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Review: Altermezzo Restaurant, Tongeren, Belgium

By monika - April 1, 2016 (Updated: March 24, 2016)

Altermezzo Restaurant Tongeren Belgium

Monika reviews Altermezzo restaurant, where a young Belgian chef is creating Michelin-quality food in the unassuming location of Tongeren, Belgium.

Belgium can be a revelation in terms of food. One can find not just good food but Michelin-quality food in the most unassuming places. We went to see the Castle Garden of Alden Biesen, near Tongeren after reading about it right here on CheeseWeb. After the visit to the castle, serendipity led us to this wonderful gastronomic gem, the Altermezzo restaurant.

Not far from the centre of Tongeren, this restaurant presents French-Belgian cuisine with Mediterranean and Asian influences. The menu changes depending upon the seasonal availability of local produce. The very young, enthusiastic chef, Jo Grootaers, specialises in bringing these ingredients to the table, with his own creative imagination and combinations that are sure to delight you. The setting is modern and trendy, with adequate space and ambience for a good conversation that follows the ensuing gastronomic experience.

Altermezzo restaurant's modern design, in Tongeren, Belgium

Altermezzo restaurant’s modern design, in Tongeren, Belgium

We decided to try the menu of the day, which turned out to be splendid. I was especially impressed with the first appetiser, a mousse of mackerel served with black quinoa and radish. The thought of combining these foods so amicably, with each retaining their basic flavour and yet, combined in such a unique way is definitely worthy of applause. The mackerel mousse was just right without any extra ‘fishiness’ and paired wonderfully with the quinoa, I didn’t miss any citrusy element that usually accompanies a mackerel mousse. The shrimp broth had a soupy consistency and the delicate taste of shrimps was perfectly offset by the addition of red bell peppers.

Mackerel mousse with black quinoa, and the shrimp broth served with focaccia on a bed of sesame seeds

Mackerel mousse with black quinoa and the shrimp broth served with focaccia on a bed of sesame seeds

The starter was a salmon filet served with Japanese vegetables, sea lettuce and radish, in a Japanese dashi broth. Often salmon is cooked a little bit more than required; to make it chalky and dry, or sometimes it is just not cooked enough. Here, the salmon was cooked brilliantly, with the insides still tender and moist, whereas the surface was treated with a flaming torch to give it a delicious smokiness. Notice the texture of the salmon, brilliant isn’t it? The Japanese dashi broth was made from dried seaweeds and fish flakes and went perfectly with the salmon.

Torched salmon served with Japanese vegetables and radish

Torched salmon served with Japanese vegetables and radish

The main course was chicken with smoked celeriac, parsnips, and potato confit, with a juice of sherry and thyme. The chicken was both flavourful and tender while still retaining a firm bite. The chef informed us the chicken is free-range and is specially sourced from France. I particularly liked the distinctive idea of pairing the chicken with root vegetables, whereas the potato confit provided buttery ‘melt in the mouth’ softness.

Chicken with root vegetables at Altermezzo, Tongeren

Chicken with root vegetables at Altermezzo, Tongeren

Our stomachs were full, taste buds tickled, and we were satisfied over an entire afternoon of this first-rate dining experience. But this didn’t stop us from ordering dessert. The dessert was a celebration of pineapple, with a pineapple slice spiced with Espelette pepper and served with sour cream ice cream, pineapple ice cream and dried pineapple. The combination of sour and sweet, interspersed with the icy delight of the ice cream, was a perfect way to end the meal.

Pineapple slice made tangy with addition of Espelette pepper served with sour cream ice cream, pineapple ice cream and chips of dried pineapple

Pineapple slice made tangy with addition of Espelette pepper served with sour cream ice cream, pineapple ice cream and chips of dried pineapple

Now, this is one restaurant where the focus is on the client having an awesome dining experience. The chef himself explains the dish before each serving and you get the feeling the chef is cooking just for you. The service is good and we were upgraded on the wine as they had run out of the wine we had initially ordered. We ultimately ended up having a 2007 Rivera ‘Il Falcone’ Castel del Monte Riserva, a medium bodied Italian wine with a long finish.

The adeptness in the preparation and the presentation of the food with the use of superior quality of products (free range chicken, red label salmon) makes Altermezzo definitely deserving of the Michelin recommendation. The chef has previously trained at the Michelin restaurant JER, in Hasselt, but more importantly, has the ability to challenge your taste buds while piecing ingredients together so none of the flavours are overwhelming and each stands out distinctly.

I would definitely visit Altermezzo again…it’s one of those restaurants worth leaving Brussels for!

Altermezzo
Bilzersteenweg 366
B-3700 Tongeren

Altermezzo Restaurant Tongeren Belgium

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Monika

Monika

Monika Lamba Saini is an Indian expat, in Brussels, with her husband and an amiable, energetic toddler. Trained as a doctor and specialised as a pathologist, cancer research brought her to Brussels. When she is not working on molecular profiling of different types of thyroid carcinomas, she likes to cook, read and listen to music. Her favourite part of the day is definitely the time spent with the family. She is the author, co-author and peer reviewer of many national and international scientific publications. She is an avid foodie, loves to travel, explore new places, new cultures and also loves to write about them!
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