January 2005 Mannequin Pis

Blue Winner Award Winning Belgian restaurant.

By: Cynthia Hacinli

You could stick to mussels and fries and still feel pangs of indecision over mussels that are done more than a dozen ways at this Belgian restaurant. Go for classic mariniére or poulette (with cream) or try one of the more offbeat preparations, such as Jamaican Isle with coconut cream; Red Devil, with tomatoes, garlic, harissa sauce, and beer; or Lavender, scented with ginger, honey, and lavender. The glorious fries come plain or with garlic--both are fabulous. Other crowd-pleasing starters are frisée with smoked bacon, smoked salmon with horseradish crème fraîche, asparagus with hard-boiled eggs and wilted leeks, and mussel-saffron soup.

Excellent main courses are pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon, rump steak with béarnaise sauce and frites, potted chicken with bacon-flecked Brussels sprouts, and an otherworldly carbonnade, the Flemish beer-and-beef stew, served with those fries. Vegetables--be they puréed potatoes with black truffles or stoemp, a carrot-and-potato combo--are lovingly done.

There are some interesting wines, but the hearty fare begs for beer, and chef/owner Bernard Dehaene offers a superb list of mostly Belgian picks. Ask your server to recommend one to go with your meal. Chantilly cream-filled profiteroles with warm Callebaut chocolate sauce, and bread pudding spiked with cherries, finish things with a flourish.