onight I wanted to cook the horse meat in the freezer like how my mother cooks it. Our family is from the Marinduque and we have local dishes which are not prepared in the same way like on other islands in the Philippines. I searched Google for a recipe but couldn’t find one so I told the husband “I might have to cook this from memory.”
I still can taste the deep flavours of melt in the mouth porkbelly I had for lunch at FG Food Labs last Friday. That kind of dish that can blow you away in its simplicity can only come from a Michelin chef. And until we were seated I didn’t know that FG Food Labs is owned by the same chef at FG Restaurant in Lloydkwartier – Chef François Geurds.
I recognized the logo when I got to my table. I knew that I had seen that somewhere and true enough, I searched my email and found that I am still subscribed to FG Restaurant’s newsletter.
I first tasted Chef Geurds’ magic years ago when FG Restaurant was still called Ivy, back then a one-star Michelin restaurant. I remember having their 11-course tasting meal and kept on wishing that I’d have enough money to eat there again but never got around to. The lunch last Friday was spontaneous because it was the end of the work week and FG Food Labs is only 10 minutes away by bike from my workplace. If you are familiar with Katshoek street in Rotterdam, you’d know that it’s not the chicest part of town. So it’s quite surprising to find a Michelin star chef cooking here.
What’s not surprising however is the news that Chef Geurds now has two stars under his belt, already for almost a year. But at Ivy, I did not meet him. This time I did and I was more surprise by how young he is (or how he looks).
Anyway, back to FG Food Labs. Because the restaurant is located under a viaduct, the Hofpleinviaduct, the interior looks like a tunnel and the back of the restaurant is decorated with a huge photo of a railway under a tunnel, giving the open kitchen a cool 3D effect. There were at least five young cooks busy at the kitchen that day but unfortunately only one waitress and the barman.
We skipped the appetizers and went straight for the main course. It was lunch time and we didn’t have the luxury of a long meal. However we still get an amuse which was some kind of rice crackers with squid’s ink (if I remember it correctly). It was good but not better than the generous plate of bread and cheesy crisps on the table.
My meal was the most divine pork belly dish I’ve had so far, even better than the crispy pork belly that my husband loves to prepare (that’s saying a lot). It was served with a side dish of mashed pumpkin and a sauce I forgot to ask. I was more interested in the way that the pork belly was prepared. I paired it with a 2010 Tempranillo and of which vineyard I forgot to note down because I was so engrossed looking around the restaurant .
Brita, our waitress was talking a bit too fast for my Dutch but from what I can remember, the meat was marinated in some basic ingredients and cooked for several hours in water. Then it was cooked in Mibrasa oven for more hours. Later at home, I searched about Chef Geurds and found this article about how to prepare pork belly, as quoted from www.debuikvan.nl:
“Wash the pork belly in vinegar water, rinse then marinate it in olive oil, salt, pepper, laurel leaves and garlic. Cook it in the oven for twelve hours at 70 degrees. Then cook in the grill for a few seconds to make the fatty part crispy. Make a salt crust of coarse salt around the pork belly and put it on the barbecue under a hood and cook througout 120 degrees.”
We finished our meal with a plate of cheese for me and a banana drop (famous Dutch candy) jelly for my companion which is the most interesting creation in that whole meal. The first time I tasted drop, I spit it out two seconds after it touched my tongue but this dessert was so delicious that I wanted to exchange plates with my companion. All the more reason to come back to FG Food Labs.
It’s in the details
Eating in a good restaurant is not just about the meal, it’s the overall experience. This is what I’ve experience even in non-star restaurants in Antwerp like The Glorious,which got their first star this year and Restaurant Raven which am sure would have gotten a star had it not closed down. You will feel special while eating there and their attention to details is very noticeable.
For example, the high chairs at FG Food Labs has a little compartment under it which I presumed is for the women to put their bags on because the tables are not very wide. And the bar man (or sommelier am not sure) recommended a very nice glass of (Graham) port that was not on the wine list because I couldn’t decide which dessert wine to take. You can say that they may want me to pay extra but at least they talk to you about what you are in the mood for and spend time to actually check what they have that may please you.
And flowers, fresh flowers. Because I frown upon pricey restaurants in the Netherlands that have fake flowers on their tables. After all, this is the Netherlands, famous for its flower industry.
That’s usually what you are paying for in very good restaurants. In addition of course to the genius creations of chefs like François Geurds
Although I am not saying that all pricey restaurants are good restaurants.
Some minus points
However, not all is perfect. The food took a long time to arrive which was also what remembered when I ate at Ivy. And the crisps (what kind of crisp I forgot) on my mashed pumpkin were not crispy and I know that they were meant to be crispy. I know that there’s a construction going on in the FG Shop next door, where the toilet is located, but the toilet need a lot of improvement.
But those are minor things which am sure the chef and his staff would try to avoid if they can.
I was a little disappointed when I asked Chef Geurds for a photo with me and said he first need to talk to his boys at the kitchen. He walked away after that and I did not want to bother him any longer. But when he walked pass by the FG Shop and saw me, he asked if I still want a photo with him. And walked me to his kitchen to have a photo with all the boys who were all very enthusiastic. And even though you leave with a hole on your pocket, you leave smiling.
FG FOOD LABS
3032 AE Rotterdam
+31 (0)10 425 0520