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De Jonkman in Bruges - 2 Michelin stars

Rating: 93.
Rating index:
Extraordinary (96-100)
Outstanding (93-95)
Very good to Excellent (89-92)
Above average to Good (86-88)
Below Average to Average (80-85)
Avoid (below 80)
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The beautiful, medieval market town of Bruges was the cultural capital of Europe in 2002, but it can also lay claim to being one of the culinary capitals of Belgium. In the Michelin guide 2013 it sports no fewer than two 3-star restaurants, two 2-star establishments, five places with 1 star and seven Bib Gourmands. Quite impressive for a relatively small city with some 117,000 inhabitants. One of the stars in the culinary firmament in Bruges is Filip Claeys (b. 1974) of two-starred restaurant De Jonkman. His CV is about as good as it gets in these parts: before opening his own restaurant in 2006 together with his wife Sandra, he worked for one year at 2-star Hostellerie Le Fox in De Panne (Stéphane Buyens), five years at 3-star De Karmeliet in Bruges (Geert van Hecke) and six years as sous-chef at 3-star Oud Sluis in Sluis, Netherlands (Sergio Herman). In 2007 De Jonkman was awarded its first star, the second star followed in 2011.


De Jonkman is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday till Saturday. You can choose between the a la carte menu, a seasonal tasting menu (4 courses €85, 5 courses €100, 6 courses €115 and 7 courses €130), a 3-course 'Market' menu for €48 and on there's a 2-course 'Business Market' lunch menu (Tuesday till Friday) for €34. The 4-course tasting menu and 3-course 'Market' menu are not available on Saturday evenings. I had lunch at De Jonkman with my husband on Saturday 13 July 2013 and we both had the 7-course seasonal tasting menu.

Lunch started with no fewer than eight amuse bouches. Lovely slow-cooked soft quail's egg with a thin and crunchy cep crust - Parmesan crisp with a marinated cherry tomato and some concentrated tomato crème - Crisp with foie gras and hazelnut crème.






Shortly after three more arrived. Tender razor clam, razor clam jelly, watercress coulis and a cauliflower crème (served in the shell) - Brawn with radish, piccalilli crème and some crispy toast - Homemade nut bread with sour cream, watercress puree, herring and apple.






The last two were pickled baby gherkin with beef, crispy sourdough and a goat's cheese crème and cuttlefish with a tomato hollandaise and parsley oil.




These were eight excellent and creative amuse bouches, executed with great finesse.

First course was Marinated mackerel, cucumber, radish, mint bouillon. Lovely fresh mackerel fillets sprinkled with some lemon zest, served with sliced radish, several cucumber textures (pickled, gel and a light mousse) and an elegant mint bouillon. Lovely, pure flavours and acidity from the cucumber. The mint bouillon was wonderfully light and delivered just right amount of mint flavour. Also on the plate was a piece of barbecued sourdough, sour cream and avocado cream shaped into discs. A well-balanced dish with clean flavours and I loved how the mint enhanced all the other flavours on the plate.


Second course was Smoked eel with fennel and potato. Delicious home smoked meaty eel, that had wonderful light smokey flavours, served with a fantastic light and flavoursome green fennel mousse, 'al dente' fennel, freshly shaved fennel and a pure and intense fennel puree. For the mousse the fennel greens had also been used, which didn't only provide colour but also a lovely herby finish. The different potato preparations were great too. A piece of roasted potato, dots of clean-tasting cold potato puree and an elegant puree mixed with sour cream. A superb dish with delightful fennel and potato flavour intensities. The fennel added a lovely freshness to complement the rich eel.


Next up was 'Message in a Bottle'. Filip Claeys originally created this dish for the Flemish Primitives' gala dinner in March 2011. The main ingredient of this dish is Northsea grey shrimp and it is served in a beer bottle that literally contains a rolled-up message, and it has quickly become a signature dish. First Filip Claeys presented us with a glass jar filled with water and live grey shrimps. The jar was then taken back to the kitchen to prepare the dish and some five minutes later the bottle was served. Inside the bottle were some crisp deep-fried grey shrimps, fresh grey shrimps, a fantastic grey shrimp jelly and some lovely pan-fried grey shrimps, accompanied by a light hollandaise sauce and finely diced, lightly pickled celeriac. In brief the message in the bottle is: 'let us be proud of our local cuisine', 'our Flemish grey shrimp is a unique product' and 'go local'. The message is signed 'Filip Claeys, chef and proud grandson of a Flemish fisherman'.




Fourth course was Langoustine (barbequed), lamb's lettuce, peas, broad beans, confit tomato, Brugge cheese. A juicy langoustine with gorgeous smokey barbeque flavours, served with a light tomato stock, halved broad beans and peas and a lovely pea puree, delicately flavoured with mint. Delicious lamb's lettuce, served with a light dressing that had a nice touch of acidity. Great flavour and texture from the crispy sourdough 'taco' with Brugge cheese, the latter adding a lovely 'grilled cheese' touch that combined surprisingly well with the other ingredients. Loved how the smokey barbeque flavours were combined with a fresh tomato stock.


Lemon sole (cooked on the bone) with lentils, artichokes, girolles, chard and a roasted onion jus followed. Perfectly cooked tender lemon sole that combined wonderfully with the lovely warm flavours from the the roasted onion jus. Loved the artichokes; the intensity of the puree was terrific. Lovely freshness and subtle bitters from the chard. A great dish with very precise flavours. 


Sixth course was Mangalica pork with carrot (baby carrots, pickled, puree), spinach, pork jus, button onions, potato and ramson puree. Beautifully cooked tender pork with a thick layer of very flavoursome fat and an excellent rich and slightly glutinous jus. Nice texture and contrast from the pickled carrot rolls and the carrot puree, mildly flavoured with curry, was delicious. A wonderfully elegant dish with spot-on flavours.


On to the desserts. First up was a dessert comprised of dark chocolate discs, a light chocolate mouse covered with a crisp pork crackling biscuit, milk chocolate ice cream, peanut butter cream, chopped caramelised hazelnuts, orange sorbet and orange puree. An indulgent yet light dessert, the saltiness of the biscuit and peanut butter both delivering a wonderful savoury touch and the orange helped cut through the richness.


This was followed by fresh Belgian strawberries, accompanied by rhubarb and strawberry mousse rolls, yoghurt ice cream, meringue discs, rhurbarb rolls. Nice and sweet strawberries and lovely sharp rhubarb. A refined dessert with lovely fresh and tart flavours and just the right amount of creaminess.


Wtih our coffees we were served some petit fours. Short sweet pastry cup with an orange cream filling - biscuit topped with a mandarin puree and a bonbon with a mandarin cream filling - cream-filled choux buns dipped in chocolate - madeleine - cannelé.




Filips Claeys' cooking at De Jonkman clearly reflects his roots - both as a person and as a chef. In his cooking local products take centre stage and no less than 80% of the thoughtfully sourced ingredients he uses are of Belgian origin. Claeys' product-focussed cuisine yields modern and refined, visually attractive dishes with a thoroughly classical basis. The food at De Jonkman is about detail and finesse rather than about big flavours, it displays a lovely lightness of touch and it is always perfectly executed. These are the very competent dishes of an accomplished craftsman, but the flavours do have a tendency to stay on the safer side of the spectrum; flavours that aim to please rather than to challenge. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but I would be still be very excited to see what happens if this chef would introduce somewhat more adventurous and unusual flavours and flavour combinations.

Posted 09-09-2013




 
 
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