Wednesday, July 03, 2013

A fine 2 Michelin Star dining at Nuance @ Duffel, Belgium

I just found out that a small country like Belgium would have a total of 106 Michelin Star restaurants listed in the 2012 guide and in the province of Antwerp itself, there's 15 outlets with 1 & 2 Michelin stars. That's quite impressive isn't it? Looking for a Michelin Star dining outlet back in my country is like fishing for sea urchins in the Klang River because there's none. 

Located on Killaanstraat in Duffel, is a french-belgian fine dining outlet that looked so humble from the exterior but if you have a Michelin guide in hand or if you are residing in Antwerp, you will know that Nuance is a 2 Michelin Star restaurant ran by husband and wife team - Thierry Theys and Sofie Willemarck. Born on the same year as me, Chef Theys has already earned his first Michelin Star when he's 26 years old. Guess what I'm doing when I'm 26?!! My achievements is nothing as compared to this talented young man. Today he heads the kitchen with his wife whom is also the restaurant manager. Together they make a good team in keeping the standards at Nuance.

So what brought me there? Luc has made a reservation for lunch and Thomas and him has been telling me that this is a restaurant that I cannot miss and I have to have a fine meal there. We ordered a set menu which consists of 6-7 dishes with dessert. And even before our first course is served, we were already served with 5 different types of amuse bouche which is not inclusive of the super-tasty freshly baked breads. The amuse bouche is not only a teaser to our tastebuds, it is also a fine food art for the eyes.

 Clams with yellow tomato, mi-confit and verveine.

 Focaccia with salmon and basil, citrus cream and smoked yogurt. 

 Feuilletine of foie gras, strawberry jelly and white balsamic and pepper jam.

Spicy jus of watermelon, spanish anchovies and parmesan cheese.

Aged beef roll, cassava chips and tamarind.

We chose a bottle of D.O Ribera Del Duero, Alion Cosecha 2008 for EUR125. Steven Wullaert, the sommelier at Nuance is also awarded the Best sommelier in Belgium in 2012. He will be the best person to be serving the wines and to ask if you have any doubts about the bottles.

After sampling so many amuse bouche, finally the first course of the set menu arrives. I think I'm already half full from the numerous delicious tastebud teasers.

Mackerel, radish, grapefruit and hibiscus dressing. 
I'm not a big fan of radish but this dish brings a refreshing and light start to the menu.

As you can see, the sight is as appealing as the taste itself. Chef Theys has his own presentation style and he tends to always have them beautifully arranged on one side of the plate. It makes you wonder if there will be more food arriving for the other side of the plate.

 Norway crayfish, garden beans, zucchini rolls and cream, chimichurri (a type of sauce from Argentina made of red peppers, onions and garlic). The crayfish was well-prepared and flavourful without over-cooking and the pairing sauces compliments the dish really well.

 John Dory, sepia (squid), juice of sepia, chips with soufled rice and ink, white asparagus and mayo of Verveine. As you can see, the presentation of the food is really simple but yet stylish in its own way. This dish is well executed and the soup is really tasty.

Luc's main is a Texel Lamb shoulder with a slice of "varnished" eggplant, morilles/morchella (a type of mushroom), cream of ricotta and black garlic. Writing this makes me think of my limited food vocabulary. The only thing I knew would be lamb and eggplant. The rest sounds really foreign to me. The lamb was just tender, juicy and it's not even gamey as I am a little paranoid towards gamey meats and thus I asked for something else instead of having this lamb dish.

I opted for shoulder of veal with "varnished" eggplant, buckwheat, carrots, cream of black garlic. It's exactly the same garnish as the lamb but I had the veal instead and there was not even a single tinge of regret as the veal was grilled medium rare which retained its juiciness of the meat and it was so tender. I really like the cream of black garlic which is something that I've never heard of.

 Finally after plates and plates of savoury courses, the dessert arrives. The Rhubarb and Strawberry dessert looks really delish especially with the use of the different shades of red. The strawberry is slighty yellowish and greenish not because it's unripe but because it's a cross breed between strawberry and pineapple. Isn't that exotic? It's slightly sour and sour is not my favourite taste.

Another Strawberry dessert and also an iced strawberry. It's Belgium and they are really crazy about strawberries! However, I must say that Belgian Strawberries is the best!

The citrus cake with mousse of cucumber, white chocolate, jasmin flower and the Buddha head made of Gin & Tonic. I was surprised when they served me this dessert as I saw something resembling the head of a Buddha. The restaurant has the mould custom-made for this dessert and I absolutely adore the presentation and the refreshing taste of cucumbers. 

After the 3 desserts, we were served another few plates of petite fours. It's like a never-ending journey of culinary display by the talented chef. Every dish was a delicious mixture of tastes, textures and sight which touched the hearts of every foodie like me.

Thomas is really doing a good job as an intern at the restaurant. He has been attentive and was even kind enough to explain the dishes in English for me and in Dutch for his father. And as when I thought we have reached the end of our indulgent afternoon, he came to us with a basket of freshly-baked madeleines. How could I resist that?!! I tried so hard to find a space in my digestive system to fit that wonderful madeleine and I did! I swear that it would be the last piece of food I eat for that afternoon.

After that I requested if I could see the kitchen and meet the Chef Theys and they are so kind to accomodate the request. Visiting the kitchen of a Michelin star restaurant for the first time, I'm really impressed as the kitchen was so in order! It's not big but hygiene and cleanliness is definitely a priority here as I can see the staff climbing onto the stove counter and scrubbing the walls. Apparently they clean the whole kitchen after every lunch or dinner. Wow... this is really a good practice!

Another feature of this restaurant is that they sends you a handwritten bill instead of a printed one! Our set menu are priced at EUR100 each and if you would like a wine pairing, that would be another addition of EUR40/50. In the end, we spent 4 hours dining at this restaurant and we returned home feeling extremely full and satisfied. This is truly a gem in Duffel.

Restaurant Nuance
Killaanstraat, 6-8, 2570 Duffel
Tel: +32(0)1563 4265
Closed on Tues, Wed and Sat noon.


Anonymous said...

omggggg the presentations are so beautiful! truly living up to its 2 michelin star title! looking very well and good, Insane ;) Hope you're having loads of fun there in Antwerp! xoxo Nutty

Sean said...

wow, 15 michelin-starred outlets in your province. you could make it a mission to finish visiting them by the end of 2013! and yaaa, wish we had one in KL too! :D

eiling lim said...

Nutty: yeah the food presentations is like an art. it's really beautiful!

Sean: I wished we could have at least one of these restaurants in KL too and it will definitely be a big hit.

Baby Sumo said...

The food looks exquisite! Love the presentation of the dishes.

Marko said...

Madeleine looks like kuih Bahulu wor..

eiling lim said...

Baby Sumo: me too... and so yummy too

Marko: It tastes a bit like kuih bahulu but the madeleines is more airy

suituapui said...

2-Michelin star, eh? Class extravaganza!

Ciki said...

fuyoh.. handwritten bill macam mamak..tapi prices bukan macam mamak! haha. Great food! lovely photos too!

Chef and Sommelier said...

Hi Eiling! Looks like you are having a great time in Belgium!!

Really nice plating and creativity there at Nuance! I would love to try this when I visit Belgium...

Huai Bin said...

Very awesome plating and food! I can't believe how good the food looks! It looks too good to be eaten! :)

Enjoy Belgium Eiling!

Missy Missy said...

Such vibrant colours for the dishes.

Chad said...


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