Hof van Cleve
May 23, 2011
Peter Goossens was the first of the modern Flemish chefs to achieve renown. His restaurant, Hof van Cleve, is out in the country about 25 kilometers south of Ghent. He started it in 1987, won its first Michelin star in 1995 and its third in 2005. It is now ranked 15th in the “World’s 100 Best Restaurants” list. Linda and I were joined there for dinner by Laurent on May 10, 2011.
We were seated by a window looking out over the countryside. We started with glasses of Jacques Lassaigne, Les Vignes de Montgueux, Champagne. Excellent.
This was followed by a quail egg with pork ragout on a thin toast crisp.
Then came a lettuce cream with sardines and leeks.
Finally, for the excellent amuse-gueules, hazelnuts, goat cheese and honey.
A big basket of various fresh breads was passed. One could choose butter or one of six olive oils to go with the bread.
We ordered the Menu “innovation et tradition.”
The very helpful sommelier helped us choose a bottle of 2002 Domaine J. M. Boillot Puligny-Montrachet. It was superb with an unusually strong fragrance for a white wine.
The first course was
BAR DE LIGNE
This was the first of several courses which came with little outrider plates, reminding us of Pierre Gagnaire. The dark green base was a watercress emulsion. Cooked and raw pieces of sea bass were on it with various small garnishes. The small plates were sort of a dashi and a fish crisp.
fenouil/crevettes de la mer du nord/câpres
The chunk of skate was garnished with little North Sea shrimp and a fennel stalk. A sardine topped a little pastry filled with a caper mousse. I can’t remember what was in the bowl below the frisée. In fact, the cuisine was so complicated, and our conversation so interesting, that I didn’t take many notes and have trouble now identifying many of the smaller items. Sorry. (In my descriptions, I am not constantly repeating how good it was; everything was very good.)
HOMARD DE L’ESCAUT DE L’EST
This course included both a cool and a warm dish featuring an exclusive Zeeland seasonal product, the Oosterschelde lobster from the Eastern Scheldt. This lobster is available from April until mid-June and is harvested in a sustainable manner with lobster pots. Its DNA is different from other lobsters, giving it a sweeter flavor. In the cool plate lobster meat is wrapped in thin ham slices; it is garnished with cucumber and a chervil sorbet. In the warm plate, big chunks of lobster are served with caulifolower and a lacquered piece of the sweet part of a chicken breast. We thought that the warm plate was outstanding.
At this point we had finished our Puligny-Montrachet and moved on to a 2002 Clos des 60 Ouvrées “La Pousse d’Or” 1er Cru Volnay. It was very good.
ASPERGES DES DUNES
foie gras/anguille de l’escaut de l’est/statice
Local seasonal white asparagus were accompanied by foie gras and ham. The second plate featured excellent local eel. I can’t remember what everything else was, but you can see in the photos that it was quite complicated. Superb.
VEAU “CORREZE” ELEVE SOUS LA MERE
morilles/mozzarella de buffle/citron
The main plate featured local milk-fed veal; the smaller plate featured seasonal morels.
The menu offered two desserts. Linda and Laurent chose to substitute the cheese trolley for the first one. Below is Linda’s cheese selection.
My first dessert was
Seasonal rhubarb seemed to be quite popular this week.
Dessert for all of us was
FRAISES « GARIGUETTES »
pistache/verveine/chocolat blanc « malaysia »
The pistachio block was on top of a white chocolate sauce. Strawberries and strawberry sorbet garnished the dish. I don’t remember what was in the little round gel. We were offered glasses of a delicious 2009 Wittmann Morstein Riesling Auslese with this dessert.
CHOCOLATS ET MIGNARDISES
The chef came out to talk with us during the mignardises. We chatted with him again outside the restaurant as we departed.
During our January trip in Flanders I found that the quite complicated cuisine worked well for me despite my preference for simpler, more direct, presentations. The complexity was magnified at Hof van Cleve by the multiple plates in many of the courses. But the combinations were well planned and successful. The ingredients were first class, many of them local and seasonal. This was certainly one of the very top meals of our year so far.