July 2, 2018

Europe 2018 day 3: hanging out with uncles

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We got up early in the morning to take the train to Antwerp.  Today we would be visiting Hello Kitty's uncles and aunts, and we got picked up after a 30-minute train ride.  We took breakfast at Den Artist so Hello Kitty could get her caffeine fix and sat on the sidewalk overlooking the Royal Museum of Fine Arts.  Unfortunately the Museum was being renovated and seemed closed.

I wanted to hit a few more UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city, so big uncle drove us around.  Our first stop was Maison Guiette, a house designed by Le Corbusier.

Next was the Plantin-Moretus Museum, which used to be a printing house dating back to the Renaissance.  Unfortunately, this was also under major renovations... so I didn't get to go inside.

Within walking distance was Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, one of the inscribed properties of Belfries of Belgium and France.  This, too, was having work done on it... but at least the cathedral remained open.

The cathedral was certainly grand, with big panels of stained-glass windows on both sides.  They also had an exhibit of religious works by old masters, including Pieter Paul Rubens.

I thought we were a little short on time, so I didn't climb to the top of the towers...  Instead we walked over to the Stadhuis for a quick look.  Guess what?  It was also covered in scaffolding...

Thanks to some miscommunication, we ended up grabbing a late lunch at 'T Zilted - a creative fine dining restaurant at the top of Museum aan de Stroom.

We took a simple, 3-course lunch, but they plied us with a bunch of nibbles to start:

Taco with kohlrabi, young vegetables, and sudachi - the sudachi (酢橘) came in the form of a jelly cube, and we've got beans, bean sprouts, and creamy miso.

Japanese kyuri foam with sea buckthorn, cracker with bonito flakes - certainly some fermented flavors here, and the cracker had lots of toasty grains on top.

Tart with horseradish, sheep's milk, and fennel - very refreshing with nice creaminess.  Seemingly with crunchy roots and black crunchy bits.

Fougasse - very tasty with salt and olive oil. So crispy.

White asparagus, arugula, crevettes grises - the bottom is a layer of white asparagus custard, with a layer of arugula purée and olive oil on top.  The small and totally delicious Belgian crevettes grises from the North Sea packed a ton of umami, and we also had some ribbons of white asparagus.  I wish I had a bigger portion of this.  The cool, refreshing, and slightly sweet white asparagus worked so well with the green flavors of the arugula and the strong flavors of the ocean. 

Takoyaki - a little spicy, and almost tasted of dried bonito (鰹節).

Eggplant custard - this supposedly came with an Indonesian sauce that sounded like 'baingan'... which would make it Indian.  This was very salty at first, then turned somewhat acidic and came with kaffir lime in the nose.  It was simply too heavy in terms of flavor for me, and I needed to reach for my water.

Cheesecake: eel, langoustine, cucumber, dill - the green strips on top of the layer of cream cheese were actually very thin ribbons of cucumbers... which was amazing.  With bonito flakes and langoustine, and black quinoa-like grains in the tart base.  Sour cream and dill-based sauce, with frozen powder of horseradish.  Very good.

The grilled eel was fine, but the pea custard with peas inside was a touch too salty.

Veal: Cevenne onion, cepes, anchovies - with girolles which were very salty.  The Cevennes onions were pickled and crunchy, and this came with very thin wafers of white button mushrooms.

Honestly this was too 'well done' for my taste.  I prefer my meat not to be so cooked.  It was still tender but no longer moist.  The herb crust on top had some parsley.

Rhubarb: estragon, yoghurt, almond - the sorbet was made with yoghurt and almonds, while there were rhubarb ribbons, jam, and sauce... along with a few raspberries thrown in.  Pretty nice.

The wine list was rather poor, so I wanted to drink a bottle of German pinot noir, and

2009 Hansjorg Rebholz Im Sonnenschein Spätburgunder GG - lovely nose once it cooled down, with leather, a little floral, eucalyptus, spices, and nice red fruits.  A hint of tannins on the finish here.

We took our coffee out on the terrace along with the mignardises.

The base was half vanilla and half lime, topped with a pistachio parfait and a sugar tuile with ginger.

The nougat was very sweet, while the canelé had a wonderful prominent fragrance from the Grand Marnier, although the center was too wet for my liking,

It was a pretty long and late lunch, and we got back to big uncle's place to meet up with small uncle - while trying to catch some World Cup action.  I had left the choice of dinner venue up to the uncles, and when we saw how badly traffic was backed up with the tunnel crossing the Scheldt River, big uncle suddenly made a U-turn, and not longer after we found ourselves across the border in Hulst, Netherlands...

We took a table inside at De Korenbeurs overlooking Grote Markt.  It was meant to be a simple dinner, so I only ordered one dish...

Meanwhile we were treated to some pickled herring on toast.

Vispannetje met garnalenbisque, gegratineerd met Zwitserse kaas - I wanted to try something a little more "local", so I got this fish stew in shrimp bisque.  Well, unfortunately a couple of pieces of fish didn't seem fresh and showed some ammonia notes.  I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be that way, but I kinda doubt it.

This came with sides of salad and frites.

Not a great dinner for me, but I wasn't gonna complain. We went back to Antwerp to catch the second half of the Belgium-Japan match...

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