Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Trufflicious Bonanza

It was time for a dinner five years in the making: L’Atelier de la Truffe Noire. After strong recommendations by a friend when I first moved to Belgium, I promised my then-boyfriend that when I finally nailed down a job, I would treat him to a meal at this Avenue Louise establishment.

I now have three concurrent jobs nailed down and decided that for our second wedding anniversary, I might as well fulfill an old promise.

L’Atelier is the affordable version of the unaffordable La Truffe Noire – one of the most expensive and famous restaurants in town. While I respect that the food of choice – the black truffle – is vegetarian friendly, it hardly seems worth spending Truffe Noire prices for a vegetarian meal. The menu options will be limited, and besides, I’ve heard the whole thing is overpriced to begin with.

The Atelier is another story altogether. The setting is more bistro-style; the menu is cheaper (although not cheap!); and even vegetarians have a respectable choice.

More than once I thought of my favorite restaurant in town – CafĂ© des Spores – which also happens to be a mushroom-based culinary experience. I would say that the Atelier is a bit more classical, and a bit more French-focused in its preparations, but that’s almost splitting hairs. It’s really the Adoration of the Truffle that makes it distinct.

I started with the house aperitif: fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, lait d’amandes, and berry liquor. Super sweet, but not overpowering. While reviewing the menu, we got hit with our first whiff of truffles as a plate was delivered to another table. I realized at that moment that part of the cost of dining here is purely to enjoy that smell; I already knew it would be money well spent.

For starters, I had a cappuccino of forest mushrooms, topped with white truffle oil. It was essentially a frothy soup of ample size, and it was exquisite. Gidon tackled two soft-boiled eggs, served with black truffle shavings and truffle oil. Delicious, but it paled a bit compared to the soup.

On to mains: I had tortellini, topped with a cream sauce and slices of truffle. Gidon opted for the millefeuille – slices of baked potato, covered in what seemed to be the same cream sauce, and topped with slices of truffle. Perhaps not a great degree of variation between the two, but oh-so-good (it was all I could do to prevent Gidon from licking his plate).

We were too stuffed to order dessert, but no matter, we went home happy. Besides, they don’t put truffles in the desserts, so what’s the point?

Our waiter was very attentive, and took care to point out that the amuse-bouche (truffle-free tiny cannelloni) was vegetarian. Apparently there is even good service to be found in this town, after all.
L'Atelier de la Truffe Noire
Avenue Louise 300
1050 Ixelles
Tel. 02 640 54 55
Open Mon-Sat; Closed on Sundays and Monday evenings - Reservations not a bad idea.

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