Ranked  #29 on the San Pellegrino list of the top 50 restaurants in the world, Oud Sluis is set in the small town of Sluis which is just over the Belgian border in Netherlands. Sluis is no country town. We had biked there from Bruges the day before our reservation (a beautiful 1hr bike ride along canals and through several other small towns- including Damme, where Liz is convinced Jean Claude Van Damme must be from) and found that the few small streets were lined with fairly pricey international brands. Seems like a vacation town for wealthy Germans and assorted Scandinavian travelers. Oud Sluis reflected this sensibility by being far more modern than we expected. We were prepared for a converted farmhouse with antique furnishing but were met with minimalist decor and trendy fixtures. The food also had this vibe, with the dishes being much more inventive and daring then Hof Van Cleve.  Not only did the kitchen seem like it was pushing the envelope a bit more, but they were having fun with the experience (as exemplified by the iFoie – the piece of foie gras layered with green apple in the shape of the Apple logo). Of course, that would all be worthless if the food didn’t taste good, but every flavor on the plate stood out. Even the iFoie, which could have easily been a kitschy flavorless catastrophe, was delicious.

That said, our experience here ended in tragedy: we were incapable of finishing our meal. We had a 7pm reservation and had to cut our dinner short at 12:45. Yes, that’s right, we threw in the towel and left after almost 6 hours. 2/3 of the way through the dessert courses and before any petits fours and assorted chocolates, coffee, or after dinner drinks. For the most part service was fantastic, but after the main courses finished and it was time for cheese and then dessert, we were more or less abandoned for two intervals of 30-45 minutes. Hard to know what happened but I’m guessing that at the time we were to have dessert there were several other tables that were approaching this stage in the meal and the kitchen may have decided that it made more sense to put us all on the same schedule.  Unfortunately for us the others had arrived far later than us and there was a significant lag between our paces, such that we had to wait a very long time for our cheese and then a very long time for our first dessert. Or maybe they just forgot about us. As much as Liz likes talking to me, if it’s 11:30 and she’s just eaten a 10 course meal and drank a lot of wine, sitting in a comfy chair for half hour will put her right to sleep. Once the desserts came I made an effort to push things along, but it was too late. We asked for the check and headed home.

Service foibles aside, we loved the food and the setting so we are willing to give their mistakes a pass. Below you will find pictures of the meal but, unfortunately, in our haste to leave the restaurant we left our menus behind. I’ll refrain from any descriptions so as not to butcher what they actually are. I will note the standouts, though:

amuse bouche #1

amuse bouche #2

The third amuse bouche was a beer macaroon with some kind of fish tartare. It dissolved almost immediately after touching your tongue but left a sweet and bitter flavor that absorbed into the fish. Very, very good.

crab?

clams with fried cous cous?

The crispy texture of the fried cous cous went perfectly with the big slimy, chewy clams.

??

The contrast in textures was taken to a new level with this dish with the pop rocks. They snap, crackled and popped alongside the chewy baby shrimp, the creamy mayo, and the icy sorbet.

too good to wait

You know a dish is good when I don’t remember to take the picture before eating it.

Same thing happened with this langoustine.

We were skeptical at first, but now this has become the desktop background for my macbook. It just tasted so damn good.

The Belgian and Dutch must love pigeon. It was on nearly every menu at the nice restaurants we went to.

then we waited...

then we waited...

....and waited...

....and waited...

...and waited.

...and waited.

Finally the cheese came. At around 11:30.

And the first dessert at around 12:15…

It’s a shame we missed the last dessert because the first two delivered in both form and flavor. Very attractive presentations and with strong but not heavy tastes. Overall the food here ranks close to the best we’ve had at any of the restaurants on the San Pellegrino list. Not quite as creative as Alinea, L’Astrance, or Fat Duck and not quite as tasty and fun as St John or Calandre.

If you go, be sure to stay in the restaurant’s hotel. They rent three rooms out of a beautiful home a mile outside of town, and provide complimentary shuttle service to and from the restuarant. Called Chico Y Luna, each room has a backyard overlooking  a cow pasture. Beware, if you are not up by 6:30 these cows will wake you up. Mooing at the tops of their lungs approximately 20 feet away from your back door. Screaming, really. That said, it was truly beautiful and the breakfast was as creative and tasty as the dinner.