Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Taste of Belgium: Belgian Bistro…A High Price for Authenticity

      Karen and I decided to spend the afternoon exploring the shops in the Gateway Quarter.  It’s usually not my style to recommend a restaurant before previously dining there, but I felt confident in my suggestion of Taste of Belgium: Belgian Bistro for our lunch.  It was fairly new on the scene yet mature enough to have worked out the kinks, and getting some raves from its patrons.  

      We arrived a little after noon and settled into one of the last remaining tables.  The aromas from the open kitchen were tempting…an inviting mix of sugar and savory.  I could tell our server would be attentive.  He quickly gave us the day’s menu offerings while we focused on the rather extensive list of features and sides, some of which may be a bit unfamiliar to the common Cincinnati diner.  My comment to Karen while perusing was that the prices mostly seemed a bit high with everything à la carte.  Our decisions, however, were made.  Karen would have the Tuna Baguette and I the ‘Nati Crêpe.  We decided to share a side of Stoemp, Belgian mashed potatoes with various additions. They change daily and the day’s ingredients were sage and tarragon.  I asked to see a dinner menu and many of the featured items from lunch were almost doubled in price for the evening and others were still a bit out of line to me for the market.  I was now a little concerned.  Have they priced their way out of the neighborhood and can they sustain longevity and build a repeat clientele?

Tuna Baguette
      Our selections arrived quickly. I did a double take on Karen’s sandwich.  It was embarrassingly petite!  Karen was more gracious.  She rated the tuna
(which was more like a pâté) a 7 out of 10.  There were slices of cucumber, hardboiled egg, and shaved carrots on top.  No garnish, unless you count the toothpicks holding it together.  

Stoemp with Sage and Tarragon

The stoemp was creamy, smooth, and mildly flavored with the herbs.  We found them to be a hit as an accompaniment.  

'Nati Crêpe
My crêpe was more substantial.  In fact, it was appropriately sized and was definitely the better value (although more expensive than a comparable crepe at It’s Just Crepes).  The goetta, red and green peppers, red onions, and Gruyère combined well.  We did not sample the authentic Liege Waffles on this visit, for which they are well known.  Those are in their own category and should not be missed.  They truly are a taste of Belgium.  Coffee is supplied by Coffee Emporium, popular with Over-the-Rhine patrons for many years.

      My expectations for the interior were not met either.  I was hoping for a déjà vu moment of a European bistro.  Instead, the classic furnishings and renovation of the space were not enough of a nod to a well-worn establishment, and not contemporary enough to classify it as avant-garde.  If anyone remembers Café Vienna in Mt. Adams (circa 1990s), you’ll recall an atmosphere that came close to replicating the European scene.  

      Overall, there is nothing wrong with the visual environment and authentic dishes of Taste of Belgium.  For me, it was just too predictable… and overpriced.


I’m up for tasting one of their waffles!  Anyone buying?

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