Sunday 21 February 2010

Steak Tartare (Steak Americain), Restaurant Vincent, Brussels

During our recent visit to Bruges and Brussels, there was one place I was eager to visit. In the guide book, which to be honest I don't often hold much store by, it suggested (amongst other things, such as Rabbit Stew and Moules,) that the Steak Tartare, or Steak Americain as it's called in Belgium be tried. When we ventured out to 'reccy' the proposed restaurant, this was the window display that greeted us...what more can you ask than hunks of fresh beef and thickly sliced steak? We were definitely eating here: Restaurant Vincent, Brussels.

Not only were we tempted by the delicious looking cuts, but we had also been promised theatre: the steak would be prepared 'en salle, a la table', and this was something I was looking forward to! Good quality meat, prepared in front of our very eyes...I couldn't wait. Until, that was, we entered the restaurant where we were greeted by a very grumpy maitre d'. It all added to the experience though, and we soon overcame his rudeness and settled ourselves into the evening. Quickly scanning the menu, and remembering just in time we were looking for Steak Americain, not Steak Tartare, were delighted to find it there and ordered one each, plus a carafe of red. The waiter checked that we understood the meat was 'cru' (uncooked) to which we nodded and smiled politely, but I'm sure if he didn't check, there'd be much meat returned to the kitchen and shown to the flambee pan, especially by the British! If only the prices displayed on the tiles from 1912, still held fast!

We were lucky enough to be seated next to the room's preparation table, and enjoyed watching all the dishes be plated up here. The chefs must have a great time concentrating on cooking the food itself whilst letting the waiters plate up, though I wonder if they'd also like to have a say in how it's presented? Our steak, or should I say, dollop of freshly minced beef, was first presented to us, then taken to the table to await it's preparation, not just by any waiter, but by one in particular whose role it is to make up this dish!

When, finally, the special waiter came to prepare our meat, I was rather over-excited, especially never having eaten completely raw beef before! Click play on the video below to see the steak being prepared!

The finished dish was exquisite: the flavours of the mixture were all very individual, and the mustard strong. It certainly needed the crisp salad to cut through it a little, and the heat and crunch of the fries was also welcome. The closest recipe I have been able to find was this one from the Market Kitchen series. It includes finely chopped gherkins, capers and shallots, mixed with mustard, salt, pepper, an egg and Worcester sauce. And, of course, freshly minced beef.

I'll certainly be eating this again and trying it at home, perhaps after a week or so though, having eaten more red meat in the last three days than I usually eat in three weeks! For the foreseeable future, it's salads and chicken!

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Merlotti x

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