Tuesday, October 28, 2008

From Italy to India

This past weekend found us at two restaurants, at quite different ends of the culinary spectrum. Saturday night we went to A'mbriana, an Italian place in Uccle that other blogs and reviews online seemed fond of. Sunday night, we were kindly invited by the Hindu Forum of Belgium to a Diwali celebration at Krishna, an Indian restaurant in Overijse. Very different, and both very lovely. Let me elaborate:

A'mbriana: I'll be honest with you: there aren't many vegetarian options. The husband and wife team who run the place did do their best to try and accommodate us with all our weird eating habits (we can only imagine what they were saying about us in the kitchen). While the ordering process was a bit laborious, once the food started arriving, we had nothing to complain about. Some nicely spiced olives and crusty bread to begin, followed by a fish amuse bouche that we had to turn down for the shrimp (us: "what kind of fish is this?" Waitress: "It's good."). On to the entrees - a plate of marinated salmon and basil, flavors all very well balanced, and one of the specials - fried cepes. Three letters for you: y-u-m. For the mains, I opted for canneloni, which was basically pure cheese and pasta and might have benefited from some spinach or tomato. Gidon went with another special, a baked cod with vegetables. Short on starch but tasty. If you can stand the limited options, or if you're out with a non-vegetarian, this is a good way to go (although I can't vouch for the quality of the meat dishes).

Krishna: the Diwali celebration meant that we were on a fixed menu Sunday night. We were also eating with a bunch of people who knew Indian food a lot better than we did, which was a real treat - for one, because the food was nicely spicy without even having to ask. We started off with some fried cauliflower with yogurt sauce. The menu featured a beautiful dal (lentils), aloo sag (potatos and spinach), mixed vegetables, rice (with a strong clove flavor), and puri bread. While I can't speak for the menu you might get on a regular night, based on this meal, I can only imagine you'd be pleased.

Rue Edith Cavell 151
1180 Uccle
Tel. : 02.375.01.56
Closed Tuesdays and Saturday lunchtime

Brusselsesteenweg 312
Tel. : 02.688.04.99
Open evenings only except Sundays

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wagamama goes Belgian

Let it be said: I love Wagamama. I discovered it in 2001 while studying in London and quickly became a frequent visitor. When I found myself back in Brussels, each trip to London provided more opportunities to head out for some tasty, reliable Japanese yumminess.

Sunday night, Gidon took me to dinner in Antwerp. When our original plans for kosher food fell through (we're in the middle of a Jewish festival and although the restaurants could have been operational last night, they were mostly closed), we started wandering around, scouting out the options.

Lo and behold: Wagamama appeared like a mirage. I could barely believe my eyes. Jumping for joy, we headed in, got our table, and ordered. I'm very sorry to say that much of the joy ended there. Gidon ordered Salmon ramen, I wanted Yasai katsu curry - they were out of both. Of course in my case, they only informed me that they were out after they had accidentally served me the chicken version of my dish, meaning I watched Gidon eat, and then my food arrived, and he watched me eat.

In the end, he opted for a noodle dish but was disappointed to be lacking on the protein front. We split edamame with chili/garlic salt (hadn't tried that before) and some vegetable dumplings, both as good as I remembered. I ended up with tofu/veggie fried rice, which was passable fried rice but not worth a trip to Antwerp.

I don't have a problem with the general Wagamama philopsophy that food arrives as it is prepared. Normally this means that all the food comes out piecemeal, generally quite quickly, and I never mind what order it comes in. But the service Sunday night certainly left something to be desired - like a trip to London.

Still, it is hard to hold a grudge. I have a soft spot in my heart for Wagamama, and if they open a branch in Brussels I'll be more than happy to give it another go. Maybe in a few months' time I'll get my hopes up again and even give the Antwerp branch another chance. They do offer their same nice selection of vegetarian choices, and I can usually count on a good meal there. Let's just hope Sunday night was a fluke.

De Keyserlei 15
Tel. 032349980
Open seven days a week: lunch, dinner and in between

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Parrots and Pitas

Before heading off to the first of my Bozar chamber music concerts this year, my friend and I spent an hour over dinner at Le Perroquet. For the vicinity of the Sablon, you can't beat it for price. Maybe Pain Quotidien provides some competition in that department, but while PQ has nice ambiance, you really could be anywhere in the world when you're sitting there. At Le Perroquet, you are unquestionably in Brussels.

Tables are crammed in to this food and drink joint, with a smattering of tables outdoors on the sidewalk. Le Perroquet is crazy for pitas - hot, cold, stuffed with everything under the sun, and - get this - a little leaf tells you when one is veggie. And they actually seem to get what that means, so there are no leaves next to pitas garnished with bacon, or shrimp. Not that I've had everything on the menu, so they could still prove me wrong.

They also splash out on a couple of salads and pastas, but with three pages of pita combinations, that's what most people come for. I went for a hot one last night, goat's cheese with some nice basil and tomato. I think I would probably go for a firmer cheese next time to get more of the meltiness of heating it up. But it's best not to over-analyze. That's not why you go to Le Perroquet. So grab a seat, grab and sandwich, and bon app.

Le Perroquet
Rue Watteeu 31
1000 Brussel
Tel. 02 512 99 22‎
Open 7 days a week - can you believe it?