L’air du temps is in an old farm house about an hour train ride from Brussels and then a 30 minute cab ride from Namur station. The good sized dining room is in one of the many buildings on the compound and had floor to ceiling windows on three sides that overlook some of the gardens. I understand that some of the other buildings offer lodging if you want to stay out there. The restaurant has a 2 star Michelin rating and the room has a contemporary feel with swirling wood decorations covering the ceiling and low pile gray carpeting, both of which dampen sound. They had upholstered chairs that I did not find particularly comfortable – they felt too hard. The good sized, white cloth covered tables are widely set and minimally decorated. The back wall is mostly cabinets except for the glassed in passage to the kitchen. Piped in bird sounds are in the background. They offered 2 tasting menus and an a la carte menu. There was a special smaller option for lunch only. Pacing was pretty good and portion control was excellent. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic pairings are offered. We chose the smaller tasting and ordered our own wine. Chef Sang-Hoon Degiembre was in house and came out to chat with guests as well as present some of the dishes. He is from South Korea but is now a Belgian citizen. The Korean letter that seems to be a symbol of the place is the first letter of his name and also the world for world in the Japanese alphabet.
We started with a Negroni as we pondered the choices and snacked on a thin slice of crisp bread that was hanging above the table. It was pretty tasty and really crisp. They wanted you to eat many of the first bites with your hands to better experience the food.
White asparagus slices from Mechelen with violet and liquorice were the next snack. They were tender and mild in flavor but very attractively presented.
Carrots with parsley gel, onion, ponzu and Japanese spices and herbs were a bite on a spoon. They had a strong herby taste and the carrots were sweet. It was a fun bite.
Radishes were filled with smoked Maquée cheese, a fresh local cheese. The radish or filling had a bit of spice and tasted of olives. That flavor could have been the result of the ‘dirt’ they were sitting on though. This bite was sweet and tender and the radish was not hot.
Potatoes, onion, chili pepper, turnip and kohlrabi made up the onion pie. It had a lovely onion flavor with a good crunch to it and a great aftertaste.
The Dainty Morsels section started with Chlorophyll which was made from comfrey, katsuobushi and buckwheat. It had a fishy undertone with a creamy bottom part and a crispy top. All I can say is it was weird and not a favorite.
Fried wonton of black pudding was mildly flavored. It had a sweet barbecue sauce and was not at all greasy. The wrapper got a good crisp to it and it was nicely filled. I’d call it fairly tasty.
Bread was a round loaf of yuzu sourdough with a sweet butter and a creamy one of ponzu. The bread had a nice crisp crust and a dense, doughy interior. It was good. The ponzu butter was interesting but I preferred the sweet butter.
Chef came out to start the white asparagus in the charcoal cooker on each table. Then while it cooked we had a combination of radish, fresh cheese and juice of fermented vegetables. It was mildly herby and tasty – a good mix of textures and flavors.
The white asparagus were cooked in an herb water with garlicscapes and herbs and then served on a Savagnin sauce that was decorated with crisp bits of chicken skin. It was a very good dish. I did worry about its preparation though, as our timer went off and it was unattended to for some time but fortunately it was not overcooked.
Vitello “anchoillo” was veal from Lothar Vilz and served with bacon and turnip. Anchovy, spinach and preserved elderberries were also in the mix. The veal was sliced very thin, rare and tender. The spinach was really tender young leaves and something crunchy was in the bottom of the bowl. It was a tasty combination and the anchovy was a minor component. Lardo was in the dish and I think got translated into bacon but it was definitely lardo and made in house. This was a fun one.
Lamb was laqué with wild garlic and curry – they use all parts of the animal. The leg meat was in a roll that was glazed and topped with white garlic flowers and two great sauces, one of which was a garlic sauce and the other lamb jus. On the side was a small bowl with radish sticks, flowers and garlic shoots. It was very fresh, and tasty. The first shoots from a pine tree were with the lamb chop. It had a good bit of fat on the rare, tender and juicy meat. The last portion was the fatty, crispy part of the lamb served with curry seasonings. This was the best part to me – filled with wonderful flavors and textures. They brought out a wet towel (one of the kind that expand when you pour water on them) for you to clean up after this set.
There were 4 parts to the dessert. One was a gold chocolate ball that had a crisp crackly exterior made of caramel surrounding a chocolate gananche. It was the best. Yogurt rice chips were flavored with mint and liquorice. A biscuit made with cream beer had a hint of bitterness to it. Another biscuit was a softer cookie topped with seeds and stuffed with caramel. It was okay.
A dessert trolley finished the meal. It had a range of ‘lollipops’. I chose white chocolate with caramel and chocolate with coffee. Also a cream puff with pistachio and sugar, a pastry strip and a canelé. They were all fine with the canelé being outstanding. My husband got the passionfruit and coconut popsicles. The pastry strip was pretty good.