Cuines, 33 – Knokke-Heist, Belgium – January 2014

Knokke-Heist and the areas north and south of it are VERY popular for Belgium, Luxembourgish and I guess Dutch families who spend week-end after weekend driving here to enjoy the sea-side. So what has Knokke-Heist got to offer besides kilometers of sandy beaches. Definetely a handful of what from the outside seems like nice restaurants. At least some of them looked rather inviting. The price level however, very much close to the level of Luxembourg which was a bit surpricing. Half a portions of mussels in nearby Bruges the day before – ordered as a main dish, normally priced for a starter at 19,75 Eur – with a surcharge of 5 eur on top of that price because of it being served as a main dish seemed a bit over the top. And Knokke-Heist kept up that price level it seemed in most places.

If you take the advise of Tripadvisor, where I have sometimes been VERY disappointed 🙂 – on the third spot you will find Cuines, 33

I still do not know the meaning of the name, except for the fact that it is situated in Smeedenstraat 33, but the pictures of the food and the homepage looked so impressive that this one was an easy choice. Add the fact that on all week-days and Saturdays they have an offer of 3 courses lunch menu for 35 eur. It holds one michelin star, and has only been open for 2 years. I predict there are more stars ahead for the talented chefs in number 33.

The view from the outside in the small street looks very modern with the glass wall between old fashioned houses.

Smeedenstraat 33

Smeedenstraat 33

The lounge is with bright multi-coloured furniture and a posh bar leading to the dining room where a glass-covered wall toards the kitchen makes the customers see how little stress is needed to produce magic.

The lady in red...

The lady in red…

The amazing bar

The impressive bar

The bar – besides one page of cocktails – a second page of the bar menu revealed a good 40 different gins.

"Gin Gin"

“Gin Gin”

The missus and I both being gin “freaks” these days, these were all quite tempting, but we managed to fight the temptation – at least for a couple of hours.

The semi-open kitchen

The semi-open kitchen

Hard to remember all the different food we got, but since the specialitiy of the kitchen is tapas – before the actual menu we simply “had to” order a plate of 3 vegetarian tapas to share. The theme of these tapas changes according to the chef I spoke to, sometimes Indian, sometimes Spanish :-), sometimes as in our case heavily Japanese/Asian inspired. I do not remember all the details we were explained about the dishes, so I shall let most of the photos more or less speak for themselves.

The gluten issue of the missus was repeatedly acknowledged whenever an amuse or a dish was served, it was pinpointed if and why it was different. They did that VERY well and very convincing.

While we were sipping the first sip of our New Zealand Chardonnay, which was very rich and fat and not as slim as I normally find NZ Chardonnays – the first taster arrived. And it would set the tone in what was to be a stunning level of amuses and tapas.

Black olives

Black olives

What a masterpiece. It all just melted in your mouth. I would eat them every day if only I could.

Round 2 - Cod ...I think and celary root

Round 2 – Cod …I think and celary root

My bread, nice wooden basket, great bread

My bread, nice wooden basket, great bread

Round 3 – Avocado mint bisquit.

What a nice range of amuses that was. No wonder we were already in heaven. All light – all with a purpose, lots of details and taste. 10p

So next up the selection of tapas for 25 Eur – mind you we shared that selection and there were easily enough for the two of us.

Tapas 1 – a Cuines, 33 beauty

IMG_7482

Tapas 2 – Pumpkin / Carrot

Asian mushrooms, parmesan risotto

Tapas 3 – Asian mushrooms, parmesan risotto

Great tapas, great little dishes as good or even better than the amuses – I mean – as good as it gets. 10p

So the menu could start – although the missus was already starting to be not so hungry anymore 🙂

Beef Tartare

Beef Tartare

My starter, Very nice again, great level, but not as interesting or daring in taste as all of the tasters before 8p

???

Calamares, cucumber, Olives

The starter of the missus. Again the 33 is incorporated into the dish 8p

Veal

Veal

Nothing to complain about – again only the fact that is was not as interesting as the starter or the amuses and tapas – it did simply not blow me away or tickle my senses. 7.5p

Vegetarian alternative

Vegetarian (Fish) alternative, heart mussels

I think the fact that they for such a low priced menu, without a fuss changed both starter and main dish to please the vegetarian status of Astrid – only shows how good they are at 33 and what they are aiming at. Even though the fish was cooked perfectly, Astrid as well found the amuses and starters more innovative, fresh and daring.. 7.5p

Chocolate and nuts

Chocolate and nuts

Sweet little something, 7.5p

- and last round of beauties

– and last round of beauties

What do you say to all that. Mostly wauw. With the last round of sweets we were back at the G&T card 🙂

Astrid opted for a Geranium – which was described as flowerish, and the rose leaves added to that impression. Mine was a French and very smooth Nolet´s. GREAT finish to a great lunch.

The recommendation of our maitre

The recommendation of our maitre

Half full....

Half full….

My conclusion:

I do not care who is number 1 and 2 on the list of Tripadvisor in Knokke-Heist. Either they must be outstanding or the list is wrong. Cuines, 33 is in my view very very good and comes highly recommended. Next time, and I sure hope to be back – I will opt for only tapas. They were amazing. The starter and especially the main dish of our lunch menu was a little set-back. Not because they were bad or not well done. But because the bar had been set too high I guess, and they then came over as rather traditionally. Still If you take the menu as such, with the amount of amuses, starter, main dish, dessert, after desserts stuff – the 35 Eur seems like an offer hard to beat anywhere I know of.

I think this little pearler one fine day will see a second star shining, if they keep up that level and adjust a little here and there. But stars are no real measurement is it?. Cuines, 33 – I salute you. You do a GREAT job in making your customers feel very welcome and very well taken care of. The service and attention of the staff was just about what you can expect from a 1 star restaurant and with hardly any flaws. Maybe a bit on the laid back and easy-going side, but that is how we like it anyway.

I do not give top score for the ambience, even though I liked it very much (it was even awarded best designed restaurant in 2013), simply because I found the distance between the tables too little. It gave a dining room feeling like in a Trattoria in Rome, but I just prefer a little more space between me and other guests.

But a great thanks to all the staff on the floor and to the guys in the kitchen that made this lunch certainly one to remember. We sure hope to be back.

My quality / price rating for this visit:

Food 9p (10), service 4.5p (5), ambience 4.5p (5), 18p (20).

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