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Pheasant on vine leaf at restaurant JB in Brussels

Twenty years a Bib Gourmand

Written byRobartus

16/12/2016

Around the corner from high end shopping temples such Chanel, Sonia Rykiel and Delvaux, restaurant JB occupies a modestly sized, but strategically located space just off Place Louise. The characters J and B are a remainder of the days when the former owner forged a bond with J&B Whisky distilleries in London. The restaurant exclusively served J&B’s whisky, in return they could use J&B’s name. But after becoming a part Diageo, around 2000, things turned sour and the restaurant was forced to sever ties. It salvaged its name by dropping the ampersand, an incarnation of which is now incorporated in the logo and the napkin rings. JB still serves several brands of whisky, quite prominently displayed, but no J&B’s. I don’t drink whisky, but the new arrangements seem to me more beneficial for the customer.

Bib Gourmand
The two brothers Van Ruyskensvelde and their wives took over their father’s business. One brother is in charge of the kitchen; the other oversees the front of the house. They have two main goals, the latter brother tells me. Their first aim is to hold on to their Bib Gourmand, the qualification that Michelin hands out annually to eateries that provide a good, mostly three-course menu for a reasonably price, in Belgium currently at maximum 37 euro. The easy-going, middle-aged host (an almost stereotypical Belgian epicurean: rotund, trimmed grey beard, informal shirt) proudly informs me that JB has been awarded a Bib Gourmand for twenty uninterrupted years, ever since the lip-licking mascot was introduced in 1997.

The Van Ruyskensveldes’ second aim is, and how else could it be, to keep meeting the expectations of their faithful clientele. The diners at JB were an eclectic mix of mainly middle-aged people that provided an interesting contrast with the modern paintings against the off-white walls. I guess there was the odd diplomat or tourist, but otherwise there were mostly conservatively dressed, comfortably situated locals.

Dining Room at JB

Crisp vine leaf
JB may be meeting its goals, but how was their food? We obviously tried out the menu that underpins their Bib. For every course we had a choice of two different dishes.
We were started off with an appetizer of aged Iberico ham and some smoked capers.
Our starter was a traditional tuna tartar with avocado, spiced up with lime, pink peppercorns, a sliver of red chili and samphire. The ingredients seemed fresh, a prerequisite for such a dish, and the taste combinations were good. Our accompanying William Fevre Chablis 2013, with tones of apple and citrus, turned out to be a good choice.
More exciting was the main course, a copious piece of seasonal pheasant. It was succulent, an achievement in itself, and served with a time-honored combination of apple, cranberry, endives and celeriac. A vine leaf, dark red, almost black, on which the bird was roasted, gave the dish crispiness and livened up the presentation. A glass of Pillot Chassagne Montrachet 2013 was a good friend to the pheasant.

Tuna tartar on avocado

For dessert we were treated with another classic: apple pie and vanilla ice cream. The crust of shortbread was slightly soggy, but it carried lots fruit and was generously portioned.

JB is a good address for traditional French-Belgian cooking and a friendly night out. Holding on to a Bib Gourmand for so many merits praise. The dishes were well prepared but made us long for the seemingly more interesting a la carte offering. Fortunately, the chef had added some surprising details to keep us from falling in a culinary sleep. As you may expect from a Bib Gourmand, we got a good meal for a reasonable price. For the long run, I would recommend to attract some younger diners. A faithful clientele is important, but over time they get old.

* Michelin confirmed to me that the Bib Gourmand was introduced in 1997, also in Belgium. They couldn’t endorse however that JB had received a Bib ever since. I have no reason not to believe them though.

Restaurant JB
Grotehertstraat 24 – Brussel (Belgium)
rue du Grand Cerf 24 – Bruxelles (Belgium)
T: +32 2 512 0484

Michelin: Bib Gourmand
three-course menu € 37,-

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