Chefs Battle Zappaz versus Essenciel – Leuven
Restaurant Zappaz, managed by Chef Seppe Dezeure, is located at the edge of the city near the train station. The restaurant is modern, with a big and inviting bar, and tables for around 40 diners. Chef Seppe gained experience at Luzine, where he was sous-chef, The Jane in Antwerp, and Apicius in Valencia. We visited the restaurant in May and had a great experience back then.
Restaurant Essenciel is a cosy and small restaurant, located in the centre of the city. The restaurant seats up to 24 guests and is managed by Chef Niels Brants and his girlfriend Romina Charels. The young duo worked together at the restaurant Nuance (from Chef Thierry Theys), where Niels was sous-chef during 2 years. We visited Essenciel and multiple occasions the past few years and were always surprised by the level of quality.
Both chefs cook creative and bring a labour-intensive, precise, complex and flavour-driven cuisine. Seppe likes to use influences from all over the world, and describes his kitchen as ‘rock & roll gastronomic tapas’. Niels mainly works with French/Belgian influences and international spices. Presentation is important for both of them, and several dishes are served on multiple plates. Flowers, fresh herbs, colours and different shapes are added to beautify the dishes.
In their restaurants they are assisted by young and dynamic teams, bursting with energy, motivation and dedication. A beautiful thing to see in these difficult times for the hospitality sector!
For this chefs’ battle, both chefs prepared no less than 5 dishes each. The full menu consisted out of 3 appetizers, 10 dishes, and mignardises. An impressive menu and an excellent opportunity to get a good picture of the kitchen of both chefs.
Smoked eel, curry, potato, fresh green gravy (Essenciel)
Crab, avocado, tomatillo, coriander (Zappaz)
Veal, tuna, tomato, shallot (Zappaz)
Foie gras ganache, blueberry, merlot, brioche (Essenciel)
Langoustine, bulgur, candied leeks, za’atar (Essenciel)
Risotto negro, mussel, sea lavender, vadouvan (Zappaz)
Irish dry aged beef, eggplant, curry, corn (Zappaz)
Pigeon, hazelnut, beetroot, girollen (Essenciel)
Jasmine rice, basil, goji berry (Essenciel)
Zappaz chocolate, caramel, duindoornbes (Zappaz)
The “Belgian Taste Buds” Experience
4-mains or chefs’ battles are always interesting experiences. We really enjoyed this session, as both chefs proved to have a very similar style of cooking and were quite evenly matched. The menu had a very beautiful and natural build-up and all dishes were small works of art. Both chefs clearly have lots of potential and demonstrate that they have an eye for presentation, pronounced flavours and beautiful products. Both restaurants deserve a visit, and hopefully there will be a next chefs’ battle soon…
Balk van Beel
Schipvaartstraat 22, 3000 Leuven
Phone: +32 471 96 41 92
Muntstraat 23, 3000 Leuven
Phone: +32 16 29 06 00