Obligatory "French fries aren't French" bit, yadda yadda "Allied troops in Belgium in World War I" womp womp. We're going to keep calling them French fries throughout this because "frites" sounds alien and "chips" is just confusing.
So what's on the menu? Fries! Made to order, right in front of the crowds, with a handpress and a deep fryer. Peel, press, pre-fry, cool and deep fry! That's how you make a french fry, according to the video they're playing on loop, next to the blue-and-white renditions of windmills and Girl with the Pearl Earrings. Leaning heavily on this Dutch theme! It's either funded by the Dutch tourism board, or they're making sure no one mistakes this for a Belgian enterprise. Uphill struggle. Nine out of ten people visiting Brussels report "no canals as promised" as their biggest complaint.
The basic fries come in three cone sizes (22rmb/27rmb/35rmb), which a choice of sauces for 5rmb extra. Ketchup's free. The cones have these little holders on the side for your sauces, which is ingenious because you don't have to excavate a layer of ketchup to get to the actual fries. The top ones are saturated, the ones at the bottom are bone-dry. Now you can just pick and dip.
That design flaw still dogs their fries in trays, though, which come with generous, and nationally-themed, toppings. The American is slow-cooked pork and coleslaw (49rmb), the Mexican is cheddar sauce, sour cream and sweet chili (45rmb), the Chinese is spicy shrimp, and "traditional Tartar sauce" (49rmb). The American Chocolate Dream Deluxe (39rmb) tops your fries with chocolate sauce and fresh cut strawberries. The Dutch! An open-minded folk.
Holding pride of place, and the cheapest option at 39rmb, are Dutch Oorlog fries, which whip a dollop of mayonnaise, spicy peanut sauce and raw onion bits on top. Oorlog, according to Wikipedia, is een gewapende strijd tussen volkeren of staten. It means "war." It's Dutch for "war."
How were these fries? Salty. Unbelievably salty. After a couple of mouthfuls, you could've wrapped me like a mummy and sold me to a 19th century aristocrat as an aphrodisiac. War indeed. War on my guts, more like! Zing!
I don't know if it was the peanut butter sauce or what, but when I tried the regular french fries cone the next day (when the harried store manager was behind the counter), the salt was much less overwhelming. You could actually taste potato, which was great. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, as the slogan reads, and there are tons of sauces available. Truffle mayonnaise was pretty good. I'd stick to the cones and forego the flavored options.
Royal Patat is in Fengsheng Li at 227 Maoming Bei Lu. It's open from 10am-10pm every day.