Monday, September 19, 2016

De Vlaamsche Pot

After our wafel, we wandered around Brugge some more, looking for dinner. Nothing really caught our eye on the streets we were on, so we made our way back to Cambrinus, the place we had gone for dinner the night before. They had such a large menu, and we had tried so little of it, so we were sure we could find some new and delicious food there. Unfortunately, they told us they were reserved for the rest of the night, so we had to go somewhere new. We looked through our Rick Steves guidebook, and he suggested a Flemish spot called De Vlaamsche Pot so we headed over there. Luckily, they were still open and not booked for the night, but we did have a short wait for a table. We had no idea Brugge would be so packed at dinnertime!

The restaurant was located in a narrow townhouse with lots of cute decor. It was dimly lit, with lots of red tablecloths and checkered napkins. When we sat down, they gave us large leatherbound menus, and we couldn't wait to figure out what we were going to order.

To start the meal, we both got beers. A got a Chimay tripel, and M went for the Westmalle tripel. Even though both of these beers are fairly easily found in the US, this was, as mentioned, back in the years prior to the major craft beer explosion in the US. Because of that, we both opted for a "locally" brewed beer. Both beers were very crisp and refreshing, and they were good to pair with the meals that we each chose.

We both chose to go with one of the set menus. (We can't remember whether the menus had lots of a la carte options, but the 3 course set menus seemed like a fair deal for the price and covered exactly the dishes we wanted to eat, so we went with them.) M chose the Noordzee menu (literally "North Sea"), €31 at the time, which was focused on seafood. The appetizer course on that menu was the tomato with shrimps. In addition to a lightly dressed lettuce-based salad on the side, the appetizer came with a large pile of tiny shrimp, topped with dressing and some chunks of tomato. This was really good and tasted really fresh, and it was fun eating so many small shrimp. We don't really want to think about all the work that went into preparing such tiny shrimp, but that probably made it worth the price.

A got the Vlaamsche menu (literally "Flemish"), €28 at the time, which started off with farmer's pate. The pate came with a side of lingonberry jam/sauce and salad, as well as a bag of pumpernickel bread. The pate was wonderfully rich and creamy. When spread over the slightly sweet pumpernickel and layered with a little bit of the sweet and tart lingonberry jam, it was very delicious. The salad was refreshing and definitely necessary to help balance the heavy, rich flavors of the pate.

The main course for the Noordzee menu was waterzooi met zeevis (with sea fish). Waterzooi is a classic Flemish dish, and it's basically a creamy stew traditionally filled with potatoes and seafood (although these days it's available with chicken too). According to Wikipedia, waterzooi originated in Ghent, a Belgian town we passed through on the train on our way to Brugge, so we definitely wanted to try this local specialty. 

Inside the creamy stew, M found a giant boiled potato along with a piece of fish and what looked like a large langoustine. Although it didn't look like there was a ton of stuff in the stew at first glance, the waterzooi was incredibly filling. M regretted a little bit getting the wafel earlier when she was hungry, but only because the waterzooi was that filling. From what we remember, the flavors of the waterzooi were really good. It was very rich and creamy and filling and heavy though, and we hadn't really prepared for that.

The main course for A's menu was carbonades a la Flamande (apparently stoofvlees op z'n Vlaams, in Flemish), or Flemish beef stew. Similar to waterzooi, carbonades was a Flemish dish we had heard a lot about. The beef stew came with a side of applesauce. A's big reason for picking this was because it is such a well-known Flemish delicacy. It was an extremely rich and meaty stew, but it was also so full of flavor. He doesn't remember much about the applesauce unfortunately, so he can't really comment on that aspect.

For anyone getting carbonades, they came around with a giant metal bowl of fries to fill up your plate, and would gladly refill them if you asked. The fries didn't seem like the double-fried fries like what you get in Amsterdam with the sauces, but they were still good. They were thicker cut so they were more potatoey. The outsides were stiff but not fully crisp. They soaked up the carbonade gravy very well.

The third course for both of our menus was dessert. For M, it was supposed to be homemade vanilla ice cream, and for A, an unspecified "Brugs Room dessert." We were both so full though after our appetizers, entrees, and all that bread and fries that we couldn't imagine eating dessert too. Lucky for us, they let us substitute tea for dessert. They probably made out better on that deal, but our stomachs were thankful.

Every table got some Dumon chocolates to end the meal, which seemed fitting as they were the main chocolatier that we found in Brugge with multiple outlets, and we were really happy to round out our very Flemish meal with them.

De Vlaamsche Pot was a very solid restaurant that specialized in classic, Belgian cuisine. The food was incredibly filling but also very flavorful. In fact, the carbonades were so good that it inspired M to make her own version, and A thinks that the stoemp she made with them was better as a side than the fries served here. We would recommend De Vlaamsche Pot to anyone who wants to try some traditional Flemish food. We're glad we had the chance to try these very classic dishes.

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