Taste of Belgium: Sunday Brunch Review
Over the Rhine has definitely become one of, if not the, hotspot for dining in Cincinnati over the last couple of years. The place went from a drug-driven war zone and slum to being part of a dramatic urban revitalization carried out by the City of Cincinnati. From restaurants and shops to an amazing overhaul of Washington Park to some great condos…it’s been a very impressive change over the last several years. One of the most popular places for brunch would have to be Taste of Belgium (http://www.AuthenticWaffle.com). I’ve been eating Jean-Francois Flechet’s amazing waffles since originally finding them in Findlay Market a few years ago. When he opened a full-on bistro, I was curious if it was going to be a one-trick pony centering on waffles or if he would flesh it out and offer multiple quality items to enjoy. I can safely and easily say he did. They have full breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. While I’ve only eaten brunch there and can only comment on that in regards to this review, the menus look great and I’ve heard great things about all of his food. Additionally, the Bistro has some nice-looking Belgian ales on tap and a full bar, which I have enjoyed on occasion. There are also keg-tappings throughout the month of different beers. Actually, my favorite thing about this place is that it reminds me of the “bars” in Europe. These bars would server breakfast/brunch, have sandwiches and other items for lunch, be a coffee shop all day, and then have drinks (and sometimes food) in the evenings. It is a different feeling than a typical American restaurant…hard to explain, but this place has captured it well.
This particular time I went to Taste of Belgium was for brunch on Easter Sunday. My wife and I arrived fairly early (around 9:45) and were able to be seated fairly quickly, although it was definitely starting to fill up. Our waiter, while young and definitely looking a bit tired, was prompt, witty, and made the meal more enjoyable. My wife started with coffee while I had a cappuccino. I’ve had the same cappuccino several times at the Bistro, and it’s been consistently great every time. That may sound simple, but if you’ve ever had one in Europe, most of the cappuccino in America just aren’t very good…I think it’s something with the coffee to milk ratio. This one is great, reminding me of my Euro trips and making me very happy.For the main course, my wife ordered the omelette du jour (omelette with ham, fennel) with strawberries and blueberries on the side. I ordered the Belgian toasts (house-made brioche, raspberry lambic syrup, macadamia nuts, pastry cream) with an egg on the side. We split a waffle. The omelette was very good, it’s always cooked just right and the ingredients always seem high-quality. The Belgian toasts are much like French toast, but the lambic syrup gives it a different taste. You get a slight bit of alcohol in it, and the cream goes so well with the toast and syrup. I’d have to give the nod to Honey’s French toast over this for my favorite in the city (actually Honey’s is probably my favorite I’ve had in any city), but it’s still excellent and I’d highly recommend it. The waffle is what made this guy famous and it shows…we got a plain waffle with just a bit of powdered sugar on it. No syrup or toppings needed…it’s made with a cooked in vanilla flavor and has a caramelized sugar-coating on the outside. They melt in your mouth and I’ve never had anything like it. During the holidays, he also makes a pumpkin and a gingerbread version…they are both fantastic as well.
My bottom line is that this is a very good option for brunch and looks like it’s certainly worth a try for dinner, too. I look forward to spending an evening trying out Jean-Francois’ dinner menu and writing a review on that as well.