Nuance is a small place in Duffel – a short train ride from Antwerp. Thierry Theys is the chef of this 2 star Michelin restaurant which he started in 2008 with his wife Sofie who manages the service part of the house. She not only brings out the food but gets by to visit with every table to welcome them. They make a great team, so young (they started Nuance at 21 years of age) and yet very capable. If you’ve read many of my write ups you know I’m a nut for flavor with appearance being secondary. This place managed to pull off both spectacularly. I can’t remember when I’ve so enjoyed looking through my photographs to chose which ones to include and yet so fondly remember the flavors of the experience. They offer a 6 course tasting menu with optional wine pairings or an a la carte menu.
While sipping a glass of champagne (20 euros per glass, which fine sommelier Steven Wullaert topped off while we munched) they brought several snacks: a tomato with rice puffs stuck to the outside was tart, crisp and great and beef tartar inside a crisp roll was fun and delicious. We chose the tasting and the pairings.
The snacks continued with a beignet stuffed with Peking duck which was amazing and had a truly great sauce.
A parmesan mushroom was topped with cous cous and surrounded by a sauce of chervil and lemon leaf. It was great and had a wonderful mushroom taste.
An oyster with jalapeños, cucumber, something creamy and elderflower was not spicy but just plain good. The oyster was from Holland and was a perfect bite.
The tasting started with green asparagus with a cream of browned butter, cream of lemon and a crab sauce. The second dish was the meat of the crab surrounded by a soup of asparagus. An amazing set of tastes that all blended and complimented one another. The dots of lemon and butter mixed well with the asparagus which worked great with the crab. Terrific course.
Breads were a selection of spelt, brioche, white and one other. All were quite good but the spelt was outstanding and the brioche nicely buttery. Butter was either regular or goat’s milk (long rectangle).
The langoustine, both raw and cooked, was paired with Jerusalem artichoke broth and marinated vegetables. Underneath was a pile of nicely spicy red rice that mixed totally well with the other ingredients. This one was a lick-the-plate dish for sure.
Sea bass was served with fennel, squid, avocado and lemon vinaigrette. The fish was cooked perfectly almost getting the “stick” of nicely cooked salmon. An excellent mix of flavors and a perfect portion size.
Pigeon was the last savory dish and the red wine served with it was in glasses that had to lay on the table as they had no base. Different, fun and functional! The pigeon was served with a natural sauce with chicken and plated with chickpeas (hummus), chanterelles, pigeon liver and Romanesco. It was nicely rare, tender and blended great with the other ingredients. Another winner.
For dessert we were served 2 dessert wines to mix and match with the desserts. First dessert was meringue with blackberries, lychee and cream patissiere. The combination of sweet, crunch and creamy was delightful.
The second dessert was chocolate, praline, miso, yogurt cream, yuzu, coffee ice cream and blown sugar. It was really fun to look at and another great combination of flavors and textures. Sweet, chocolate, butter, creamy – what’s not to like?
With coffee come more treats a lemon cake, marshmallow with grapefruit, raspberry macaroons, bar of macadamia nuts and chocolate and cake of vanilla and orange blossom. All terrific and a perfect finish for a fabulous meal.