Does Le Petit Belge serve a true taste of Belgium?

Le Petit Belge Dubai - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaIt doesn’t even cross my mind to book a table at a new casual Belgian restaurant in Dubai. On a Friday evening nearing 7.30pm (over Ramadan), Le Petit Belge at the Pullman Hotel in JLT is buzzing. Had we arrived half an hour later, we would struggle to nab a table. As it happens, we end up surrounded by French speakers – always a good sign, they say. Let’s see.

The Belgian beer list, drawn up as a booklet, with both draught and bottled (abbey and trappist beers included), must be one of Dubai’s most comprehensive and eclectic, provided you exclude the Stella Artois 😉  The wine list, less so.

The menu kicks off with ‘hoppetisers’ (aka appetisers), but the fun play on names stops here, continuing with a selection of croquettes and tasting platters which are also available in the slightly partitioned bar area – and then moves onto starters, soups, sandwiches, salads, main courses, mussels and grills.

My sister has lived in Belgium for years, so as a regular visitor, its cuisine is close to my heart. Croquettes are a Belgian tradition and one I seek out when I visit. La Petit Belge offers a choice of five – or don’t choose and order the tasting platter. Cheeses made by monks and nuns in monasteries is another Belgian tradition, so I opt for the Belgian abbey cheese croquettes, which arrive as five deep-fried balls filled with a wonderfully pungent, gooey cheese. A syrupy sweet pear dip makes an excellent, addictive match.

Abbey cheese croquettes - Le Petit Belge - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaBrussels Sprouts caesar salad - Le Petit Belge - Dubai restaurants - Foodiva

I order the Brussels sprouts Caesar salad because I am a sucker for the change in key ingredient, not because these may originate from Belgium’s capital. However, what arrives is baby gem lettuce, which I query with our waitress, who feigns ignorance, taking the dish to the kitchen. She returns with the salad claiming the chef has confirmed these are indeed Brussels sprouts. No they’re not I retort, and resort to googling it for her. After much discussion, I find tossed amongst the lettuce, like searching for a needle in a haystack, some shaved Brussels sprouts. The menu descriptor is deceiving, and should be changed to “Caesar salad with some Brussels sprouts and Parmesan-crusted chicken”. The latter, which is served on the side, is so damn delicious.

Rock oysters - Le Petit Belge - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaIt’s good to see a Dubai menu that boasts rock oysters instead of the typical Fine de Claire or Gillardeau. Our platter of half a dozen are only teeny no 4s, so not as plump as the larger Sydney rock oysters I ate over Christmas, but just as meaty.

The Belgian equivalent of a steak tartare is filet americain, and my choice of main course. At Petit Belge it arrives topped with the egg yolk – the classic serving, allowing me to mix it myself – and creatively presented in a Kilner jar, which, whilst pretty and photogenic, is a little challenging to mix. The beef is hand-cut as opposed to minced (a good thing), and well seasoned. The pickled condiments are served on the side, as are a lightly dressed green salad and frites with the Belgian norm of mayonnaise. The fries, more like chunky chips should be crispier though – disappointing given frites are a Belgian national treasure.

Steak tartare - Le Petit Belge - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaMussel trio - Le Petit Belge - Dubai restaurants - Foodiva

My dining companion opts for the mussel tasting trio – Roquefort and cognac; garlic cream; and Thai curry. Be warned, the three ‘mini’ pots, whilst smaller than the standard serving, are generous so you can easily order this dish to share. The fragrant Thai curry flavour is my favourite. The taste of Roquefort is not strong enough given the powerful nature of the blue cheese, so please add more.

Moelleux au chocolat - Le Petit Belge - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaThree starters and two large main courses later between two of us, we are full. But we need to try one dessert. Sadly, even after a reasonable lapse of time for digestion purposes, not one waiter comes to take our order, so we end up chasing. The moelleux au chocolat isn’t worth the wait though. The dark chocolate cake is not molten enough, whilst an accompanying orange sauce tastes like a sickly liquid marmalade that would have been better off baked in the dessert.

Service starts off and means well including a first for Dubai with a “would you like to keep the menu?”. Normally, waiters are quick to snatch menus – and naturally, I like to double-check what I am eating against the descriptors. Menu knowledge is sporadic, and towards the end of our meal as the restaurant gets busier, the service slows down.

A mix of dark wood table seating and long terracotta leather banquettes create a comfortable and inviting space. AED250 per person for three courses without alcohol is a decent price point for a licensed restaurant, and this can drop if you share large dishes like the mussel trio. The croquettes, mussels and, above all, the steak tartare are stellar, authentic dishes – and combined with the energetic vibe make me want to return – but the service…and the fries require fine tuning first. Here’s to an average 3 out of 5 FooDiva knifes.

Do you have a go-to Belgian restaurant in Dubai, or elsewhere?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 3
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4 Responses to “Does Le Petit Belge serve a true taste of Belgium?”

  1. Dave Reeder June 19, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    A Belgian go-to restaurant? Well, maybe in Brussels. Highlights there are always street-eaten frites with mustard and crepes. Of course, many of the grand old brasseries in Paris originated serving Belgian food, so there’s a nice interplay there. On the whole, however, I’d stick to the Belgian beers…

    • FooDiva June 21, 2017 at 10:59 am

      Frites from Frit Flagey, a friture in the centre of Brussels is worth the queue even in freezing temperatures!

  2. Eat Drink Stay Dubai July 2, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Pleased to see Pullman JLT bringing in a nice concept, even if a little late to the party perhaps. It’s a great hotel, but never really seems as busy as it could be in the dining venues.

    As for the abundance of French speakers, would be interesting to know how many were diners as opposed to hotel guests that were dining, given it’s a French hotel and they ‘tend to stick to their own’ (doesn’t everyone?).

    Sorry to hear service was slacking; it’s really infuriating how many potentially great Dubai venues sabatoge themselves by getting the category basics wrong.

    Still, onto somewhat more important matters; the beer menu. Knowing how Dubai loves a gimmick, are they pushing the ‘flight of beer’ concept here, or better still, the ‘trade your left shoe for a bottle of Kwak’.. Perhaps it may not be a good thing, just another thing to distract the waiters…

    Cheers for yet another great, honest and objective review Sam – keep up the great work 🙂

    • FooDiva July 13, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      I am pretty sure the Francophiles were residents. One can always differentiate from tourists! No sign of a flight of beer…unlike wine, beer will go flat so presume it’s not easy to just serve a taster?…unless the Coravin system works for beer too?!

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