De Jonkman – A Hidden Treasure in Brugge (July 2008)

Planning a dining tour has easy and difficult parts. Well, of course the easy part is that mostly the destination is selected because there are some very good restaurants which are widely known. The difficult part is the search for some informal places to just grap a nice lunch or the treasure hunt for some rising stars. When I released that I will visit Oud Sluis and Hof van Cleve on my home forum I almost immediately had a PM which recommended “In de Wulf” and “De Jonkman”. Both having one stars I wanted to include both but In de Wulf would have been a massive detour (yes, I am not going any mile;-)) and Trine told me that she had done In de Wulf. So, for sake of some division of labour in the blogging community I opted for De Jonkman. We booked on short notice on a Friday night which was surprising as all starred restaurants in the area were fully booked.

The Restaurant

De Jonkman is situated in Sint-Kruis, a suburb of Brugge in a wonderfully renovated Flemish villa (which I did not photograph, sorry…). The setting is somehow magical and looks like a romantic garden stolen from Eichendorff. The interior is modern, reduced and very welcoming.

The Chef

Together with Sandra Filip Claeys took over De Jonkman two years ago after working with Sergio Herman at Oud Sluis for four years. Before that he was five years at De Kameliet the classic three star restaurant of Geert van Hecke. This makes a fine combination of old and new school. At de Karmeliet he foremost learned about superior product quality and Sergio (as Filip nicely put it with glancing eyes: “a genius” which I fully endores here and here) taught him to leave the paradigms of the traditional French cuisine behind. One Star Michelin and 15 points in the Gault Millau.

The Food

Reading the menu card created a little Oud Sluis déjà vu: lots of “twee bereidingen van…”, a menu consisting of 5 courses which turn out to be 7, the language of describing almost all elements of a dish, interesting and not yet heard flavor combinations… But, the good news is that prices are very reasonable and about half the Oud Sluis (OS) prices.

The deja vu continued as we were served our beloved foie gras sphere, but surprisingly at the same quality as at OS. My blood pressure increased a bit, in the end I thought this meal could be good or even very good?

Next starters were also quite good, but I didn’t take notes as I was too surprised (and I normally do not take notes in 1* restaurants)… Surely the cornet with some Parmesan ice cream was sensational:

The Summer menu started with “Lisette marinée avec olives séchées, crème de la faisselle de Rians, foie gras et glace de basilic“. Wow – mackerel and foie gras, a fancy combination. And it was excellent as the mackerel was tender and juicy with some rustic and sour character, the richness and sweetness of the foie, the fantastic basil sorbet along with fennel and the almond to include different textures. On the bottom you see the creme of faiselle, a special cheese (sic!) from Rians, which worked very well as a backbone of the dish. That is Sergio Herman’s school for sure, but as you can see from the presentation it is less complex in plating. Excellent to outstanding dish all together.

Next up were two preparations of lobster – first “Tartare de homard en combinaison d’algues et de vinaigrette d’anémones de mer“. Another complex dish which was very Japanese in flavor and very fresh. Again Filip pulled any drawer of textures and aromas. Unfortunately the good lobster could not fully stand the other flavors and got somehow lost a little. Still very good.

Second preparation of lobster “Homard cuit avec des champignons des bois et bulghur”. Most traditional dish on the whole dining tour, again with some not top notch quality lobster (but hey, this is only one star…). Very good.

Third course “Plie cuite croustillante avec anguille fumèe, huile de vadouvan et crème aigre, jaune à température basse et pois“. Another wow! The plaice was cooked to perfection, tender and juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside topped with a smoked eel, then a low temperature egg yolk, a macaroni of chickpea and some cream. After the plate was flooded with the egg yolk this dish took me to another level. The old Indian spice vadouvan was a good counterpart as the exotic notes (some bitterness, dried onions, curry) stood up against the egg yolk and together it formed a very interesting “jus”. Excellent!

Ever heard of Tallasso beef? Me neither and we were told that it is a small town near Barcelona from where Filip is sourcing this. The next dish blew us away: “Tallasso boeuf cuit avec sauce béarnaise et pommes frites“. Simply the best beef I have ever had and I did try some, even better than Kobe imho at a fraction of the Kobe price. Tender, juicy, perfect preparation and a good but not too pronounced beef taste (as compared to Argentinean beef). Very classic presentation with that kind of product you need no voodoo on the plate. Outstanding!

The second preparation “Queue de boeuf braisèe avec pomme de terre et huile de dragon” was served when we had just started with the first part and it was a more modern companion. I did not know that dragon oil is eatable but this was and it added a nice herby touch. Excellent!

The desserts were very good, the second even excellent! No notes, but the snake in the first is made of marshmallow:-)

Overall

The dinner was almost of Oud Sluis quality, between very good and excellent. All dishes worked astonishingly well with some real heights. It was pure fun and very relaxed with some minor issues in service. Surely more than one star imho.

Filip needs to emancipate himself more from his former master which will be difficult as it is a mere philosophy rather than an adherence to recipes. The dishes are in a good sense not yet as complex as Sergio’s and thus the danger for Filip to really fail is limited (one of the biggest issue for young chefs is to really step out of the big shoes of their masters – very often I experience nearly the same cooking style and very often the dishes are too complex because ability is limited).

As Filip will develop I think there is a huge creative potential combined with excellent mastery of cooking so that one day… So not high-end yet, but someone to put on the watch list and already worth any visit. I will come back for sure!!

Restaurant De Jonkman
Maalsesteenweg 438
8310 Sint-Kruis Brugge
+32 (0)50 36 07 67
http://www.dejonkman.be
Closed Sunday for lunch, Monday and Tuesday for lunch

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5 thoughts on “De Jonkman – A Hidden Treasure in Brugge (July 2008)

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  3. Hi, I am a food and travel writer from Dallas, Texas and will be in Bruges on Feb. 14 and 15. Of course, this is all last minute and have given up trying to find STAR dining on Valentine’s Day! Do you have a Sunday recommendation and/or a casual Saturday night one? Thanks, Love your website.
    Nancy Nichols
    nancyn@dmagazine.com

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