little break, and more wine, we get the main.

02-civet de lièvre

Oh my, this was a proper civet de lièvre, something I’ve not had in ages. Jugged hare is an acquired taste for many, but I enjoy it…even if it upsets people. Hey, I’m a bunny lover too, but again, as I’ve said enough times, I compartmentalise. But this was delicious and rich, classic cuisine done very well. Bloody good…and yes, that was me being punny.

I am far happier today for lunch than last night’s mess. This is old school in its most old school, but frankly it works. Then the dessert appeared, and I smiled…

03-chocolate cake

As a non-dessert person, I loved this. A very rich dark chocolate cake, not too sweet, just perfect. Again, old school done perfectly good. A really nice lunch!

Frankly the fact this lunch cost about a quarter of last night’s dinner says plenty. Excellent efficient service, solid classic cooking, what more can you want? I thanked the staff and headed out pretty satisfied. Pissing down outside, which brought me back to reality that I’m in bloody Brussels…

Bruneau
Broustinlaan-Avenue Broustin 73-75
Brussel-Bruxelles, België-Belgique

* I didn’t find out until way after this meal that Chef Bruneau was calling it a day and closing up this January…sad, but probably expected. I’m glad to have visited this legendary venue and being able to thank the master personally. I think this quote from Bruneau sums everything up well: “c’est une question d’habitude. Il y a des gens qui se lèvent le matin en étant déjà fatigués. Dans la génération actuelle, les gens veulent en faire le moins possible. Je ne sais pas après quoi les gens courent.”

Microcosm of Brussels Miserableté — Review: Sea Grill

15 December 2017

I left Kraków frustrated by not just some mediocre food, but just infrastructure issues. The annoying thing about discount airlines, of which Brussels Airlines is basically a glorified version of one, is that they keep costs low by not using jetbridges. This makes airports feel like bus stations…so bloody annoying… Kraków Airport has all the modern facilities, but it’s got a fleet of buses because airlines like Ryanair are so damn hcheap…

An annoying flight to Brussels, and more chaos there. There we were connected to a jetway, but — Sod’s Law strike again — it was broken. So we had to go down some hazardous stairs to a waiting bus. The bus sped through the airport, nearly colliding with other vehicles several times…absolutely NO caution being used here. The bus took us to an area that required another 10 minutes of walking to get to the baggage area…WTF… And of course, it took another half hours for the bags to come out.

Brussels is just such a fucking mess…and you wonder why people find it symbolic with the EU’s own disfunctionality… As much as I hate the concept of Brexit, you deal with this and you start to think about it…

Eventually I hopped onto the train and had to help a few foreign tourists lost. We rolled into Noordstation and I headed for the short walk to my hotel, constantly being reminded how shitty the area around the station is… Checked in and had a nice room, but had to get ready for dinner already due to the idiotic airport delay…

I walked into the centre and got to my dinner destination, the 2-Michelin Sea Grill. I got there and was led to a nice table. They tried to push some champagne on me but I declined, and they left the menu there. Within a short time, just as I was planning to order a cocktail, the amuse started arriving already. First up some mackerel, which was a bit meh…

AB1-mackerel

Looked good, but really tasteless — which is sad, because it’s one of my favourite fish in the world. This was just…no other words to describe it…but that onomatopoeic utterance of mediocrity… The second was salmon…

a

Even blander, if you can believe it…not boding well for this night’s dinner. And I felt so rushed as they quickly asked if I was ready to order…I had barely looked at the menu, but was a little puzzled why both tasting menus had so many similarities — including a main course that I really wasn’t interested in. So I decided to order ala carte…and my eyes nearly popped out at the prices. Oh well… I ordered and asked for them to pair the wines.

I relaxed, and thank goodness they brought out the first wine early on, so I had something to sip on. But the service seems a mess here. This seems as messed up as the service in France as I had a flashback to that ridiculous night at Le Chantecler in Nice… But soon the starter arrived…

01a-burning prawn

The prawn was set ablaze in Auchentochan apparently, and that goes with a plate that contains foie and mushrooms. Not bad, though the flavour of the whisky did not really go into the prawn; the left pix you can see wee bit of the flame, the right is it “done” a bit… One thing that annoyed me is that one of the slices of mushroom is glazed in edible gold. WHY?!?! Sigh…

The paired wine worked and it was pretty tasty, but frankly really cannot justify the price for this dish. It all went into the stupid golden mushroom… They brought out a different wine for the main course and that was a nice one too. Then the dish appeared…

02a-crab with rice

Mmmm, a simple tasting of crab, which was excellent. A bit of rice along the side, and it worked out well. Stupid expensive for what little was done to it, but it was delicious. I slowly worked on it and when my wine finished it took ages to get my server’s attention — which he proceeded to pour the WRONG wine into the glass…and did it so quickly he didn’t see me starting to protest. Ugh…what shitty service is this?

The wine was from the first course, so it wasn’t bad, but this is unprofessional. I finished the nice dish, just as I polished off the rice. This was good enough. I relaxed a little before the pre-dessert arrived…

PreD-marshmallow

Hmmm…this marshmallow tasted like when you have a mushroom cap that you left in the fridge for too long, and it’s partly dehydrated and crusty. This was awful…just awful. I told them I didn’t want a dessert wine as I’ve had about enough of this place. Once my dessert hits I’m out of here. And here it is, and I screamed in my head again…

03-mango

The mango is mango, but WHY ALL THIS FUCKING EDIBLE GOLD? IS THIS WHAT I AM PAYING FOR?!?!?! I removed all the edible gold and nicked bits of it that I could eat, and just asked for the bill. The number was ridiculous, one of the most expensive meals of this trip…ridiculous.

I headed out unhappy and the service head greeted me as I left. If I wasn’t so annoyed with everything today I may have just thanked him and went, but I decided to stop and give him my two cents on what went wrong this evening. From the wrong wine to the ridiculous edible gold, I just went all out. He seemed ashen when I was done…

I’m sorry, this is not what I consider fine dining. Poor service, crazily overpriced, mediocre cooking, and just a ridiculous overuse of edible gold. This is EXACTLY why I’m this close to being done with Michelin-starred places, especially in this part of Europe.

What a shitty day and night…just glad it’s fucking over…

Sea Grill
Wolvengracht-Rue du Fossé aux Loups 47
Brussel-Bruxelles, België-Belgique

* And OF COURSE, it wouldn’t end there. Went for a nitecap at my hotel bar and the bartender had such a ridiculous attitude I nearly abandoned my glass of wine… This damn disfunctional town, especially during the weekends…

Kraków’s One Shining Star — Review: Copernicus

13 December 2017

Of my trip to Kraków, where the food was somewhere between mediocre and poor, there was one bright star in all the touristy-driven mess — Copernicus. This high-class hotel restaurant clearly chose the other direction, shooting for quality instead of quantity. I had dinner here my second night — and it was a fantastic evening.

I made the walk across Kraków’s stunning Old Town that second evening, enjoying the sights glowing by night lighting; remember sunset here in December is around 4pm. I got to Copernicus and immediately I see a smoothly-run service, a delight from my experience here so far.

I sat at the table and quickly a well-made martini I ordered arrived…ah, I can relax now… I looked over the menu and decided to go with the 7-course tasting tonight. They didn’t do a wine pairing per se, and I was keen on doing something local…yes, Poland makes quality wines now. You can blame global warming, but it’s here. With the varied stuff on the menu, I went with a rosé.

I relaxed and as I finished with my martini the first amuse arrived — based on cucumber.

AB1-cucumber

Nicely done, a crispy yet light citrusy base with a little bit of salmon. Really nice. Then the second amuse…

AB2-shrimp

Also nice, another light yet tasty tomato broth with chickpeas and shrimp. Good balance. This put me at so much ease after the mess the night before at Pod Aniołami! Plus, that rosé worked perfectly well so far with these two items. Service has been smooth, and — just to test them a bit — I asked them to do the food description in both English and Polish. I do this at places like the fabulous Ö in Tallinn to keep them at their toes, as most of the time they work in English.

As I nibbled on some bread and sipped at my lovely wine my first item appeared — tasting of beets.

01-beets

I love beets, so this was a pleasure to see. Lovely quality beets here, though the pumpkin was a little understated. Again, perfect with this wine. Good start. Next up, smoked goose.

02-smoked goose

The goose is lovely, perfect texture and smoky taste. The cranberry gelato was a nice touch, though the foie didn’t quite work here. But overall a good dish. Next up, veal tongue.

3

Good dish again, the grains adding some interesting texture to the tender tongue, with plum being the flavour here that balanced it all out. Not bad, sorry for the bad photo. Then we have the consommé.

04-mushroom consommé

They were very proud of this dish, a consommé of wild forest mushrooms. And they should be, as it was deep and rich, earthy to the core as you would want in a strong mushroom soup. Excellent. I’m enjoying this meal quite a bit today. Then next up, cod from the Baltic Sea.

05-cod_edited

I’m usually not a great fan of cod (fresh or smoked), but this was excellent. One of the best cod I’ve had in years to be honest. Perfectly cooked meat, full of flavour. Love the wee sprouts here too. Excellent dish, best dish of the night.

I was pretty happy and frankly the service, despite the place adding a few more tables, did not slack at all. I had just finished my rosé, perfect timing, and they brought out a wee palate cleanser and they poured me a generous glass of red as we have the final savoury dish — venison.

06a-venison

Good stuff, you can taste the venison for once. Too much venison we get these days are farmed, and this one is clearly from the wild. Lovely taste, though the texture was a little mushy as they can be. Anyway, pretty good close to this series.

07-cottage cheese

After a small pre-dessert the main item arrived, cottage cheese with orange glaze. Really nice, light and delicious. Worked well with the nice vodka I ordered. A rather lovely dinner to be honest. I stayed for a little while having a few more drinks and chatting with the staff, as this turned out to be a surprisingly good oasis in this food-challenged town.

I thanked them and headed out eventually for the long walk back to my hotel — which is much needed after all this food and drink. If Kraków is ever going to join Warsaw on the Michelin list, this is a candidate to get the first mention. The service is already good enough for a star, and a little push on the food could get them there. I hope they keep at it instead of dumbing down for the ShitAdvisor-style tourists that flood this town.

A pleasant surprise!

Copernicus
Kanonicza 16
Kraków, Polska