Travel

Brussels: Feast your upscale eyes on truffles, oysters and more

Brussels is for foodies. Fine restaurants abound for all tastes and budgets, and new ones keep opening. After sampling the obligatory brews and butter creams, moules-frites and waffles, discover this city's discreet culinary pleasures, which appeal to more than just Eurocrats.

Here, in alphabetical order, is our selection for business dining in Brussels.

1. Bon-Bon

453 Avenue de Tervuren/Tervurenlaan; www.bon-bon.be

What: Contemporary French gourmet dining.

Why: Chef Christophe Hardiquest describes his restaurant, which boasts a Michelin star, as a "salon d'artisan cuisinier," or an artisan chef's workshop. The menus are surprises, depending on what produce is available and the chef's imagination. Savor such wonders as a Bloody-Mary sorbet, a scallop carpaccio or a luscious mound of line-caught sea bass covered in oysters. The service is friendly and the sommelier's choices are clever.

Where: On a leafy uptown avenue near the Chinese embassy.

When: The evening crowd is elegant. In fine weather, it's wise to reserve for lunch on the patio garden.

Bar: For MasterChef fans, this is the place to be seated as it faces the open kitchen. The chef may ask you to try out a dish he's experimenting on.

Private room: No.

Sound level: Soothing.

2. Canterbury

2 Avenue de l'Hippodrome/Renbaanlaan.

What: Chic Belgian brasserie.

Why: One of the best places to sample Belgian specialties, including shrimp croquettes with crunchy deep-fried parsley, and waterzooi, a creamy chicken and vegetable stew. The portions are generous and the service is politely efficient. The interior is all chrome, wood and leather; the large, shaded terrace is besieged in summer months.

Where: On the Ixelles ponds, ideal for an after-lunch stroll.

When: A popular venue for business people and art dealers and collectors.

Bar: The bar is cramped, yet fine for sipping the house Champagne while waiting for a table.

Private room: An upstairs salon accommodates 16 people.

Sound level: Subtle hum of table conversation.

3. Jaloa

4 Quai aux Barques/Schuitenkaai, www.restaurantjaloa.com

What: A Michelin one-star restaurant with a striking, colorful modern decor housed in a 17th-century building.

Why: Inventive, contemporary cuisine. Chef Gaetan Colin composes daily tasting menus of four, six or nine courses that may include delicacies such as king crab open ravioli with crunchy leeks and coriander in a shellfish broth or veal tartare prepared with herbs, flowers, sour cream and caviar.

Where: In a once-glum downtown neighborhood now burgeoning with cafes and bistros.

When: Lunch or dinner. Reservations are required; only 26 guests can be seated in the main room.

Private room: A charming room behind the kitchen seats 25.

Bar: No.

Sound level: Hushed.

4. Midi Station

26 Place Victor Horta Plaats; www.midistation.eu.

What: Cavernous complex with a brash, postmodernist decor that features several dining areas, a seafood bar and a cigar lounge.

Why: So, you've missed your train. This is an entertaining alternative to seething in the gloomy station. Sample the hearty dishes based on regional produce, such as Ardennes ham with mustard sauce and seasonal vegetables. The beef, free range and grass fed, is provided by star local (Irish) butcher Jack O'Shea.

Where: Facing the Eurostar and Thalys hubs at the South Station.

When: It's sleepy at lunchtime, gets lively in the evening.

Bar: Manned by expert mixers. It stretches along one wall.

Private room: Three. They range in style from boardroom to more theatrical configurations and can welcome groups from 26 to 90.

Sound level: Raucous when the after-work crowd turns up and the jazz group starts to jam. Retreat to the calmer corner nooks.

5. Odette en Ville

25 Rue du Chatelain/Kasteleinstraat; www.chez-odette.com

What: A stylish restaurant located in a boutique hotel.

Why: Well-suited for encounters with enterprising financiers. The dining area consists of a long room in subdued grays and whites with mirrored walls and the kitchen at one end behind glass. The French menu features classics such as Tartare de Boeuf au Couteau and roast cod.

Where: The upscale Chatelain quarter, frequented by youthful Eurocrats and tweedy Belgians. The Wednesday outdoor food market on the square is a jovial networking marathon.

When: Dinner is right for assessing the state of the local economy by the fashion styles and jewelry on display.

Private room: No.

Bar: An intimate cocktail alcove has a popular adjoining room that features quirky designer furniture.

Sound level: Electronica thumps vaguely in the background.

6. Park Side Brasserie

24 Avenue de la Joyeuse Entree/Blijde Inkomstlaan; www.restoparkside.be

What: Sleek, spacious twist on a classic French brasserie.

Why: In an area that resembles a bureaucratic theme park, it's a pleasant surprise to discover this kind of sophisticated home cooking, such as snails with wild mushrooms, and braised cod in lemon and bay leaf, with a beurre-blanc, white-beer sauce.

Where: Near European Commission headquarters, across from the Cinquantenaire Park and museum.

When: Lunch or dinner.

Bar: No; some 20 wines are available by the glass.

Private room: A room for 20 guests and one for as many as 50.

Sound level: Chatter resounds when the Eurocrats loosen their ties and attack the enticing bottles on view behind a glass wall.

7. Ristorante Bocconi

Rocco Forte Collection Hotel Amigo 1, Rue de l'Amigo/Amigostraat; www.ristorantebocconi.com

What: Modern Italian restaurant in a chic hotel.

Why: A calm, tastefully designed oasis in the busy city center. The chef tweaks traditional dishes: Try his saffron risotto with Sicilian pesto and pistachios or the sea bass with wild mushrooms. The wine list boasts rare Italian regional bottles.

Where: The restaurant is located in a luxury hotel behind the town hall on the magnificent baroque Grand' Place.

When: Perfect for drinks and dinner after a hectic day.

Bar: Angela Merkel has been known to imbibe here.

Private room: There are rooms for meetings or dining.

Sound level: Almost silent.

8. La Truffe Noire

12 Avenue de la Cambre/Terkamerenlaan; www.truffenoire.com

What: A shrine to the truffle.

Why: Classic dining in a luxury setting, with a staff that aims to pamper. If you splurge, try the whole Perigord truffle cooked in its juice and Port wine plus creme brulee filled with apples and truffles and served with vanilla ice cream flavored with even more fungi.

Where: Uptown, near Cambre Abbey and its manicured gardens.

When: Lunch or dinner. The tables are set wide apart, which lures the corporate and diplomatic crowd seeking discretion.

Private room: Holds eight to 20 people. There's an array of special menus, including wines, tailored to groups.

Bar: No.

Sound level: Background mood music is kept respectfully low.

9. Vismet

23 Place Ste. Catherine/Sint-Katelijneplein.

What: An excellent, unfussy fish restaurant tucked away behind the shadowy hulk of a neo-Gothic church.

Why: Chef Tom Decroos prizes fresh produce (the delicious tiny North Sea shrimps are peeled by hand) and his reassuringly short menu offers such dishes as escabeche with sardine filets and poached skate with hazelnut butter, capers and potato puree.

Where: Downtown, near the old fish market.

When: Deserted at lunchtime, it fills up in the evening with trendies and fashionistas from nearby designer shops.

Private room: No. The minimalist, white room is wide and airy, so business groups often gather at large tables.

Bar: No.

Sound level: The open kitchen, though fascinating to observe, and the throbbing ventilation contribute to a persistent drone.

10. Yu Me

292 Avenue de Tervuren/Tervurenlaan; www.yume-resto.be

What: A modernist villa with a ground-floor brasserie and an Asian fusion lounge upstairs.

Why: Chef Yves Mattagne, whose Sea Grill in the Radisson hotel downtown has two Michelin stars, is renowned for his sorcery with fish. He oversees this more casual venue, where meat dishes from the robata grill and seafood remain a draw. You can mix upstairs/downstairs offerings, say, foie gras Dim Sum then turbot cooked on the bone, with Choron sauce, followed by an apple-and-speculoos crumble with almond ice cream.

Where: On a bluff set back from a main boulevard and a park.

When: Lunch or dinner. Best is a summer feast on the terrace.

Private room: The restaurant, which can accommodate as many as 40 seated diners and 80 for a walking dinner, will concoct special menus for groups of 10 or more.

Bar: Yes. Cocktails range from Stingers to Sex on the Beach.

Sound level: Easy on the ears.

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