Bon Bon

Fans of my restaurant reviews (yes, both of you) have come to expect a dazzling combination of exquisite food photography and detailed, witty culinary dissection. Well you’re going to be disappointed this time. Not that we were – Bon Bon is one of the best restaurants we’ve visited in a while. No, there are two problems with this write-up.

1) The lighting (I know – cover up my photographic inadequacies by blaming the restaurant’s lighting, right?) was quite subdued, and I prefer to be as discreet as possible about my restaurant photography, not for fear of being told to stop by some officious waiter, but more out of consideration for my fellow diners, so I’m loathe to use my camera’s flash. The resulting pictures all had a garish yellow cast to them, which I was only able to alleviate slightly in Photoshop, so some of the colours remain muted and muddy.

2) We chose the “Menu Passion-Tradition-Evolution” (now there’s a mouthful, ha ha), which consisted of a surprise selection of dishes. At no point did we know exactly what was coming next, and we didn’t receive a menu either before or after the meal, so I’m going to have to try to identify dishes based solely on the sub-standard photos and my wine-addled memory. Paola – feel free to chip in if you can fill any of the gaps. Many of the following descriptions may be inaccurate, so take them with a pinch of salt (Get it? Food…salt… I don’t just throw these things together, you know).

First up was a selection of nibbles to go with our aperitif. Clockwise from top left: some kind of weird and surprisingly spicy ice cream with a slice of crispy salami, foie gras crème caramel, oyster tempura with some kind of nice cream I can’t remember, and a kind of hollow mini-blini filled with something oozing and unctuous and scrummy.

The cone on the right is unsalted butter, the slab on the left is butter containing seaweed.

This was one of my favourite’s of the night – a langoustine topped with a slice of crisp black bread. And…some other stuff. You know -vegetables, sauce, that kind of thing.

Sea urchin crème brulée, perched on a bed of coarse sea salt. And a little ham on toast.

Some kind of large raviolo with a bit of crab and a white sauce. And an orange sauce. Although probably not made with oranges.

Scallop. I don’t usually enjoy scallops as much as I did this one, which melted in the mouth. Plus some lentils and a beetroot crisp and a couple of foie gras cubes.

A slow-cooked strip of chicken and some wrinkly chips. Bland at first bite, but then it grew on me. Topped with a slice of ham, naturally.

Magret de canard (“detective of duck”, in English) with a tower of potato and something else. Not so keen on the shavings of truffle. I like it as an ingredient, but not just plonked, raw, on top of a dish.

The first dessert: on the right a roll of mango containing some kind of ice cream, and on the left an icy ball covered in little puffs of…dunno. Popcorn? Polystyrene?

The second dessert: a light but powerful pepper-flavoured chocolate thing, and some ginger ice cream. I liked the idea of spicy desserts.

Finally, some petit fours to go with the coffee (even though we didn’t have any coffee): a green marshmallow, cream and crumbled speculoos biscuit in the cup, an icy ball on a stick covered with…something pink, and a biscuit/cake thing I didn’t get around to because I was absolutely stuffed by this point. But in a good way – lots of good things here, including a few items on the normal menu I’d be keen to try (ravioli with egg yolk, for example).

As an added bonus, we spotted two familiar faces on other tables. One I recognised as soon as she came in – Boomba. Yes, the Boomba! (the lady in yellow in this photo) – coiffeuse to the stars. Well, the stars of TV Brussel, anyway. My wife has visited her salon on numerous occasions, in search of that inimitable “Brussels International” look.

The second sat near us during the whole meal but I only noticed her when she stood up to leave – an American expat friend who we hadn’t actually seen for several years, and who apparently had been glancing at me throughout the evening and saying to herself “I’m sure I know that guy from somewhere…”

Finally, in related news, L’Air Du Temps, which we visited earlier this year, has just been awarded its second Michelin star. Maybe next year we’ll schedule another visit.

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11 thoughts on “Bon Bon

  1. Peter November 28, 2008 / 3:44 pm

    Your stunning culinary accounts often leave me virtually speechless Simon.

    I just had a microwave pizza
    (oops, sacrilege 😛 )

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  2. simonlitton November 28, 2008 / 3:52 pm

    I take it you’re being sarcastic, Peter?
    Mmm – I might order in pizza tonight. Fine dining’s all well and good but I’m in the mood for comfort food this evening.

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  3. J November 29, 2008 / 6:29 am

    I have yet to try a restaurant that serves as many tiny yummies in one sitting as you seem to find, Simon. Mayhaps they’re just not popular in the U.S.?

    Oyster tempura sounds like heaven to me.

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  4. simonlitton November 29, 2008 / 5:24 pm

    J – at the risk of perpetuating national stereotypes, I get the feeling that small portions would be considered UnAmerican. Or so I’m told by friends of mine who’ve spent time there, and who were always amazed by the sheer quantity of food they were served in restaurants.

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  5. jagosaurus November 29, 2008 / 6:58 pm

    Small portions are definitely un-American.

    Keep up the food documentation. I am one of the two* enjoying it.

    *Many.

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  6. Di November 29, 2008 / 7:13 pm

    You bold brave people … sea urchin is something I still have to try.

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  7. Erik R. December 1, 2008 / 10:15 am

    Yummy!

    Too self-conscious to use a flash, huh? Maybe next time you could set up some professional umbrella lighting.

    Überposh restaurants in the US also do minute portions…or so I’ve heard.

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  8. simonlitton December 1, 2008 / 2:28 pm

    J – I was being slightly facetious about the portion sizes – obviously there are plenty of this style of restaurant in the States too. In terms of finding something in your neck of the woods, you’re very lucky: Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry is regularly voted one of the top 5 best restaurants in the world, and the absolute best in the Americas, and yes, they serve lots of little dishes…

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  9. Peter December 1, 2008 / 2:35 pm

    Although I was slightly sarcastic (well, who wouldn’t be, having eaten a pizza that almost broke my dentures 😉 ),
    I must stress that your food photography is in the pro-league:
    a friend of mine works as a food photographer for Unilever and gave you an A+

    Small portions are definitely un-American.
    With over 50% of US citizens being obese, I doubt they gained that weight eating the portions in your shots.

    “Super-size me” 😛

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  10. J December 1, 2008 / 4:17 pm

    Hey Simon, I quite agree that portion sizes of just a few bites are decidedly un-American. There aren’t too many places that would serve so many tiny portions.

    I would love to try French Laundry. It’s VERY difficult to get a reservation, and the prices are quite prohibitive. One day, perhaps, we’ll make it there…. my brother in law has been, and said it’s worth every penny. It’s getting the pennies that’s the hard part. 😉

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  11. Janet Ching December 4, 2008 / 10:54 pm

    I agree, the lighting is always to be blamed for.

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