Miami's international cuisine scene is getting a European flair with Bistro BE, scheduled to open at 1111 SW First Ave. in downtown Miami this summer.
The restaurant, by Emmanuel Verschueren, a businessman who made his career in plastics (cue The Graduate jokes), as well as restaurants in Europe, features cuisine executed by chef Frederik Appelt, an acclaimed chef in Belgium. Together, they hope to bring authentic Belgian cuisine to Miami.
The 110-seat restaurant will take a sophisticated, yet casual approach to dining, and will feature an open kitchen, patio, and two chefs tables. Also notable -- the extensive beer selection. Over 50 selections will be available in bottles, with eight offerings on tap. Beer also will be served in the correct glasses and poured correctly. This attention to detail is so important that staff will be trained in proper beer etiquette.
We spoke with Verschueren about what Belgian cuisine really is, why we're drinking our beer wrong, and the sweet parting gift everyone gets at the end of the meal.
New Times: A lot of people oversimplify the idea of Belgian cuisine, when in fact there's a great similarity between it and French cuisine. Can you explain?
Emmanuel Verschueren: Belgian cuisine is very much the same as French cuisine. People think it's more similar to German, but it's based on French techniques. Our cuisine is generous but elegant. It's not "tweezer food."
More than waffles and mussels?
Of course, we're going to bring waffles here. But what surprises many people is the amount of vegetables in Belgian cuisine. Our country has a lot of rural areas that grow produce. The food is rich, but we also have many salads. You would be amazed at how healthful and balanced the cuisine is. Our meals will consist of your meat or fish and vegetables.
How much of your food will be locally sourced and how much will you import? And how will that challenge your chef?
In Belgium, we work with these tiny shrimps that taste completely different than the ones available here. They're so small -- the size of your pinky, but they're so flavorful. We'll fly those in two times a week. But as far as produce is concerned, we want to work with fresh vegetables. I'm very confident our chef will work them into our recipes and traditions.
Tell us about chef Frederik Appelt. What's his background?
Chef Appelt is flying in especially for this project. He's a great chef who was voted best beer chef in Flanders in 2009. He's a humble guy, easy to work with, and an amazing cook.
Let's talk about the beer.
Beer is becoming a big thing in Florida. Now there will be a place to get a selection of good Belgian beers. We'll have 72 different beers, mostly in bottles. Many of these come from small breweries, so its better to have these beers in the bottle. There's a beer sommelier on staff who can help you select the perfect beer for you and every beer will be poured into the correct glass. That's one thing I notice in the United States. You go into most restaurants and all the beer, regardless of what it is, is poured into a pint glass. If we don't have the correct glass to serve it in, we won't pour the beer. It's that important.
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SHOW ME HOW
Of course, Belgium is also known for one more edible.
Yes. We're famous for our chocolate. When you finish your meal you'll get a little box of house-made chocolates. It's a custom that when we leave a restaurant, we get something. Not big, just a little gift. It shows we're customer-friendly. Plus, it's a sweet ending.