Two beige canvas curtains hang on either side of the lounge, like backstage curtains in a theater. The scene behind it – a kitchen enclosed on three sides by a bar with guests, a charcoal grill against the back wall with bits of beast above it – seems like an oil painting come to life, lit in a Caravaggian chiaroscuro style.
The subject—the smoldering embers, glowing cones of silently buffalo cooks, the steel grates, the metalworkers’ tools—is more of an early twentieth-century industrial scene. In the corner is a pickup with a record collection. The combination of that era with a solid, slightly obscure soundtrack at a high volume – upon entering the Ghent blues artist Roland van Campenhout – provides an exciting Peaky Blinders-ambiance.
Chambre Séparée is styled down to the smallest detail. The sheepskin next to the fender telecaster. The tufts of dried herbs above the work island. The weathered copper-colored edge in the bar. The crockery and the linen chef’s jackets. The only thing that stands out are the comfortable rubber kitchen clogs on which the author of this work of art moves undisturbed through his studio.
Kobe Desramaults gained fame as chef of the acclaimed In de Wulf, a restaurant in the West-Flanders middle of nowhere, where in an old farm we were presented with just as much care and attention a piece of leek with three snails, as brain tartelettes on whole pig skulls. In de Wulf was finished at the end of 2016. Desramaults wanted to return to “a cuisine spontanée, in which I can decide every day what to make,” he wrote at the time. He found his place in a concrete shoebox at the bottom of the Belgacom Tower, unofficially known as ‘the ugliest building in Ghent’. With this, Chambre Séparée had an end date from the start: 2020, then the tower will be overhauled.
The style is des Wulfs: a rough kitchen with matured and fermented products and an open fire. Alone, now we’re sitting at the kitchen, where pieces of beast are cut and seared right in front of us. Where you feel the heat on your cheeks with every block of glowing wood that is thrown under the grill with some sense of drama.
It’s a kind of magic trick: you only see a scallop, you taste an endlessly complex dish
If you’re starting to get a little allergic to bearded buns that take meat out of the fire with their bare hands, this may not seem like your place. But watch out: the spectacle at Chambre is not a cheap effect. Of course they do it a bit, but I’m sure they first looked for a tool to pour boiling pork fat over the scallop from a safe distance and only then thought it would be cool to do it with an old-fashioned melting pot. to do a steal. Not the other way around.
There is no yelling, the cooks work decisively, but timidly. The atmosphere is casual, the music is loud. Yet we unconsciously continue to converse in a whisper, so as not to disturb the aura of this work. At some point, things get slightly comical when the chef scoops concentrated crabmeat back into an empty shell, only to scoop it back into a bowl five paces later at the counter. But let’s talk about the food. That scallop for example. Soft and raw on the inside, nutty and sweet, in a mantle of blazing, filming pork fat, scented with roasted Sicilian lemon and grounded with a deep mussel miso. It’s a kind of magic trick: you only see a scallop, you taste an endlessly complex dish. That is mainly in the miso, a fermented Japanese grain or soy paste – that gives a very nice long-pile umami foundation.
Desramaults also uses other fermentation flavors flawlessly. The lactic frayed edge on the fermented carrot and a little shavings of mimolette cheese gives the pumpkin tartellette something of a stiff goat cheese. With the semi-raw mackerel with burnt skin, he just pops a firm fish sauce against it. He gives you a hard punch in your face, and then comes up with a bandage in the form of crispy goosebumps with crème frache and caviar. It’s not just freaky fermentation. The North Sea crab with crab juice butter sauce, pickled tomato and bergamot sounds complicated. Is just a huge mountain of sweet crab meat with lots of butter, just right with some rins-salts and a touch of citrus aroma. This is so insanely comfortable. So intoxicating that Serge Gainsbourg turns it into an innocent, erotic-psychedelic Barbarella trip with ‘Sorry Angel’.
The menu is a presentation of twenty dishes. At two-thirds of the evening – just at the right time – a bit of calm sets in, in terms of tempo, in terms of heaviness in the taste, Connan Mockasin slides off the gramophone. The calm is set in with smoked enoki mushrooms, with fermented mushroom stock and pumpkin puree – mega meaty, like lamb stew. Matches beautifully with the frivolous, light fruitiness of the Beaujolais scoop. Then a real lamb, today we eat the leg and a piece of the belly. The cooking are perfect medium rare, on the spot of the open fire – that’s craft.
Of course I didn’t mention a lot – turbot with mussel ragout, chicory with winter truffle, wild duck. All beautiful, all part of that one great composition: a night out at Chambre Séparée.
I found one thing strange: celeriac in celeriac thick juice with jowls (Italian cheek bacon). Nice as a species candied bacon, but in a crazy place in the menu, before the main course. We only get the homemade sourdough bread when we leave (perhaps a good thing, with twenty courses), with goat butter. People seem to need little more for breakfast.