At almost EUR 80 per person (including booking fees), Culinaria 2013 has been a bit of a disappointment. I wanted to love it as I did in the past, but the fact that I went home hungry, made it very difficult…
The disappointment takes away from the motivation to comment, and hence the delay in posting and short review this time. In a nutshell: Too expensive (poor value), few stands for a food fair (less than in the past, making the event almost exclusively about the Michelin-starred meal, and leaving litttle room for other exploration), underwhelming food (ok, but no wow-factor – looked better than it tasted), tiny portions (amuse bouche size, or entree-sized at the best).
Take a look at the photos and comments for more details:
The food pavilion, much smaller than in past editions. On the positive side, even though the event was sold out, it did not feel too crowded and lines were never too long. The service was efficient and friendly.
The entrance gives you the right to pick one mise en bouche out of four options. Here pictured: green asparagus with chlorophyl and wild herbs by Chef De Backer (Beurre Noisette). Ok but nothing amazing (as was the case with all dishes we tasted).
This gives you a better idea of the size of the mise en bouche.
Mise en bouche: Gaufrette de cabillaud by Stefan Jacobs (Va Doux Vent)
At the entrance, you get your tickets for one mise en bouche, 5 meals (to pick from 10 stands/chefs), two dessets (no choice), one Campari apero, 3 glasses of wine or beer, one beer, and a coffee. The floor plan also lists the menu items per stand. There are also a few stands selling fresh oysters, cooking equipment, bread, meat, cheese, books, etc. but they were small and few. The area for workshops also seemed small and less highlighted than in the past.
Each chef/restaurant has a stand. Here: Laury Zioui from L’Eveil des Sens.
And here is his “meal”: foie gras and shrimp with nice Kalamansi and kumquat sauces, but unfortunately only half-bite portions… If this is the size of a “meal”, I would need 15-20 of them to feel like I’ve had a proper lunch. Unfortunately, we only get 5!
Plenty of room to sit or stand to eat.
Chef Kamo preparing his crab flan dish.
The team at the stand of L’Hostellerie St. Nicolas preparing their beef, foie gras and fried puree dish.
Chef Sang Hoon Degeimbre’s tartare de veau at the stand for L’Air du Temps
The dessert by Joost Arijs is lined up, waiting for the final touch of sorbet to be added once the diners arrive
Pierre Marcolini’s stand
And his “Mushroom Street” creation
Arabelle Meirlaen was one of the chefs who made a greater effort to make her stand special. She was also one of the few to offer a small piece of bread with her meal. Two editions ago, all stands included bread (and larger portions).
The plastic plate sits on a paper bracelet that has the recipe for the chef’s dish. Nice touch.
Meirlaen’s vegetable dishes are always fresh and light. This was a nice pick.
The presentation was so-so, but this lotte pochee by Benoit Dewitte was probably the best dish among the ones we tasted.
Flan au crabe by chef Kamo. This is one of the few dishes that clearly linked to the “Street food” theme. It had the look and taste of street food, but at the same time made me think it’s a shame to ask these chefs to make street food (and some must have felt the same way, as their dishes seemed little inspired by the theme…)
Tastes like a nice homemade Japanese broth, but again, no wow-factor.
Chef Julien Burlat from Dome prepared a nice-looking deluxe hot dog.
A bit difficult to eat. Tasty, but I still prefer an original German bratwurst bought on the street…
Chef Giovanni Bruno’s salmon pane e panelle.
Joost Arijs’ passion fruit and mango macaron with white chocolate (above) and Marcolini’s Mushroom Street (below)
To end on a positive note: The Street food concept was not bad, but the execution needed much . If you want to see how it is indeed possible to reinvent dishes and amaze eyes and palates, check out Sergi Arola’s fantastic reinterpretation of traditional Spanish tapas if you are ever in Madrid. One of the best meals I have ever had.