Dôme, Antwerpen

Julien Burlat’s CV reads like a dream for any chef, or food-lover: He has worked with Pacaud at L’Ambroisie, Ducasse and Gagnaire. You will have trouble finding a chef, who can boast more highly-renowned chefs as his previous employers. However, when eating in his beautiful restaurant, Dome in Antwerp, one has trouble seeing the craziness of a Gagnaire, the baroque classicism of a Pacaud or the very precise, bold cooking of Ducasse in his food. What struck me was the very simple, nearly rustic approach to the dishes here.

Take for instance a mackerel starter. Served raw, a piece of fish came with nothing else but a few beets and some slivers of fresh hazelnut. Now, that is what one can call minimalism, real minimalism. Whilst having been « warned » about the food’s simplicity, I did not expect it to be that pure. However, seeing that it was a beautiful match with the wine, and marked a delightful start to the menu, I was more than happy to be eating dishes such as this.

The next dishes were in the same style, one that I very much enjoy, but one that can shock you if you are expecting food in the modern and complex style of most other serious Belgian chefs. One cannot cook for everyone and Burlat serves assertive and rather clever food that is a dream come true to wine lovers and purists at the same time. The combinations always work, the flavours are there, and the products are of very fine quality. The best example of this was a plate of shrimp with tomatoes and a pistou. Basically it was a tomato salad with prawns. However, what made it work was the fantastic quality of prawns. These are delivered alive to the restaurant, and thus have a fantastic flavour and texture. It is because of the product that this rather risky style of cooking works at Dome.

The tastiest plate of food, by far, was a roast pigeon from the Vendée, served with girolles, sweet peppers and Jabugo ham. Here you had very autumnal flavours that were incredibly pure and bold. The pigeon was beautifully cooked, with intense flavour and good accompanying elements. There was a charred note, that I absolutely adored, and the few drops of pan-juices were quite simply perfect for this rustic dish. Fantastic.

After such great dishes, came a real treat: Burlat’s version of Pacaud’s famous chocolate tart. Light as air, with a delicate crust it was pure heaven. After having eaten this, I can only imagine how divine the « original » must be. It was a perfect end to a perfect evening.

I loved Dome, the food is simple, without false pretense and simply gorgeous.  The service was fantastic, friendly, warm, and very relaxed the brigade provides you with a great experience throughout the evening. Finally, another reason for coming here would be the wine. Wouter de Bakker is a young, extremely talented and passionate sommelier (best sommelier of Belgium after all!). One like not very many, and one that works very hard. He constructed a wine list to die for here, with a lot of natural wines, and a few classics, that are priced more than friendly. We decided to go with the matching glasses, but I couldn’t resist ordering half a bottle of 2005 Chateauneuf du Pape blanc from Clos des Papes. Whilst not all of the wines of the wine menu were to my taste, they all had character, were very individual and interesting. By far the best (apart from the stunning Chateauneuf) was a Crémant du Jura from Stéphane Tissot. This is a wine, which is not even on the market, and here you can drink it by the glass. Fantastic!

All in all, I loved my dinner here. Whilst I would say that the food was a little too simple for more than 1*, I thought that it worked beautifully with the wine, the ambience and the whole feeling of the place. It was a special evening, one which I will not forget for a long time, so I’d recommend anyone to try this place as quickly as possible. After all, stars are not really all that important, and this place shows you why. To conclude, one can think of a French proverb, which says: Sometimes making a simple thing is the hardest to do…


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