‘T Zilte is more than a restaurant where one can eat well. It is clearly a very beautiful and dare one say breathtaking establishment. Located in the top floor of the futuristic building that houses both the restaurant and the MAS in Antwerp, it offer s diners a view over the vast harbour and the city. The design is in line with the cooking here: resolutely modern and to the point. This helps the atmosphere, which is both informal and genuinely warm.
To make things clear, ‘T Zilte is a restaurant in which no expense has been spared to make it stand out from the competition both nationally and internationally. Apart from the beautiful room, the stemware is of rarely found quality and the kitchen employs no fewer than 17 cooks. Not many restaurants open with such serious costs these days, kudos to Viki Geunes for such a daring move.
Luckily enough, his gamble paid off and his restaurant is full most of the time. If he has a keen eye for interior design, one can also see that he has taste when it comes to the design of his plates. These are complex creations that are always incredibly beautiful. Of these intricate compositions one ought to mention a re-interpretation of the bouillabaisse. Geunes serves it with crayfish tails, artichokes, squid and a cream that bursts with the classical flavours of rock fish stock. It is a dish that is both subtle and full of flavour at the same time. The textures and flavours are in perfect balance and combine to create a plate of food that really makes you think of a traditional bouillabaisse, whilst clearly not being classical.
Another remarkable dish is a combination of langoustine, sweetbreads and endive. Here, Geunes showcases one of his cuisine’s emblematic elements: Bitterness. At a time when few chefs use bitter ingredients in their dishes, they feature prominently at ‘T Zilte. In this dish, they help to balance the sweetness of the langoustines and the richness of the sweetbreads. The bitterness somehow ties the two products together, creating a highly complex and compelling mouthful. On the side, a little plate features a langoustine tartar with mustard ice cream and a sweetbread set-cream. This is no less concentrated and fascinating, as it is the mustard that binds those two elements together; a beautiful dish that can hardly be improved.
A third dish that ought to be pointed out is a one featuring Galician beef, aubergine and anchovies. This is certainly a more classical combination, but is done so beautifully that one can hardly get enough of it. Here, the beef really stands out, with its rich and full flavour. To go with it, a deep-fried anchovy adds not only texture, but also an intense saline kick that lifts things up and seems to intensify the flavours of the beef even more. The other elements, most notably the aubergine, add an earthy, slightly sweet element that simply works with the meat. This is perhaps the most classical dish in Geunes’ tasting menu, but it nonetheless showcases his ability to cook, and produce incredibly intricate and complex dishes that do not lack coherence.
‘T Zilte is not just about good food. Viki Geunes and his wife have created a place that they see more as a Gesamtkunstwerk than a place where one comes to simply eat. That does not only give the diner the perfect setting for the food emerging from the kitchen, but is also the ideal starting point for the hunt for the third star, which should come sooner or later.