JEF GhentYou know the drill: visit the restaurant’s website, leaf through their menus, scroll through some reviews on Tripadvisor, see how the plates look on Foodspotting (if somebody’s been there before of course).
Seems like Jason’s in poll position in the end. Looks a teeny weeny bit more exciting to us from behind our lazy laptops. But you know what, we’ll see tomorrow where the day (and the weather) leads us. We decide not to make any reservations for lunch.
So we hop on the train in the morning. Grey sky, rainy and wet landscapes. Nothing new. We arrive in Ghent 90 minutes later, drop off a piece of luggage at our hotel and hit the streets. It has stopped raining and the weather is surprisingly sweet.
After a cup of coffee somewhere our stroll takes us closer to the Patershol neighborhood. We find j.e.f. (stands for ‘Jason en Famke’) on our way around noon (FYI: tram 4 stops right in front of the door) and walk in.
Jason Blanckaert & Famke Dequidt
The staff behind the wooden counter shows us to the last table available. We’re lucky because 5 minutes later 2 women come in and ask the same but have to leave.We receive the lunch menu (€25) you can choose from: 2 starters, 2 mains and 2 desserts. Plain and simple, I like that. We quickly decide to go for both starters (pickled herring and ham) and mains (baked steak tartare and ray). The waitress – chef Jason’s girlfriend Famke we realised later on – says we’re absolutely right to taste all of the dishes, writes down our orders, brings us freshly baked bread (yum!) and 2 beers. How I adore popular restaurants that put a fine selection of beers next to their wine list!
We browse through the 16 Belgian beers of which 6 are served in small 33 cl bottles (Vedett, Duvel, Orval, Chimay…) with a price range between €2,5 and €4. The other 10 come in large 75 cl bottles: Rodenbach Vintage, kriek De Ranke, Augustijn… (€8 to €16). The wine list contains 20 bottles between €28 and €38 but most of these wines are also available per glass (€5,5 to €8). We go for an unknown Belgian ale De Ryck. Dry and pretty bitter we find out, perfect start for our light lunch!A little appetizer is put on the table: fresh goat’s cheese with raw beetroot, croutons and lovage oil. We get 2 tablespoons and don’t mind the sharing. Creamy, crunchy, peppery because of the lovage. Pure and simple. Excellent. The small place is packed now and the wine flows generously. Everyone seems to enjoy the food. I like the cozy atmosphere.
The starters arrive. My hubby gets 5 huge artichoke leaves topped with a mixture of diced pickled herring, apple, shallots. Well balanced, cool presentation.My starter consists of sliced juicy ham, mustard, egg yolk cream and a vinegary flat bean salad. The flavors and textures work wonderfully well together, stunning. Not long after our table is cleared our mains arrive.
Here’s what my hubby gets: 2 generous tablespoons of the smoothest and most flavorful ray I have ever eaten. The ray meat is scraped from the cartilage and accompanied by blanched strips of zucchini, silky and buttery potato mash and a little pool of velvety mousseline sauce. The salted caper crumble on top is a great find! Very delicate dish and fragile flavors but again prepared with a lot of care.I sip my glass of Orval beer and see what’s on the other side of the table: a lukewarm tartare of ground baked steak. Now this is interesting! The mixture of ground raw and baked beef is quite fascinating. Absolutely great! Also on this plate: shaved black radish, smokey grilled spring onion, pickled gherkin and 3 potato croquettes. Light and delicious. We lean back in our chairs with a smile on our faces. The waiter asks what we would like: a sweet dessert or cheese.
We both go for the sweet dessert and decide to go for a cup of coffee in town. Dessert is rice pudding. The pudding is surprisingly cold, that’s interesting! We can also taste a flavorful apricot coulis, creamy apricot ice cream, almond croutons and a sprinkle of grated almonds.A great ending for an even greater lunch menu. Thumbs up for JEF Ghent. What a culinary hattrick! €25? That’s a bloody bargain.
JEF Ghent is closed. Chef Jason Blanckaert has opened Aroy Aroy at the same address, which serves Thai inspired dishes.