Let’s start with the good.
The owners and staff are very welcoming, we felt sincere “warmth” in our interactions with them and, as a result, quickly felt at ease here. Staff at other top gourmet temples can, at times, come across as stuffy and aloof, so all the more positive that this house manages the “relationship” part well. We also felt that the design and décor of the restaurant is well-done, and we experienced the overall service as highly attentive and helpful without ever seeming “too” present.
Our culinary journey began in the pre-dinner reception area where we enjoyed some amuse-bouche. This was accompanied by our aperitif of choice that evening, a red Pineau des Charentes. That fortified wine was hands-down the best of its type we have discovered over the last decades, a truly remarkable delight. In retrospect we do think the amuse-bouche would have gone better with a good double or triple beer of Belgian origin.
“The wife” and I then transitioned to the main seating area on the lower-level of the building and began to take-in the 6-couse variant of Margo’s Master Menu (Margo’s Meesterlijk Menu) with the wine selection of the house. Each of those 6-courses was cooked and presented well and everything was at the level we would expect as “standard” from such a highly-ranked establishment.
BUT, while we already had a few “?” regarding the amuse-bouche composition, our impression of culinary improvement areas quickly rose from here.
The name “Da Vinci” leads one to think that the cuisine here is Italian inspired. In our view, it would take a thorough stretch of the imagination to be that. Instead, we were quite confused by the end of the meal as to what the culinary identity of this restaurant is.
Starting with the amuse-bouche and throughout other courses, there is a hodgepodge of various influences. While we certainly appreciate contemporary experimentation, we felt that the flavors and mouth-feel too often simply did not “mesh”. For example, the amuse-bouche were a mix of small dishes consisting of roasted sunflower seeds, marinated olives, a Krupuk / Kroepoek with some type of flavored cream clots sprinkled here and there, sweet & sour cauliflower wrapped in filo pastry etc. etc.. This just did not come together.
The same also applies to several of the 6 courses. Often the actual center-piece of a course was surrounded by a large variety of bobbles, droplets, wafers, globs and other bits and pieces of different tastes and textures. In addition, we also felt that at least 2 of the courses had way too much sauce on the plate. The sauces tended to be quite powerful in taste and, in combination with the aforementioned high variety of other elements, drowned-out the actual center-piece both visually and, more importantly, taste-wise. With several dishes, our palates had real difficulty discerning and enjoying the “main attraction”, which often was also of too small a portion-size. We clearly had higher expectations of Margo’s Master Menu, and even today, just 1 day later, we really need to think hard to identify something memorable. It is a bit sad to say that what we do readily remember are 2 drink items that are not of the restaurant’s making, the Pineau mentioned earlier and an Italian Primitivo.
There were numerous, added smaller points, which deterred from the experience. The bread selection and quality was OK, but not nearly on par with what we have experienced elsewhere. Furthermore, the breads we enjoyed the most were not topped-up during the meal. We also felt that the wine pairing for the starter served prior to the 1st course did not at all go with that dish. If I recall correctly, this was some type of white “Burgunder” from Austria. That wine did, however, go well with the 1st course, and the restaurant would do well to serve it accordingly. Lastly, we felt that the marshmallows, which the restaurant markets separately “to order” online or “to-go”, were not even close to the taste & texture joy of the marshmallows we have sampled from other houses. A final “niggle” is that Da Vinci would do well to have the English-language texts used on its website and elsewhere finalized by an English native-speaker.
We currently live in Belgium, about a good hour’s drive from Da Vinci. Frankly, driving for that duration in any direction from our abode we are spoilt for choice and have just so many great Michelin-starred or simply delightful restaurants available to us in Belgium and Holland alone…and I am not even including the immediate border regions of Germany or France yet in that. As we have had the privilege of discovering many great eateries there and across the globe, our net conclusion is that Da Vinci is certainly good, at 1-star level, but not on par with truly great 2-star or higher establishments we have dined at. In short, this was very much a case for us of “been there, eaten that (before), gotten the napkin”, and we are left with no compelling reasons to plan a second visit anytime soon.
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