What do you know about Belgian cuisine? Chances are not much. Well, with the opening of Bistro BE in Brickell last Friday, you'll be able to eat your way through the country well known for its waffles.
Short Order was invited to check out Bistro BE's 100 percent Belgian fare and extensive beer selection, which features 70 brews that are, yep, all Belgian. Even the table next to ours had a Belgian soccer player who was bringing his teammates to get a taste of home.
The quaint restaurant is located in the Axis a short distance from the now-closed Hoxton. There's a patio, but considering it's summer in Miami, we opted for indoors. Besides, you'll want to snag a table close to the open kitchen so you can get a clear view of executive chef Frederik Appelt putting finishing touches on each one of his dishes. Although Appelt's menu is made up of Belgian dishes, he salutes the French by way of technique. New to the Magic City, the Belgian-born chef has helmed the kitchens of some of Belgium's most esteemed restaurants, including Kosmopol, a wildly popular brasserie in Leuven.
It's no mistake that the beer menu is triple the size of the food offerings. Confused? Ask the gentleman behind the bar for help -- his Rich Uncle Pennybags mustache is pure Belgian too. We started off with a Nostradamus (because of the name and the 9 percent alcohol by volume, duh), which was rich, warming, and spicy ($11). Licorice, mocha, pear, and toasted bread background notes make it the perfect after-dinner drink. Take the menu's advice -- the beer masked my taste buds. Luckily, I helped my dining companion out with his Chimay White ($14) served in a Chimay glass (as it should be).
An amuse-bouche came compliments of the chef and gave a peek into the remainder of the meal. A poor man's dish flourished into haute cuisine, this concoction of fish cooked off its bone, mashed potatoes, and anchovies is a delight for fans of anchovies.
You're probably used to French onion soup. At Bistro BE, it's ajuinsoep van de bomma, or onion soup the way Appelt's grandma used to make it, with white beans and potatoes ($10).
Belgische steak tartare is part of the Belgian Specialties section of the menu. Raw-meat lovers will jump on this dish that minces filet mignon with shallots, capers, and egg yolk ($19).
Belgium is known for its waffles, so when we saw one stuffed with dill, we had to have it. Mussels and lobster meat accompany this savory waffle ($16).
You can't go to Bistro BE and have just one beer. With 70 selections, at least two per person are in order. We again went by the name, opting for a Troublette ($9), a 5 percent ABV wheat beer. Fruity notes, lemon zest, and green apple make up this medium-bodied brew. A Petrus Triple ($9.50) also had fruity notes, with an aroma of pears and red berries. A little drier in taste but still crisp, both beers were delicious.
Mac 'n' cheese is so overdone, but what about mac 'n' Belgian cheese? Do it, even if it's just one last time, which it won't be. One bite from this skillet and you'll be addicted. At $9, it's not the most inexpensive serving of pasta, but even if you order only a few things, they should include this dish.
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Mosselpot is a big thing in Belgium. A pot full of mussels cooked in broth, and more often than not, with beer. What's not to love about that? Our Belgian neighbor also ordered one of these giant pots. We wondered how the food held up to his country's standards. He nodded to the chef, claiming everything was authentic and traditional. His only complaint: The mussels in Belgium taste "more fresh." Probably because they get them from the North Sea, which is pretty much like their backyard pool. Our mosselpot ($22) was spiked with blonde beer and ham.
For dessert, you'll be torn between the waffle with whipped cream and strawberries ($8.50) or a dark Belgian chocolate mousse ($8.50). Go with either. You can always visit again for the other. And more beer.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha