Taking up residence on the whispery Fuxing Xi Lu across from Boxing Cat Brewery is Belga, a comfy little Belgian Eatery serving brawny, stick-to-your-gut Belgian dishes and beer.
Space is as tight as a noodle den but the lack of patrons, though perhaps unfortunate, makes it more private and not at all like your Chinese elbow-jostling dining experience. Dark red walls and dim lighting enhance the intimacy. There’s also an alfresco upstairs and when the weather’s not as sultry, you can sit outside and bask in the sun. Staff is smiley and courteous enough, and their English skills are excellent for Shanghai servers.
Staying true to Belgian cuisine’s characteristic borrowing from other European cuisines, Belga offers everything from spaghetti bolognese to croque-monsieurs. We advise starting off with the three-cheese croquettes (55RMB), toast with smoked salmon, tuna cream, and pickles (85RMB), or Duivelse scampi with garlic-butter sauce (75RMB) and then moving onto the mussels (95RMB). With the mussels, you get a choice of white wine sauce, curry sauce, spicy sauce, garlic cream, or Leffe blonde beer sauce. We say less is more so go with the white wine or beer because they least mask the mussels’ buttery brininess.
One disclaimer: these mussels are tiny. The ratio of meat sack to shell on some of these guys is akin to an earring and the box it comes in. Fortunately there’s a whole cauldron of them and though puny, they pack a flavorful wallop. You’ll be hosing through these bivalves faster than that walrus in Alice in Wonderland. When you’ve polished them off, use the bread and side of frites with mayo to soak up the sauce. Each mayo-lubed fry feels like a fat-coated knife in the heart, but they’re worth it.
Of the mains try either the rich, beer-cooked Flemish beef stew (RMB85) or the beef tongue with creamy madeira sauce and mushrooms (85RMB). The velvety tongue slices mingle perfectly with the earthy mushroom hunks.
It wouldn’t be a Belgian eatery without a beer selection, and we’d say Belga’s selection echoes Derefter’s with trippels, fruity lambics, trappist chimay etc – and for around the same price (45-60RMB for a standard bottle). Drafts are a bit cheaper (around 35RMB), but we found the selection fairly disappointing; your basic commercial standbys such as Hoegaarden and Stella Artois. And while this may make our Belgian compatriots have an aneurism, you’re better off heading across the way to Boxing Cat for a draft of TKO IPA for the same price (before 8pm).
Belga serves rich, hearty fare in an low-key atmosphere so come ready to gorge.
Belga – 133 Fuxing Xi Lu, near Yongfu Lu (复兴西路133号, 近永福路). Tel: (0)21-6433-4261. Hours: 11am-12am daily.
See a complete list of our reviews here.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].