Thursday, October 06, 2011

To Belgian Waffles and beyond! - Frites Belgium on Tap

When it comes to Belgian cuisine, waffles and chocolates are the items that come to our minds. Hong Kong has powerfully localized Belgian waffles into street-food waffle obtainable at $12 per from hawkers along the streets, served piping hot with sugar, peanut butter and butter - guiltily delicious. 

(Just a random waffle out there.)

However our knowledge about Belgian food is pretty much limited beyond waffles, chocolates, and - chocolate-grazed waffles.

I too am part of the ignorant crowd until i finally paid Frites on the Belgian Tap a visit. From the exterior, the place looked just like any other restaurants in town. But once you push the door in, you will be welcomed by a few drinking monks (how pious!) painted on the wall, and a corridor follows. 

(photo source: Facebook page of FC)
Walk further in, and you might be surprised (just as I was) by the interior you see - a cosy pub with high ceilings with a good reserve of beers and liqueurs behind the ever-busy bar area.

(Photo source:
The servers were enthusiastic in getting us a table even though we did not book ahead. Settled on the cushioned seats, and weird as it may sound, it was pretty comfortable to sit. Not until big crowds started moving in at the later hours, as the Db inside the pub shot up, and our little sphere of privacy was soon encroached upon by the customers at the next table - one could so easily eavesdrop on others, the tables are all so PACKED!

Enough with the environment - it was a pub we went to after all, and a peaceful eating environment ought not to be expected in this context. Back to the food - Frites serves a wide range of Belgian dishes, from salads to tartares, pastas to meaty main courses, and of course mussels in pots - the national eat. Everything looked tempting by their names and after some tough time choosing what to and what not-to have, we settled with a more refreshing salad, a tuna tartare for we love seafood, mussels in 1/2 kg (of course!) and a main course with duck.

What Belgium is also famous for is its Beer - remember the drinking monks on the walls? - Frites, of course, boasts a wide range of beers and wines for customers to choose from. Not sure what we should have, we ordered a Sampling Beer Platter which comes with 5 small glasses of beers, some more commonly found in HK and some not. Perfect for greedy foodies like us.

The Beer Platter, as mentioned, holds 5 different brands of beers that have different strengths: Stella Artois , Hoegaarden, Leffe Blonde, Leffe Brune, Belle-Vue. For those fancying a lighter beer would like Stella Artois or Hoogarden; and who loves stronger beers would prefer the malty Belgium beers. I personally like Leffe Brune best. It was fun sampling around the beers, and do not miss the two cute-looking croquettes with cheese, mash potatoes and veggies - they were not too oilish and heavy, and tasted perfect as a beer-bite.

For a more refreshing start, we ordered a Roast Chicken Frisee Salad. It wasnt until this moment that i believed in a line i spot from Wikipedia on Belgian cuisine - that it serves food in German portions but with French qualities! The salad was huge, with a nicely poached egg bedding on the field of green endives, mixed with bits of bacon, chicken and blue cheese. The poached egg was a pleasure to see as usual as we poked the runny yolk through, and tossed everything in again. While the garden greens and endives were light and crunchily refreshing, they were overwhelmed by the chewy, meaty bacons, flakes of chicken meat (which were exceptionally flavourful albeit a little dry, treat them as jerks) and of course, the aromatic blue cheese dressing. I personally am immune against very strong cheeses and therefore was comfortable with that, while those with a lighter taste might find it too strong to bear. All it all, the salad was delicious but a little more fulfilling than expected, and it would be better if shared among a group of 3 to 4.

We did not foresee the salad to be that big, so having Tuna Tartare seemed to be too much for us. It was lovely, that little lump of pinkish cubes of fish with avocado, topped with parpika and a sexy coddled egg, served with four pieces of crunchy toasts. The meat were exceptionally sweet and nicely textured, reminding me of the quality tuna sashimi I had in Japan. The flavour was maginified by all the seasonings, especially the egg which enhanced the sweetness of it. And for those who love bread and toasts, you would be amazed by how yummicious the toasts were - thin, but very nicely toasted and wheaty, and went very well with the sea-fresh tuna tartare. I would order the tartare AGAIN just for the toasts - they are THAT yummy.

The pot of mussels (not pictured) took up quite a lot of space off our little table, and with it came a pot of frites (not fries, FRITES), mayo, and a piece of sourdough bread. There are 5 flavours we could choose from, and after consulting the friendly server we decided to go for the 'very popular' Mariniere, white wine, celery, garlic, herbs, that is. The mussels were not very big and fat and it was a little disappointing, but they were quite fleshy and juicy, with the flavored sauce exploding out from the seemingly tiny flesh of each. The sauce was alright despite a little too runny, and it got really sour once it cooled down. I aint very sure what the sourdough bread was for, dipping into the pot of sauce and eating it or...? But for the frites its pretty obvious. 

The thick, mushy frites couldnt absorb the runny sauce in the pot, so we mainly dipped it with mayo. The mayo tasted like sour cream as there were slight hints of sourness in it, and it was lighter than regular mayos - a true pleasure to indulge in! As for the thick fat frites, they werent the best I have had in town, but we cleared almost all of it nonetheless.

Mallard Two Ways - Mallard is a kind of wild duck that looks like the bird on the logo of Mandarina Duck. This dish was really, really generous in portion, and there were 8 good pieces of pan-fried duck breasts AND a whole confit duck leg served with sweet cherry compote and sweet potato mush.   I generally prefer the Chinese way of cooking a duck, not anymore until I tried the fried duck breast - they were just as flavourful, juicy, tender, and yummy as local Siu-ap (charcoal-grilled ducks) are. The skin and fat underneath had melted and become soooo crispy that it was bewildering. And the western alternative of sour plum sauce Chinese people dip their Siu-Ap in? The sweet cherry compote there was, to strike a balance. 

The confit duck leg was equally flavoursome, the skin was fried until crisp, but I thought it could be even thinner and crispier. The flakes of duck meat was drier although the flavour was more intense, but the lack of moist was quite a let-down. This interesting duo also came with a nice sweet potato mush and Kriek jus, which tasted heavenly after picking up the flavours and oil from the meat on top.

(Photo source:
Dessert was out of the question for we were too full after these 4 courses - had we ordered one less, a order of the 'National' waffle might still be possible. But nah, thanks, we were too full for any more sweet cravings, and as the dB in the pub got higher and higher, we sensed it was time to leave. The bill was quite pricey, around 350 per head, but I am pretty sure I would come again - by ordering one or two dishes less from the main menu and more from the desserts menu. We saw a plump, happy server holding plates of Belgium waffles on her arms as we left, and they looked absolutely stunning - what a pity we ordered too much for the night and left no room for desserts, and the decision of coming again had been made even before I stepped out of the restaurant.

With a properly functioning camera with me, of course. Too bad I failed to snap pictures of this super nice dinner!

Frites Belgium on Tap
Shop 1 & 2, 1/F, Queen's Place, 74 Queen's Road Central Hong Kong

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