Last night was cause for a celebration; a birthday for one, a new job for another, and a dear friend’s going away party. After lengthy deliberations on where to spend the evening, Cow Hollow’s newest Belgian brasserie, Belga, was the jury’s selection.
Belga has a shared plate centric menu, perfect for a group of five or six. As expected from a Belgian joint, Belga has beers. Ten of them on tap, each a different style (though be warned, the standard pour looks to be 14 oz instead of a traditional pint). The bottle list is extensive but generally familiar, and on display in a beautiful glass doored cellar at the back of the bar. The bottles have a nice split between ‘real’ Belgians and American brewed Belgian style brews.
The space is large and lively, if not a touch loud. The four tables in the floor to ceiling windows that look out on Union Street would be prime real estate on nice evening.
We started with a modest golden sour from Prairie Artisan Ales (Oklahoma). Also ordered but not pictured was a glass of the Belgian pilsner Estaminet (not bad as far as pilsners go) and a 750ml bottle of Berkeley’s own sparkling ale, Buzzerkeley by Calicraft Brewing (which I probably wouldn’t order again).
on the half shell, traditional accoutrement
Two types of oysters (the names of which were quickly forgotten) served with a fantastically zingy cocktail sauce. Twelve doesn’t divide by five nicely, so three brave soles had to sacrifice for the greater good.
Country Pâté, Porc Roulee, Liverwurst, Smoked Ham
Saucisson Sec, Jardiniere, Mustard & Fruit Compote
This thing was huge and difficult to get into a single photo before the ravenous hounds dug in. The pâté was the rock star of the selection, creamy and spreadable on the bread (no pictured). The stone ground mustard was also a tangy delight.
naked with mustard and Belgian mash
The last platter of the evening was the sausage board, loaded with four different tubular meaty vessels. Due to the liveliness of the table I didn’t catch all the types, but I do know one was an andouille and another a blood sausage. The sausages were juicy; I remember describing the lighter one on the end as “mild with a taste that hits the back of the mouth.”
Other Snacks and Small Plates
garlic aioli, house-made ketchup, curry ketchup
honey-candied hazelnuts, point reyes blue & upland cress
Of everything ordered, this was my least favorite. The two varieties of beets were nice but the overall flavor was a little weak. I was also pretty deep in the meat when we ordered it. Might have been a better decision to get this earlier.
Chicken Liver Mousse
pear cider gelee & pickled mustard seeds
A dense and rich spread, went lovely with the bread that ran out long before the mousse.
Grilled Broccoli Rabe and Anchovy Butter
This vegetable was brilliant. The broccoli was firm and crunchy and the anchovy butter sauce provided a complementary flavor.
Stone CaliBelgique with a nutty ice cream (?), Allagash Black with coffee ice cream, Rodenbach Grand Cru with vanilla ice cream
The desert flight of beer floats was a nice sweet, boozy cap to the evening. The pairing of coffee ice cream and Allagash Black was blissful.
Overall Belga was perfect for the evening, a sizable place that offered a sharable menu and had no problem with people having a good time.