Monday, December 8, 2008

Mushrooms from heaven

I admit, I have a big ol' soft spot in my heart for Cafe des Spores. For one, it was the first interesting restaurant that Gidon and I discovered in Brussels - just because we lived in the neighborhood at the time and walked past it late one night, when its windows were all steamed up and we spontaneously decided to stop in for a late dessert. It quickly became the restaurant we took all our visitors to - my parents, his parents, my brother's wife's mother, you get the picture. As if all those happy memories and meals weren't enough, Gidon proposed to me at CdS almost two years ago. So I definitely get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about the place.

But don't let my warped sense of reality sway you - Cafe des Spores gets good reviews from everyone, as far as I can tell. From the vegetarian perspective, you'll be looking at three main ingredients: mushrooms, cheese, and wine. How could you go wrong?

Cafe des Spores, despite the (witty) name, is probably more about the wine than the food. I'm sorry to say that I know ashamedly little about wine, but I can say that everything I've ever had there has been exceptional. As for the food, it's a small menu, with a half dozen starters and usually 3-4 mains, of which 1 is almost always vegetarian. So you don't have a ton of choice, but neither does anyone else, and everything available to you is guaranteed to be delicious.

Two starters have stayed on the menu since our first visit, and are mandatory every time we go: oeuf cocotte (we've had it with cepes and last week with truffles), and blondes aux herbes - delicious light caps with herbs and garlic, often served up in a little escargot tray. These two are scrumptious and absolutely non-negotiable.

Then we fill in around it. Last week we added some delicious cheesy teeny raviolis topped with (more) truffles, and for the main, we got the fondue for two: a wheel of melty Mont D'Or, topped with a plethora of lightly cooked mushrooms. Last week they were also offering some special wines of "natural fermentation" and I - again, knowing nothing about wine - really enjoyed the Vouvray they suggested.

For dessert, the mushroom inspired dishes have been really special - creme brulee with cepes, and cepes ice cream - but last week the desserts were mushroom-free, so we settled for a delicious tiramisu featuring calvados instead of coffee. Only people who knew me in college can appreciate the humor of my enjoying anything made with calvados, but this was good.

We've been trying to make a date there for the last two months but kept calling too late. CdS absolutely requires a reservation, even on a weeknight. There are not many tables and they only seem to do one seating per night. You'll be charmed by the decor - lots of sleek black wood with some pointed lighting, and an open kitchen taking up a good third of the floor space on the ground floor. The chef is friendly and it's a treat to watch him at work, especially from upstairs with an aerial view - but watch out, it does get hot up there.

There's a reason this place has practically a cult following in town. If I haven't convinced you yet, go give it a try and you'll soon understand.

Cafe des Spores
Chaussée d'Alsemberg 103
1060 Saint Gilles
Tel. 02 534 13 03
Closed Sunday, and lunch on Saturday and Monday. Reservations required.

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