Hertog Jan is located just outside the city of Brugges in Belgium. (They have a car out front but no ride was offered to and from the train station.) They moved from a smaller space and opened in this location, an historical farm, in July 2014. The move was a direct result of their quest to obtain a third Michelin star but they received it before they were able to move. According to Manager and Head Sommelier Joachim Boudens this gave them some headaches but because they had already started the plans for a bigger structure there was a light at the end of the tunnel. The historic buildings gave them some challenges in creating the kitchen but the farm also allowed them to grow many of the vegetables and herbs they use in their cooking.
The result is a large main dining room with windows on 2 walls looking out at the gardens and a huge kitchen built in the old barn. The kitchen is a third wall of the dining room but not easily seen from there although a “kitchen tour” seemed to be offered to all guests. Boudens does come by the tables to greet his guests but the chef seemed most uninterested in those touring the kitchen – keeping his head buried in his phone the whole time. There are a ton of service people working the floor as well as a lot of folks working in the kitchen. It would appear that there were more of them than us. When making your reservation they ask which of their menus you prefer and as no menus are presented at the table the decision seems to hold. We had the Intensive Experience which is amuses, 4 starters, 1 main, 1 dessert and the sweet trolley.
Service begins with the champagne cart where glasses appeared to start at 25 euros per small serving. I would also caution visitors that everything runs a bit high, water was 14 euros each and an espresso was 10 euros. In addition on the way out they will try to sell you on their products which have a huge display in the reception area. All this seemed tacky to me. One other warning is that they told me numerous times they would give me a list of what we had when we were through but it is simply a listing of all their options with yours having the oval darkened by it. The descriptions can be as helpful as “rollmops”, “dim sum”, or “nigiri” so I’m glad I took notes.
The amuse was an avocado wedge coated with tomato powder and covered with a sauce of crispy bread. The sauce made this one work, it provided a great crunch and olive oil to bring out the taste of the avocado.
Bread was served with containers of whipped regular butter and whipped herb butter. The herb butter had a slightly interesting taste but the whipped regular butter couldn’t provide the good taste of butter.
The salmon and cucumber was dressed at the table with a sauce of oil and champagne. The cucumber was cut into long strips and wrapped around the salmon and salmon eggs. It was a nice dish.
The potato and coffee was topped with cheese and underneath was a layer of creamy luciousness.
The last amuse was served on the kitchen tour – a ball filled with goose liver, passion fruit and liquorice. It was a taste explosion and I could have eaten a handful.
Our first starter was a mackerel tartar with red cabbage and goat cheese. It was heavy on the ‘sour cream’ taste and I’d call it just okay taste-wise.
‘Dim sum’ was a pumpkin wrapped langoustine with passion fruit. The pumpkin was used like a pasta and contained some tasty pumpkin custard with the langoustine. It was further enhanced with a sauce made from the shells of the langoustine.
Grilled white asparagus are served with a mousseline sauce, chives and bottarga grated on the top. It got a very smokey taste and overall was quite nice. There was a bit of grit in the tip of the asparagus.
“Nigiri” was grilled squid with a sauce of different peppers and a bit of spice. The squid was very firm and enhanced with bacon, tomato and cucumber. It was really attractive and pleasant.
The main course was Presa Ibérico Stroganoff which was pork with bell peppers, shiraz sauce, mushrooms and olives. There were lots of flavors hidden below the pork which was covered with slices of mushrooms. The pork was exceptionally lean and had little taste on its own.
Our dessert was raspberry and roses inside of a crispy cookie crust. It was very good.
The dessert trolley had lots of choices and you were welcome to whatever you want. The chocolate pie with Rice Krispies was a favorite. Unfortunately they had no caramel anything.