A statement of Brussels’ cuisine
Filet américain, meaning American filet of beef when literally translated, aka américain préparé, is a major fixture in Brussels’ popular culinary tradition, in the same way as mussels are. Like mussels, filet américain should be served with a decent portion of Belgian fries and obviously, a pint of fresh Belgian beer. Only then will you be blessed with a flawless and authentically Brussels culinary experience.
It is Joseph Niels who brings filet américain to the table in the 1920s. The recipe is passed on to his grandchildren, current managers and owners of the family restaurant “Au Vieux Saint-Martin” where the famous signature dish of course takes pride of place on the menu.
No Brussels native will ever refer to it as “steak tartar”, a close but rather well-heeled version of Niels’s brainchild, neither will he or she mention its current trendy renditions such as Italian (with truffle oil and parmesan) or even Asian tartar. Make no mistake about it: we might have a gift for self-mockery but we do take our culinary traditions very seriously...
What do you need for a state-of-the-art filet américain?
Mind you, you do not necessarily need a master chef or particularly prestigious establishment to enjoy a top-notch filet américain.
We’d rather give you the main pointers for you to make out at first glance whether the dish you are served, will lead you to beef heaven... or not, regardless of where you are having your meal, whether a fancy restaurant or modest eating house.
First of all, credit where credit is due: the star ingredient is not just any filet of beef, it should be lean premium raw beef and freshly prepared, ideally in front of you. Genuine fresh Belgian chips and home-made mayonnaise will only “beef up” the feeling you have made the right choice. And if in addition you score pickled onions and capers, you are well on your way to 7th culinary heaven.
In some eating houses, filet américain comes deconstructed, or should we say, not yet constructed – all separate ingredients amongst which Worcester sauce, egg yolk and most certainly the notorious bottled hot sauce. They will conveniently let you put together your very own take on filet américain. The attempt can however prove disastrous unless of course you are privy to the secret mixing skills and able to strike that essential delicate balance. Needless to say, you should unquestionably prefer the dish to be prepared to your liking at your table by an attendant, chef or head waiter depending on the establishment.
You should also be aware that there are many recipes circulating and there are probably almost as many filet américain interpretations as there are Brussels natives.
Where should you go to enjoy the best filet américain?
At the risk of repeating ourselves: given the nature and the simplicity of the dish, chances are that every single Brussels resident will in all likelihood wholeheartedly suggest his or her favourite spot.
It is hard to keep track of all the places but besides “Au Vieux Saint-Martin” which stands out from a historical point of view, we name just a few that, we know for sure, will not disappoint you.
Restaurants specializing in beef generally serve noteworthy filet américain, for instance “Les Pavés de Bruxelles” or “Chez Maria”. Our large all-time favourite brasseries – such as “La Taverne du Passage or “L’Ommegang” – are a safe option. Do not hesitate however to go off the beaten track and pick any of the more conventional and old-fashioned neighbourhood café-restaurants such as for example “L’Estanquet”, “Le Villance”, “Le Chapeau Blanc” or “La Pergola”. And if you’d rather indulge in a gourmet adventure of sorts, pay a visit to Bozar Brasserie helmed by David Martin and Karen Torosyan.
A lunchtime cornerstone: Pistolet américain
Américain préparé is not restricted to dining out with friends in a restaurant. Come lunchtime, thousands of Brussels residents feast on américain préparé every day and have done so for generations... in its sandwich version (or baguette or round crunchy pistolet).
First and foremost go for home-made preparations that often have that extra bit of oomph to do the trick and brighten up your lunch! The possibilities are once again endless but américain préparé from “Rob” with its slight hint of mustard will most likely fit the bill and the same can be said for the baguette américain at “Le P’tit Normand” or the delicatessen américain-watercress at “Pistolet-Original”.
Whatever takes your fancy, we hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
Le Vieux Saint-Martin
Place du Grand Sablon 38 Grote Zavel, 1000 Brussels
T.: +32 (0)2 512 64 76
Aux Pavés de Bruxelles
Rue du Marché aux Fromages 1 Kaasmarkt, 1000 Brussels
T.: +32 (0)2 502 04 57
Avenue Clémenceaulaan 50, 1070 Brussels
T.: +32 (0)2 521 31 99
La Taverne du Passage
Galerie de la Reine 30 Koninginnegalerij, 1000 Brussels
T.: +32 (0)2 512 37 31
Brasserie de l’Ommegang
Grand-Place 9 Grote Markt, 1000 Brussels
T.: +32 (0)2 511 82 44
Avenue Winston Churchilllaan 148A, 1180 Brussels
T.: +32 (0)2 345 66 63
Boulevard du Souverain 274 Vorstlaan, 1160 Brussels
T.: +32 (0)2 660 11 11
Le Chapeau Blanc
Rue Wayezstraat 200, 1070 Brussels
T.: +32 (0)2 520 02 02
Avenue des Pagodes 445 Pagodenlaan, 1020 Brussels
T.: +32 (0)2 268 58 49
Rue Baron Hortastraat 3, 1000 Brussels
T.: +32 (0)2 503 00 00
Boulevard de la Woluwelaan 28, 1150 Brussels
T.: +32 (0)2 721 20 60
Le P’tit Normand
Rue de Taborastraat 5, 1000 Brussels
T.: +32 (0)2 513 00 93
Rue Joseph Stevensstraat 24-26, 1000 Brussels
T.: +32 (0)2 880 80 98