Jezus-Eik (Overijse), a small city south of Brussels, on the edge of the Sonian Forest, is the home of chef Alain Bianchin, one of the most well-known chefs in the area. Refinement, technical skill, passion and energy characterize his cooking style. He also likes to surprise guests with his eye for detail and a touch of showmanship. Connoisseurs and experts from all over the world find their way to Alain Bianchin’s restaurant and fall in love with his modern take on the gastronomic French-Belgian cuisine.
First stop of our S.Pellegrino Hungry Chef tour 2020
Each year, our collaboration with S.Pellegrino leads us to a number of interesting restaurants in Belgium and Luxembourg. This time we had the chance to discover Restaurant Alain Bianchin. With a recent 16,5/20 in the Gault&Millau guide and one Michelin star, this restaurant is a must visit if you’re into classic, yet surprising gastronomic cuisine.
Classic interior with a touch of luxury
Located in a beautifully renovated building in Jezus-Eik (Overijse), Restaurant Alain Bianchin boasts a classic and luxurious interior that matches the chef’s concept and cuisine. Everything in the restaurant is sophisticated, from the fresh stiffened white table linen and romantic candlelight to the interesting art pieces and beautiful tableware. The open kitchen grants a touch of spectacle, as guests can see the chef and his team filleting the fresh fish and preparing the meats à la minute. If you want to enjoy your dinner in a more private setting, the restaurant offers separate seating at the bar, as well as a chef’s table suited for groups up to 12 people. The staff seems fully in control during the service, with no trace of stress or pressure, ensuring a dining experience that makes guests feel right at ease.
Hungry Chef: meet chef Alain Bianchin
Becoming a chef was an obvious choice for the young Alain Bianchin: all he ever wanted to do was cook, so he did everything to achieve his goal and worked very hard to succeed. But where did he get his love for cooking from? Well, it was his godmother who inspired him. Although it wasn’t always easy for her – back in the day, there weren’t a lot of women chefs – she organised banquets and catered for communions and parties in their neighbourhood. One day, Alain and his godmother went grocery shopping, because they had to organise the catering for a communion with 20 guests. Unfortunately, she fell off her bicycle on the way to the supermarket, an accident caused by the young and playful Alain. So, his godmother was clear: the 11-year old Alain had to organise the catering on his own. Ironically, thanks to this unfortunate incident, he discovered his passion for cooking. So, the next logical step for Alain Bianchin was to go to culinary school… and the rest is history.
Hungry for More: Can you tell us a little bit more about your career? Which restaurants have you worked for and which masters have you learned your profession from?
Chef Alain Bianchin: After I graduated from culinary school, I worked for 3 years alongside chef Claude Dupont at restaurant Kinoo in Halle, where I learned all the basics. Then I went to Comme Chez Soi, in Brussels – awarded with three Michelin stars. That was a massive change for me: I was used to working in a kitchen, just me and my chef, and all of a sudden, I had 24 colleagues! Long days, short nights and a lot of stress: those were rough times, but I learned a lot. Afterwards, I started working at the Hilton Hotel, where I got the chance to organise banquets – it felt like following in my godmother’s footsteps. But it was more like a 9 to 5 job and after a while, my wife saw that I wasn’t cooking with the same passion that I used to. So, she arranged a job interview at Restaurant Barbizon and I ended up working there for 5 years. Then, I got the opportunity to work at Le Chalet de la Forêt in Brussels, which had just opened its doors. When I was 26 years old, I worked with Pascal Devalkeneer and together we managed to develop Le Chalet de la Forêt into a chic restaurant that had a perfect reputation and two Michelin stars, which was really a dream come true. At Comme Chez Soi, I had learned to cook under the rules of art, while at Le Chalet de la Fôret I could use my creativity and be innovative. It happened quite often that I had to invent a whole new dish à la minute. Eventually, that turned out to be the best exercise, because by working this way, we created some of the most iconic dishes of Le Chalet de la Forêt. From Pascal Devalkeneer, I also learned how to make several different dishes with the same ingredients, a skill I still use in my restaurant today. Thanks to his previous experience as an entrepreneur, he also taught me how to manage a restaurant – which turned out to be quite relevant when I started my own business.
Hungry for More: After your adventure at Le Chalet de la Forêt, it was time for a change?
Chef Alain Bianchin: Exactly. So, after twelve years at Le Chalet de la Forêt, I started working at La Villa Loraine. In the 70’ies, this was the first restaurant in Belgium to obtain three Michelin stars, but after a while, it lost a bit of its glory. Without being too pretentious, I would say that I brought back the innovation and inventiveness for which it was so renowned, while respecting classic cuisine traditions.
Hungry for More: And then, you decided to take the big step and start your own restaurant?
Chef Alain Bianchin: Indeed, after all those years working in other restaurants, in 2015 I felt it was time to open my own business. I discovered this place in Jezus-Eik (Overijse) and I immediately fell in love with it. It used to be a brasserie, so there was a decent infrastructure and kitchen. But for the rest, I started from scratch. In other restaurants, it’s obvious that you have to obey your chef’s orders and follow his philosophy. Here, I have the chance to do my thing and be creative in my own way. The freedom is what I really love about it. And within a year from opening, we got awarded with our first Michelin star. That proves that hard work pays off.
Hungry for More: Does Restaurant Alain Bianchin have a signature dish? Or do you have a favourite product that you love to use in your cuisine?
Chef Alain Bianchin: I think that our langoustines and oysters dishes are quite legendary. The oyster dish was already created at Le Chalet de la Forêt, but I wanted to do something more with it. So, I decided to smoke the oysters to add flavour and a dash of show. The same goes for the langoustine dish. By cooking them on a lava rock, the langoustine dish is not only a showstopper, but the fish also gets the perfect cuisson. Actually, the idea of both techniques came quite naturally.
Hungry for More: Where do you find the inspiration for new creations?
Chef Alain Bianchin: Much of my inspiration comes from the past. I also read many books and thanks to my photographic memory, I can remember pictures or recipes that I saw or read years ago. Even though these recipes are no longer up-to-date or don’t follow the current gastronomical trends, I can still get inspired by them.
Hungry for More: What are your ambitions and dreams for the future?
Chef Alain Bianchin: I will not beat about the bush, it’s really one of my dreams to get a second Michelin star at Restaurant Alain Bianchin. As a chef, I’ve already had the two stars back in the day, at Le Chalet de la Forêt, but now it would be extra nice, being the owner of the restaurant. And, of course, it would also be a great feeling for my team. But in Belgium, it’s not easy to get that second star and it’s also hard to keep it. Everything has to be perfect: the organisation in your restaurant, your staff’s technical level, and so on. In my opinion, it’s better to evolve slowly to that level, than to go too fast. You have to work together as a team towards that goal, and continuity is an important aspect of it. So, that’s what we’re trying to do here; we’ll see what the future brings.
Menu: the chef’s suggestions
At Restaurant Alain Bianchin, guests can enjoy different kinds of menus, like the ‘Menu Paragraphe’ or the ‘Menu Point à la Ligne’. As chef Alain Bianchin only works with fresh ingredients, the composition of the dishes can be different each day. We’re happy to follow his suggestions and sample the rich and unique style of chef Alain Bianchin’s cuisine.
We start off with a cold tea, to open up our palate.
The cold tea is accompanied by a selection of appetizers:
Fried pasta with daikon, rosemary and bergamot.
Textures of cauliflower with mustard à l’ancienne.
Our first dish is smoked mackerel, caviar Baeri ‘Royal Select’, creamy potatoes, sweet chestnuts and a gel of William pears.
The chef then serves us one of his signature dishes: smoked oysters of Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue with nori, iodised vinaigrette, green celery and lentils from Norcia.
To finish our selection of starters, we sample his famous langoustines cooked on a lava rock with shellfish steam, walnut paste, dried fennel flowers and a nougatine made of buckwheat and sesame.
Over to some high-quality meat. Our first main course consists of aged Holstein beef with eggplant, argan oil, smoked olive oil and a sauce made with Champonzu.
The Holstein beef is followed by a venison fillet from the Ardennes that is cooked and grilled over a wood fire. The venison fillet is accompanied by a poivradesauce, some autumn vegetables, cornel berry chutney and mountain pepper. This dish proves chef Alain Bianchin’s perfect mastery of meat cuisson.
Our first dessert is made of different kinds of citrus fruit, it offers the right amount of freshness and acidity after the main courses. It consists of creamy lemon, a crunchy side, marmalade, a culinary foam made of lemon, some candied lemon ‘cédrat’, a ganache mounted with yuzu and a tequila sorbet.
The second dessert is called ‘Sweet chestnuts’ and is inspired by the season. The dish consists of meringue soufflé, smoked sweet chestnut cream, hazelnut praliné and sweet chestnuts ice cream.
We finish our dinner with a selection of mignardises that goes perfectly well with a cup of coffee or tea.
At restaurant Alain Bianchin, you can enjoy classic French-Belgian cuisine with a unique twist and a touch of showmanship added by the chef himself. Chef Alain Bianchin’s expertise and creativity are reflected in every single dish. With its unforgettable cuisine, stylish interior and welcoming staff, this restaurant is definitely worth a visit.
Restaurant Alain Bianchin, Brusselsesteenweg 663, 3090 Jezus-Eik (Overijse), Belgium | + 32 2 657 67 88 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.alainbianchin.be | facebook.com/RestaurantAlainBianchin | instagram.com/bianchinalain
Interview: Sarah De Hondt
Text: Carline Roggeman
Photography: Adriaan Van Looy