Duck Confit Reuben with Brussel sprouts
Mussels and frites with baguette slices
Pan-seared pheasant, blood-orange gastrique, risotto made with mushrooms and Boursin, and butter-poached asparagus
Belgian waffle with raspberry coulis, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce and vanilla-bean ice cream
Low ceilings, dark wooden beams, a beautiful outdoor fireplace and beer garden seating, several cozy indoor dining rooms, a convivial bar area, and a replica of the manneken pis (the famous bronze fountain sculpture, located in Brussels, of a little boy relieving himself). This is Victoire, the Belgian-style beer bar located in Rochester’s trendy East End.
Says Head Chef Ryan Donalty, “Our mission is to bring Belgium, and its big-city feel, to the corridors of Rochester.”
It does so with authentic Belgian dishes like carbonnade, onion soup, and frites, but also by putting a continental spin on American classics—chicken wings and mac-and-cheese aren’t common on a Belgian restaurant menu, but you’ll find them here, albeit with continental influences.
For example, the duck confit Reuben, which is served on freshly toasted rye bread, with gruyere cheese, a spicy house-made 1000 Island dressing, and pickled cabbage. It’s a departure from the typical Reuben sandwich, and a delicious one. The duck confit is savory, even sultry; together with the vibrant dressing and cabbage, and the smooth mild cheese, this is far from anything you’d find at a deli or diner. It’s sophisticated and satisfying at the same time.
Mussels and frites are arguably the eatery’s signature dish. One pound of Prince Edward Island mussels, steamed and then tossed in one of eight different sauces, are served with baguette slices—which come in handy when you want to mop up every last bit of the sauce. I certainly wasn’t about to let any of the luscious Victoire sauce (caramelized onions, bacon, cream, white wine and scallions) go to waste. Each of the sauces, Donalty explained, is made to order. Other options include Provencal (tomato, garlic, basil and lemon); White (coconut milk, lime, lemongrass and cilantro) and Farmhouse Ale (leeks, bacon, blue cheese and spinach).
A generous cone of hand-cut frites, which can also be ordered ala carte, accompanies each order of mussels. Although you can get decent fries at a lot of places, what sets these apart is the variety of dipping sauces. If you’re like me, and feel that food is often just a vehicle for the accompanying condiment, you’ll be in heaven at Victoire. Choices include horseradish mayo, chipotle bacon mayo, sriracha mayo, lemon-tarragon aïoli, basil pesto aïoli and roasted garlic aïoli, among many others.
Wednesdays at Victoire are Wild Game Night, and I got to taste pan-seared pheasant with a blood-orange gastrique. The pheasant was meatier, heartier than chicken, but otherwise similar, with an incredibly crisp skin. The semi-sweet gastrique was balanced by a creamy, tangy risotto made with mushrooms and Boursin. Butter-poached asparagus, at once decadent but fresh, proved a perfect side.
Bacon and caramelized onions play supporting roles in what is truly one of the most outstanding side dishes I’ve ever tasted: Victoire’s roasted Brussels sprouts. If there had been anyone with me who wanted to share these sprouts, I would have stabbed them in the hand with my fork--that’s how good they are. Roasted so that they, like the onions, are slightly caramelized and sweetened, and without a trace of the bitterness that too often accompanies cruciferous veggies, these sprouts alone are worth the trip to Victoire.
I finished off my meal with a freshly made Belgian waffle. Crisp and light, the waffle was accented by a raspberry coulis, a salted caramel sauce, and a drizzle of chocolate sauce; vanilla-bean ice cream served as a palate cleanser between bites.
Victoire hosts something special each night of the week: Monday is half-price mussel night, while on Tuesdays you can try a flight, or tasting, of any four beers for $9. Ladies’ night is Thursday, with all entrees half-price for parties of four or more women. There are often beer tasting events, or beer-and-food pairings, on the weekends, while the happy hour at Victoire happens every day from 4-6, with half-price small plates—which includes those Dubbel-braised chicken wings and a charcuterie platter that’s perfect for sharing.
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