Thursday, December 24, 2009

(Tom) Yam = Yum

On several occasions, a colleague has recommended Tom Yam to me. Never one to turn down Thai, last night I rounded up a few friends to check it out and it is indeed a yummy stop-off.

I'm always a bit overwhelmed by the Asian options in the ULB area, so being pointed to one particular place was welcome. The restaurant is cozy and just about every seat was full - always a good sign.

Tom Yam indulges vegetarians by putting a "V" next to the vegetarian items on their menu. Fantastic. So was the food. Gidon and I split two starters: one was a couple of loempia plus a couple of fried aubergine patties. I was only expecting the loempia so the aubergines were a nice surprise and had a creamy and subtle flavor; I would have been happy with even a plate of those alone. The vegetarian loempia weren't out-of-this-world amazing but they were certainly adequate. The other starter was an "exotic salad": julienned vegetables in a sweet-and-sour sauce with chopped peanuts. This just about qualified as out-of-this-world amazing.

For mains, Gidon had a basic wok with tofu and vegetables. The sauce was also on the sweet side; pleasant but again, not special. I opted for a slightly spicy yellow-curry-with-vegetables dish. It was indeed mildly spiced, not overpowering, and was cooked in a base of coconut milk, which is always a winning combo for me. Our friends were not veggie but all seemed very pleased with their dishes - a chicken dish in a honey-and-sesame sauce (reportedly not too sweet), and some curries of varying spiciness (one warranted a three-pepper rating on the menu, which greatly pleased my spice-addicted friend).

As cute as the surroundings are, Tom Yam is also available for take-away or delivery if you prefer a quiet night at home, avoiding the cold and snow of late - totally understandable. Either way, get your hands on some of this tasty fare.

Tom Yam
Chaussée de Boondael 341
1050 Ixelles
. 02 646 50 13
Closed Sat & Sun lunches. Reservations recommended.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happiness is a Cupcake

Shame on me for hiding Lilicup from you! I covered Lilicup for Flanders Today back in May - when they were just two ladies baking cupcakes to order out of their home kitchen. At the time, they were looking to open their own cupcake shop, and I was thrilled to hear that they have finally managed it.

Cupcakes exploded in New York City a few years ago, partly thanks for a single "Sex and the City" episode. The fad was crept it's way around the globe and has now reached Brussels. But you won't exactly find a New York cupcake at Lilicup. The baking mistresses have adapted their cupcake recipes to a European palate - meaning a little smaller, a little less sweet. In my opinion, equally yummy.

These little delicacies come in a wide variety of flavors, and if you need a special flavor arranged, just talk to the owners. They use organic and natural ingredients whenever possible and the results are outstanding. You'll find typical flavors, like vanilla and chocolate, but also combinations like chocolate-orange or the almond-lemon cake with a raspberry buried inside. Of course there is a equally wide selection of frostings. Admittedly, these are not a cheap indulgence, but they are oh-so-worth it.Link
You can pop in the store for a quick sweet treat (they also offer brownies, cookies and more which I'm sure are excellent but that's not really the point, now is it?) but for take-away orders, call them 48 hours ahead. What a great way to celebrate a special occasion, add a romantic touch to a homemade meal, or treat your friends to a slightly unusual dessert.

65 rue du Page
1050 Brussels
Tel. 02 538 02 68
Open Tues-Fri from 10h-17h, and Sat from 10h-18h

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Newcomer to the EU Quarter

Today's episode brings us back to the Quest for Good Lunch Food in the EU Quarter! There is a new arrival on the scene, and I couldn't be happier about it: Guapa. Not only is it nearly the closest eatery to my office, but they have a respectable amount of vegetarian lunch options, and they are first and foremost a juice bar, with a mouth-watering selection of fresh fruit juices made to order.

Let's state up front that Guapa is outrageously priced for what you are getting. That is (unfortunately) in line with just about every other eating establishment around here, however, so I can't condemn them too much. The killer is the juice; at around 3.50 EUR a pop - and that for the small size - adding a drink to your lunch suddenly involves quite a price hike.

While I can't justify a daily juice, I justify the ones that I do buy by reminding myself that people the world over are buying Starbucks coffee for twice this price and they aren't getting any of the vitamins or just plain yumminess of fresh squeezed juice.

The ambiance: bright, green and clean, but not for the hard-of-hearing - those juicing machines do make a racket...

The food: two soups each day, one or both vegetarian. Often on the salty side but they don't shy away from giving their soup some really flavor - definitely among the tastier soup options in the area, which is great as the chill of winter sets in. Four quiches, again with some vegetarian inclusions.

Then there's the (ubiquitous and seemingly obligatory) fridge full of prepared food. Their first day open (yes, I was there, I'm that desperate for new food around here) their "meal of the day" was a salad with smoked salmon, leeks, and a poached egg. Super. Most daily meals feature meat, however. I'm also a fan of their spring rolls with a spicy dipping sauce, and some other salads and sandwiches make for a decent, if smallish, selection.

Their vegetarian meat-alternative-of-choice is a product I had (shamefully?) never heard of: Tzai. I have scoured the interweb but all I know is that it's soy-based. Can anyone help? I feel my vegetarian credentials are taking a big hit here. It does taste pretty yummy but I always like to know what I'm eating.

Guapas are all over the city, so drop in on one, pick up a lunch, and if you feel up to it, splash out on a juice - Ginger Lime is at the top of my list. What's your favorite?

23 rue de Luxembourg
1000 Brussels
Open Mon-Fri from 7:30am to 7pm
Also at various other Brussels locations - see their website

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part Deux)

If you enjoyed part one of "100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do", by Bruce Buschel in the New York Times, don't miss part two. While all valid and valuable pointers, this part didn't resonate with me in the Belgian sense quite as well as the first part did. Although I did enjoy #89: Never patronize a guest who has a complaint or suggestion; listen, take it seriously, address it.
Oh, if only...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Petit Chef

I thought you might enjoy taking a peek at I've only discovered it quite recently myself, but it seems to be an interesting new source for finding recipes. You can search, post, or comment on other recipes, and there are plenty of links to other cooking websites.

They also have 'daily menu' feature - each day you get a little email with an appetizer, main course, and dessert (and links to the recipes on Petitchef, bien sur). I don't know whether someone actually compiles this menu with complimentary dishes - my sense so far is "no", but nonetheless, a few recipes have popped up in my inbox that I might just have to whip up.

Most importantly, "Petitchef" makes me think of "Little chef", the nickname of the rat in Ratatouille, which is clearly one of the finest food films in recent memory.
What food websites are your favorites?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sushi on a shoestring

As I mentioned in an earlier post on Wasabi Sushi Restaurant, I was working up a little piece on reasonably priced sushi in Brussels for Flanders Today. The piece ran recently, and I figured you might like to take a look. Enjoy the piece, or just enjoy the sushi:

Boulvard Anspach 74
Brussels 1000
Tel. : 02.502.85.87
Open 7 days a week

Chaussée de Waterloo 1021
Uccle 1180
Tel. 02.374.04.88
Closed Wednesdays. Also includes a shop.

Sushi Shop (already written up on this blog, click here)
Avenue Louise 144
Ixelles 1050
Tel. 02.613.20.00. Call for take-out/delivery only; they do not take reservations.
Closed Sunday noon. Dine-in, delivery, take-out. Also seemingly opening soon on the Sablon.

Sushi World
Rue des Cultes 5
Brussels 1000
Rue de Joncker 25
Saint Gilles 1060
Closed Saturday and Sunday lunch. Dine-in, delivery, take-out.

Monday, November 2, 2009

One Hundred Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do

I've lived here for nearly five years, yet there are still some aspects of Belgium that I will never get used to. Like the service in Belgian restaurants. (At this previous post, you can read about a particular favorite experience...)

For those of you who lament this as I do, you will enjoy (and perhaps become a little nostalgic from) a blog posting at the New York Times entitled "One Hundred Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 1)".

It is written by restauranteur Bruce Buschel, and begins, "Herewith is a modest list of dos and don’ts for servers at the seafood restaurant I am building."

This list only includes rules #1-50 (51-100 will follow next week). I had particular appreciation for tips like:

4. If a table is not ready within a reasonable length of time, offer a free drink and/or amuse-bouche. The guests may be tired and hungry and thirsty, and they did everything right.

6. Do not lead the witness with, “Bottled water or just tap?” Both are fine. Remain neutral.

15. Never say “I don’t know” to any question without following with, “I’ll find out.”

In Belgium's defense, they do consider #17 as a golden rule: "Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are still eating the same course. Wait, wait, wait." So maybe there's a thing or two that the Americans could learn from Belgium, too.

Read the full posting here. Thank you, Bruce!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Viva Vini

I had been reading here and there about Vini Cucina - it was time to give it a try. Italian, but focused on pizza and pasta: that boded well for the vegetarian palate. The place was nearly full on the Thursday night we visited. I had called ahead to ask if reservations were needed and got the typical Belgian "c'est toujours mieux." Well, it was mieux.

We sat in the back, towards the open kitchen, which was a bit of a high-traffic zone but otherwise not a disruption. The menu offered a nice selection of vegetarian items, but very little fish.

Our appetizers came out quickly - the bruschetta platter featured much more than the bread, tomatoes and parmesan: fresh, plump olives, grilled eggplant, and sun-dried tomatoes made for a lovely accompaniment. We also thoroughly enjoyed the smoked pecorino and fresh tomatoes, cooked up and served in a skillet. De-lish.

For mains, we all moved on to pasta (the pizzas did look good, but the pastas were more tempting). I had a very simple linguine with oil, garlic, parsley and a bit of hot pepper - the menu promised "peperoncino" so I thought I was in for a bit more spice (which I wouldn't have minded), but it was lovely as is. Gidon took tagliatelle with forest mushrooms and rocket. A few tomatoes snuck in as well. Our friend opted for the eggplant parmesan; lots of cheese and a perfectly sized portion. In fact, all the portions were just the right size - although we were glad ot have split two appetizers over three people; one per person may have pushed things a bit over the top. For dessert, we enjoyed an exquisite speculoos semi-freddo.

The servers (all blond, we noticed) actually smiled and tried to be helpful; for Belgian standards, it was pretty good service - our only complaint was a forgotten espresso at the end of the evening. Definitely worth another visit. Soon.

Vini Cucina
Chaussee de Waterloo 864
1180 Uccle
Tel. 02 372 37 27

Open for lunch Mon-Fri, open every night for dinner. Reservations recommended.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spice is Nice

I'm taking you out for Thai again - I promise to head back to European fare soon!

Thai Spice is an unassuming little spot on Chaussee de Waterloo in Uccle. First I heard about it from my editor at the Bulletin; it is just a couple of doors down from the old Bulletin offices, and as one of the few eateries in the area, she was a frequent visitor.

But then I heard the really exciting news from my friend Elaine, who I constantly envy for her knowledge of a secret side of Brussels: Thai Spice knows kosher. The owner has worked and still occasionally works for one of the kosher caterers in town, and he knows his stuff.

I tried it out (with a friend of mine who is a rabbi, no less!). We ordered from the vegetarian part of the menu, of course - not a very wide selection, but we enjoyed lovely appetizers and mains (including the requisite spring rolls and pad thai) nonetheless. The bill was modest and the setting was pleasant. They do seem to get a good amount of foot traffic coming from the European school, just across the street. The kids largely congregated by the entrance for takeout, however, so they weren't a disruption during our meal.

On the way out, we got into a conversation with Kitty, the owner. Careful once you get him going - he's super friendly and it's a bit hard to extract yourself! I name-dropped my friend Elaine and suddenly Kitty was my best friend, offering to make me kosher curry paste (i.e. vegetarian-friendly, sans fish sauce). If this guy understands kosher, he undoubtedly gets vegetarian. A safe bet for even the most cautious eaters - and a tasty meal!

Thai Spice
Chaussee de Waterloo 1054
1180 Brussels
Tel. 02.372.22.34
Open all week except Monday lunchtime

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sushi Galore

I gave myself a sushi assignment for my upcoming “Bite” column: where to buy decent-priced sushi in Brussels (look for it next Wednesday on This was a great excuse to get out and eat my way through the city’s maki rolls and miso soup. Oh, how I suffer!

One resto that didn’t make it into my column was Wasabi Sushi Lounge – not because they aren’t good, but I didn’t feel I could justify putting them in a column about “budget” sushi. Then again, those that made it in still aren’t as cheap as I would like (I admit I’m wading into slightly sketchy territory: you don’t want really cheap sushi, as that’s just taking your life in your hands).

In any event, Wasabi Sushi Lounge. It looks as sleek as it sounds (any restaurant that calls itself a “lounge” had better bump up the décor or risk being really sleazy). I once made a quick take-away pitstop at their Stockel branch, and this time I sat down at their Louise installation for a real meal.

Miso soup was a given, but was also a disappointment – much saltier than I’d like. Gidon ordered their salmon soup, which had an entirely different flavor: a light fish-based broth, into which they drop pieces of salmon sashimi that then cook in the hot soup. It was a bit inventive and probably outdid the miso.

The menu listed two salads – one vegetarian, one with various fish and seafood. However, upon asking the waiter about their contents, he offered up a mystery third salad of algae. These are becoming a staple of my Japanese meals, so that had to be ordered (and was well worth it).

Then it was on to the sushi. They do quite a good job at Wasabi, although a real vegetarian is going to have a hard time putting together a full meal. Pescatarians will be super happy. Their sushi is short on creativity, especially compared to some other places I’ve visited recently, but the quality was good.

If any of you have invested in a Restopass, you’ll score a discount.

Wasabi Sushi Lounge

Chaussée de Charleroi 41
1060 Bruxelles
Tel. 02 537.37.37

Rue de l'Eglise 88
1150 Bruxelles
Tel. 02 762.62.62

Open Mon-Sat for lunch & dinner

Monday, September 7, 2009

A New Thai Adventure

Last week, I was busy busy busy taking in as much of Het Theaterfestival as humanly possible. What a treat! One evening, we had the pleasure of seeing DegrotemonD, which featured one performer reciting important speeches from the past 2000 years. It was a really moving evening, and it was in a beautiful setting -the Bibliotheque Solvay.

This gave me a great opportunity to try out Kin D, a Thai restaurant just off of Place Jourdan that came highly recommended by a friend of mine. The seating area is clean and comfortable - unfortunately the building does not allow for natural light in that area but the decor features lots of white and bright pink which liven up the room.

The menus are accompanied by a picture book, so you get a sneak preview of what your meal will look like. Nice touch! There's ample choice for vegetarians - even the sections not labeled "vegetarian" feature some vegetarian dishes, and there's a recommended vegetarian combo, if you want some guidance.

We started with spring rolls (how could we not?), which were not quite warmed through but were nonetheless very tasty. For mains, I went for classic Pad Thai - lovely, mellow flavors which you can spice up with some chili flakes, if you so desire. Gidon took one of the dishes labeled as spicy - a coconut milk broth with noodles and vegetables. At first taste, the spice was not too hot, but it did build up as he worked his way through. The coconut base was sweet but didn't overpower the noodles or crunchy vegetables.

Kin D also features an interesting drinks menu. Not wanting to get too silly before our show, I stayed non-alcoholic and took a lemongrass cooler. It was sweet and a little punchy, with lots of fresh lemongrass chopped into it. It was a tough choice on the drinks so that alone may merit another visit.

The portions are a good size, but not too big - our hostess actually asked about the serving sizes at the end of the meal, explaining that they are still relatively new and are finding their way. Go ahead and find your way to them - it's worth a visit!

Kin D
Rue General Leman, 36
1040 Brussels
Tel. 02 231 10 99
Open Mon-Sat for lunch and dinner; takeaway and catering also available.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

European quarter lunchtime therapy

I keep myself busy between a few jobs, but when I'm wearing my paralegal hat, that means I'm off to the European Quarter, where the low point of every day is finding lunch. The only things that aren't overpriced are the sandwiches, and boy, do I get sick of sandwiches. Will someone please open a salad bar in this neck of the woods? I don't care if it's overpriced, I will be your most loyal customer.

I try to keep my spending within reason, but on the occasions when I want a nicer, sit-down lunch, I'm still traumatized by the lack of vegetarian options. However, my friend John recently pointed me to Quarter Libre, which is not a bad find.

This place is all about choice: 16 small dishes are on offer each day; you take a little piece of paper and choose the four you want which are delivered in small tapas portions on a platter. I've been twice now - the first time, I had all four, plus a dessert, and wasn't completely full. This week I went and couldn't even finish my platter. Both times the platters cost a borderline-outrageous 14 EUR (prices are standard - no variation based on what you order). To be fair, virtually all prices in this area are borderline outrageous.

I've had a few lovely items here - a recent visit featured a pesto pasta, a carrot-basil gazpacho, a slice of eggplant wrapped around ricotta, and a nicely dressed avocado salad. Warning however: on my first visit, I ordered a feuilletine du brie, which should have been brie in phyllo dough (in my book) but they snuck some bacon in. So for the true veggie-wary, you want want to ask a few questions before ordering.

The decor is all wood, with soft lighting, and there's a lovely patio in the back for soaking up the warm, sunny weather (while we've got it). If you aren't scandalized by the price tag (in which case you probably pack a lunch from home if you work in this area!), I definitely recommend it.

Quartier Libre
Rue de Treves 44
1050 Ixelles
Open for weekday lunch only

NB: Their business card states that their website in, but that brought up nothing on today's attempt. However, Google leads me to believe that they may maintain a second location on Rue Lesbroussart. No promises.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I scream for ice cream!

I've had quite an exciting development in my professional life - I'm now writing a weekly food column for Flanders Today! So far I'm loving it, but I'm afraid that, along with the other writing, plus my other jobs (sigh...) it's leaving me less time for my dearest blog.

At the very least, this week I can offer a link to my most recent column. It's summertime, which calls for ice cream. In my home sweet Uccle, Rue Vanderkindere is an ice cream hot spot. The old-school Glacier Zizi, and not half a block away, Il Gelato. I absolutely cannot choose a favorite, they are both just too delicious.

In researching my article, I discovered that Zizi is over 50 years old, and once upon a time, they had only three flavors: chocolate, vanilla, and banana. Banana? Yes. This called for a taste test. I cannot believe it took me this long to discover it - it actually tastes like real, fresh, ripe bananas are just blended into the ice cream (it's entirely possible that they are, although it's utterly chunkless). This was an excellent discovery.

A few days later, a stop at Il Gelato was imperative. My friend Elizabeth is apparently a big fan of nuts and ordered a nice, nutty selection - including a flavor apparently named for a candy bar that was basically peanut. Peanut ice cream is tops! I'm ashamed I can't recall the silly name for this flavor (Mister something); it was the first time I've seen it there, so I'm afraid it's just a cameo.

Where do you go in Brussels for ice cream? Leave a comment - I can't wait to try them out!

Glacier Zizi
Rue de la mutualité 57A
1180 Uccle
Tel. 02.344.70.81

Il Gelato
Rue Vanderkindere 168
1180 Uccle
Tel. 02.344.34.95

Shameless plug: Subscriptions to Flanders Today (covering Flanders and Brussels) are free. Head to their website and sign up to have it delivered right to your door.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Hail Britannia

Surprise! You thought I had abandoned you, when in fact I was off traipsing around the U.S. on vacation. Mea culpa, I should have warned you. Just to make you supremely jealous: I spent 10 days out in the San Francisco area, and 4 of those days in Sonoma valley, where we ate amazing food and drank fantastic wine. San Francisco is one of those places where people really, really care about food - not just how it tastes, but where it came from, how healthy it is, and what interesting things you can do with it. Heaven.

But back in Belgium, the food isn't too shabby either. Just before I left on vacation, a friend had a housewarming party - English High Tea style. The caterers were the newest in Brussels-based British cuisine: La Britannique, and what a fine job they did. All the classics you would expect for a high tea - scones with clotted cream and jam and cucumber sandwiches - as well as some desserts I'd never heard of that had the Brits in the room ooh-ing and aah-ing as they flashed-back to their childhoods.

The passed hors d'oeuvres were all excellent, and if you take a look at their menu, you will be overwhelmed with their offerings. As best I can tell, their online menu seems to color-code between veggie/fish/meat/etc, and their veggie options are bountiful. As best I can tell, the service was very professional and friendly. Go Brit it up!

La Britannique
Forest, Belgium
Tel. 02.544.1777
GSM 0474 985 290

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dairy Delicacies

There is no shortage of restaurants in the area around Place Louise/Place Stephanie, but it can be hard to find one that serves anything remarkable. During the day, however, there is at least one saving grace: La Cremerie de la Vache. Salads, sandwiches, a beautiful collection of tea, and the milkshakes... oh, the milkshakes.

Although I have never found the service to be stellar, I always feel great just walking in the door of La Cremerie. The place has a bright, farmhouse feel about it, with lots of wood panelling and light-colored walls. For a moment, you can imagine you've escaped to the countryside. Or, if the Belgian weather gods indulge us, their outdoor seating area is great for catching a few rays of sun and participating in some enjoyable people-watching.

The menu offers up a wide selection of fresh salads and sandwiches, some pasta dishes, a soup or two, some quiche. It makes for a light but filling lunch, all based on great ingredients and plenty of choice for vegetarians (or just ask them to slightly adapt a salad or sandwich to make it vegetarian friendly).

Their tea selection is outstanding - very fine teas and a wide variety. And they go oh-so-well with the amazing cakes and other desserts that really top off a meal. Their milkshakes are rich and creamy (what do you expect from a place called "La Cremerie"?) and make for a great mid-afternoon tea-time break. And you can do equally well before noon with their breads and pastries.

La Crèmerie de la Vache
Jean Stas 6
1060 Bruxelles
Tel. 02.538.28.18
Closed Sundays & evenings

Thanks to for the cute cow pic!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bagels a la Flanders Today, with a side of pastrami

As some of you may know, when I'm not writing blog entries, I sometimes spend time writing for Flanders Today - a free newsweekly covering Flanders and Brussels. Up to now I've mostly covered arts and some "human interest" pieces, but in today's issue I'm branching out to an area close to your hearts: food!

Flanders Today is featuring a regular column called "bite" which I'll be contributing to. Today's article, written by yours truly, covers bagels in Brussels. I introduce Au Pays Des Merveilles (seen previously on this blog) as well as Sens near Place Chatelain - a must visit. Sens has terrific bagels, vegetarian options, and even kosher meat, as well as pastrami that some say is the best in town (I haven't eaten it, but people's reactions do indicate that it's worthwhile for the carnivores out there). Whatever toppings you take, the bagels will transport you straight back to New York. Read my article here and then go check them out!

Meanwhile, may I recommend that you also subscribe to Flanders Today while you're at it - it's a good read, and did I mention it's free? You can sign up for your weekly copy here:

Happy bageling!

Rue Armand Campenhout 62
1050 Ixelles
Tel. 02 850 66 24
Open Monday to Saturday, 7:30 to 18:30

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Spice Up Your Life at Slurps

This was a lucky find. My friend, Sarah, stumbled upon this Bio-Vegetarian gem by accident, and I was fortunate enough to benefit from her newfound knowledge.

Like other vegetarian restaurants in town, Slurps is a combo shop + resto. They take it a step further by holding cooking classes, but more on that later.

The look is great – lots of clean, crisp lines and very modern. You almost feel healthy just for walking in the door. The service is friendly and helpful. We were off to a good start.

The cuisine here is Ayurvedic. Despite the vast amounts of explanation in the menu, I have to admit that I’m still not sure what that is all about – there’s almost too much information in the menu and we were hungry so the focus was more on the “what” than the “why” or “how.” However the dishes were recognizable – at least by name – as Pan-Asian: miso soup, palak paneer, etc. A good amount of Indian influence.

For starters, we had the aforementioned palak paneer, as well as a mung bean soup (with a poached egg – yum!), and artichoke pakoras. For mains, we moved on to a seitan with hoisin sauce served with risotto; haloumi cheese skewers and rice; couscous with seitan and vegetables; and a green curry with Quorn. The bread was a foccacia-type, with some oil and spices, very light. In short, nothing disappointed. All were beautifully spiced (if sometimes a bit heavy on the salt). We were in veggie heaven.

Slurps is happy to spice up more than your food: the first Thursdays of the month, you can join a “dating cooking” class (among other classes that are offered): cook your own dinner, learn some new recipes, and maybe find yourself a date. The open kitchen used for these classes is at the back of the dining area, meaning the six people signed up that evening became our entertainment. They did seem to be enjoying themselves, and if their food came out anything like what we were served, they were at least guaranteed a good meal.

Rue Dautzenberg #7
1050 Ixelles
Tel. 0477.59.17.68 or 0477.927.411
Open weekday lunches, Wed-Sat evenings

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Heeeeere fishy, fishy, fishy!

I've spent four and a half years griping about not finding good, affordable sushi in Brussels. I've had good, expensive sushi; mediocre, expensive sushi; bad, expensive sushi; and occasionally, just for fun, bad moderately-priced sushi.

Back in my Boston days, I hit a nearby sushi bar once or twice a week and filled up on miso soup, edamame, and perfectly fine sushi for $10 - it wasn't the best sushi on the planet, but it was tasty, and let me repeat: $10.

While I will never, ever hit the $10 mark in Brussels, I have at least finally found a sushi restaurant where I didn't walk out feeling like I had spent 13 times what the meal was worth: Sushishop.

I doubt I'm presenting breaking news here - not only are they franchised across France and into other neighboring countries, but here they have prime real estate on Avenue Louise, and they deliver, so they are certainly well known. But for the few of you out there who are new to town or who haven't tried it out yet, I recommend it (although anyone out there with other recommendations - bring 'em on!).

Admittedly, sushi is infinitely more attractive if you are a fish-eating vegetarian (like me). For the true veggies, you can definitely find a meal at Sushishop but you won't have the vast selection on offer to the pescatarians.

We sampled a variety of their offerings (after the requisite miso soup and some really excellent spicy algae salad - edamame was sold out by the time we sat down to eat at 10pm). The more classic-style rolls (i.e. flavors you've heard of) were nothing to write home about, and I suspect that they only appeared so un-special in light of their neighbors on the plate. Sushishop offers some intriguing flavor combinations, as well as some unusual wrappers: in place of the usual seaweed, some rolls are wrapped in cabbage, soya, salmon or avocado.

The fillings can be equally special - we were torn between a spicy-tuna-avocado concoction; a tuna-grapefruit roll; and a vegetarian maki with the enlightening addition of mint. The list of choices is downright overwhelming, which means a return visit is definitely in the planning stages.

With dessert (fine but not amazing) and drinks thrown in, we were hovering around 25 Euros a head. All in all, worth it for the fine sushi and chic, modern setting.

(Photo by

144 Avenue Louise
1050 Ixelles
Tel. 02 613 2000
Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner (except Sunday lunch)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

It's Greek to me

Today I finally have the time to share Nea Genia with you. It is a Greek restaurant in Ixelles, and I thought I knew how to pronounce the name until I called to make a reservation (that G disappears somewhere in the back of your throat). Pronouncable or not, they offer up a ton of tasty vegetarian options in a cozy setting.

I first went to Nea Genia several years ago. As much as I enjoyed it, Gidon contended it was overpriced and I haven't been able to drag him back since. But while he was out of town, I snuck out for a girls night. Not only could we enjoy these Greek delicacies, but we got to try out my friend's new RestoPass. This was a tremendous discovery that I may need to invest in - a "passport" giving you a 30% discount (drinks excluded, we discovered) at 30 survey-selected restaurants. Fantabulous.Link

As was the food. Melty, spicy feta... huge beans in a tomato stew... greek salad... aubergines with garlic... tzatziki to die for. Sadly their vine leaves were stuffed with meat, so instead we splashed out with the two biggest sardines I have ever seen. The meal is tapas-style, served with lots of bread, and they suggested three dishes per person. We probably could have gone with five dishes between the two of us, but you won't hear me complaining. And there's plenty more to choose from so I look forward to a totally different meal the next time I'm there.

The candlelit interior is comfortable and chic - and the servers are helpful. Our waiter realized we were eating vegetarian and volunteered the information about the vine leaves (1 point!), and no one kicked us out when we lingered over the meal for three hours, past their closing time (another point!). Also they were just plain friendly.

Now, as to the overpriced question: this is not the cheapest meal in town. But we did leave full and happy, so although it may be a bit on the pricey side, it's not enough keep me away (now I just need to convince Gidon...).

Nea Genia
Chaussée de Waterloo 437
1050 Ixelles
Tel. 02.344.58.76
Closed Sundays, and lunchtime

Monday, March 30, 2009

Check out Chickpea - CLOSED

We're reaching the end of Passover here, meaning a. life is slowly calming down again, and b. soon we'll be eating normal food once more! Although I haven't had time to write about it until now, we did sneak in a trip to Chickpea just before Passover. This was an exciting discovery that I'm happy to share with you.

Located at the chic intersection of Avenue Louis Lepoutre and Chaussee de Waterloo (leave your car at home), Chickpea is a mediterranean restaurant that opened about 3 or 4 months ago. It's Israeli-owned, but not kosher - so it can serve as a partial replacement for the now-closed PilPel, certainly on the vegetarian side. That said, it's a bit more upscale than PilPel ever was, with a modern, candlelit interior, so you may want to save it for a nicer night out.

Then again, the night we were there, a fairly tame bachelor party of Israelis and Italians had dressed up the groom-to-be in a bunny outfit and he went around the restaurant selling chocolate eggs to the other patrons. So they aren't too hung up on propriety.

Fortunately, they are hung up on good food. The menu features a selection of starters, many of which are vegetarian, and all of which sound delish. We opted for their salad selection - a tapas-style serving of a dozen or so different salads, served with a warm, soft lavash type of bread. Although we were 4 at dinner, the waiter (thankfully) suggested ordering only enough for 2, since we would all be having main dishes afterwards. It was a welcome suggestion since the salads quickly filled the table - hummus, tehina, cucumber/tomato, spicy tomato salsa, pickles, cauliflower, falafel, you name it. All of it seasoned with different combinations of lemon, mint, pepper, and all the things that make mediterranean food so fresh and scrumptious.

For our main dishes, there were a few orders of fish and one meat. These were a bit of a disappointment, particularly following the fantastic starters. The fish was fine but really nothing to write home about. I bet they could do up some sort of vegetarian main if you were really hankering for it, although nothing appears on the menu. I'd suggest going full-on tapas style, ordering the salad selection for the whole party, throwing in some of the warm starters as well. Or just tell them you're vegetarian and see what they suggest.

We got talking to our waiter (who may also be the owner?), and I asked a very important question: what is their limonana status? For those who don't know, limonana is an out-of-this-world lemonade with fresh mint - actually, that's really all there is to it, and you can make it at home, but it's absolutely the perfect summer beverage (or really at any time of year). The bad news is that they don't have it. The good news is that they don't have it - yet. A machine is on order so I can soon get my fix. Meanwhile, you can make do with their decent wine list, including some Israeli kosher wines - a pleasant surprise for us.


Chaussée de Waterloo 510
1050 Ixelles
Tel: 02/345.80.08
Open every day! 12h-15h & 18h-22h30 (Fri/Sat til 23h)

No Oops at Oups

Oups was a delightful discovery shortly after I moved to Brussels. It was a few doors down from the now-closed Focus Career Services, which is more or less the first stop in Brussels for any trailing spouses (or girlfriends, in my case). While I didn't ever spend much time at Focus, I have always enjoyed a trip to Oups.

For those who don't know or haven't guessed, their specialty is soup. Behind the bar, you'll find a listing of about half a dozen soups that are on for that day. The best part - almost all are vegetarian. You place your order at the bar and then take a seat in their charming, simple and clean dining area. The soup arrives along with delish wholesome homemade bread.

To hard to choose? No problem. Take two 1/4 liter bowls of different flavors. It's the perfect solution. Want more bread? Just ask. The service here couldn't be friendlier. There's a nice selection of drinks as well, but be warned - after 1/2 a liter of soup, you're bound to be pretty full of liquid.

The soups on offer change all the time, but last week the offerings included a cream of tomato, a carrot/coconut milk blend, and a slightly heartier mediterranean inspired soup with bulgar, tomatos, lentils and more. Drop in this week and you're sure to have different choices, but you can be sure that they will all be good.

Rue Lesbroussart 13
1050 Brussels
Tel. : 02.646.88.41
Closed weekends

Monday, March 16, 2009

Brussels' Vegetarian Classics

Generally I strive to cover the places that don't turn up when you Google "Vegetarian" and "Brussels". That said, no vegetarian Brussels-based blog could possibly be complete without a visit to Dolma. Google "Vegetarian" and "Brussels" and just about everyone will send you there. With good reason.

Dolma is a fantabulous vegetarian restaurant right near Place Flagey. They offer a buffet at lunchtime and in the evenings, and every time I go, it's both different and delicious. It's all you can eat (except for the desserts). They also have a very small menu for those who wish to order a la carte, but that's hardly the point.

Round one, I hit the soup-and-salad table. A hot vegetarian soup, crisp vegetables, a couple of kinds of lettuce, something marinated, some fruit salad. If you're there at lunchtime, a hefty serving from that table could be enough to send a veggie home smiling. But there's more!

Round two: the hot stuff. First, the bain-marie, generally with two kinds of rice (white and brown), some stewed vegetables, maybe some protein. Then we move on to a whole selection of vegetarian goodness. Last week - just as a sampling - this meant: lasagne "bolognese"; beautifully spiced grilled aubergines; courgettes and peppers with a yogurt sauce (which was also delish with the aubergines); and a veggie quiche. The bain-marie featured green beans and pumpkin in a coconut milk sauce, and marinated mushrooms.

Round three: this is where I go back for more of the stuff that was particularly good in round two. Yum.

Round four: dessert. Sadly, this is by far Dolma's weakpoint. A lot of their desserts seem to be vegan, and mastering the vegan cake without sacrificing flavor is a challenge for anyone. There are usually offerings in the chocolate, fruit, and creamy departments, but I've rarely had anything worth writing home about. Thankfully by that point in the meal, I'm too full to care.

Love Dolma enough to take it home with you? Sure you do. Walk next door and you'll find their shop, full of exciting bio products that you won't find in your local GB.

Don't fancy the whole buffet-surprise thing? Check out Tsampa, Dolma's sister restaurant (plus shop!) off Rue du Bailli, where you have a much better selection in ordering off the menu. I used to eat there all the time until they started closing at 7pm; the shop stays open until 8pm these days. This makes them more of a lunchtime affair, or a really early dinner, I guess. Plus they do take-away.

Both Tsampa and Dolma are heavy on the Tibetan flag-decor (apparently the original owners were Lamas), and both have a homey feel, with lots of wood panelling.

Good food in a comforting atmosphere, and you can eat everything in the place... what could be better than that?

Chaussée d'Ixelles 329
1050 Ixelles
Tel. 02 649 89 81 (Reservations not required but not a bad idea either)
Open Tues-Sat for lunch and dinner
Lunch will run you 15 Eur; Dinner at 18

Rue de Livourne 109
1050 Ixelles
Tel. 02 647 03 67
Open Mon-Fri from 12-7pm

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bagel Wonderland

As part of my professional life, I work part-time for the International Jewish Center (IJC) where I get to answer all kinds of fun questions. By far my favorite was an email that came in a couple of years ago: "Hi, I just moved to town and I'm looking for a place where I can buy a good bagel." To those of you out there who hearken from New York, Montreal, or other important points in the world of bagel geography, I can already hear the resoundingly sarcastic "Good luck!"

So it was certainly an exciting moment when I discovered that PilPel (a shop/restaurant which has already been reviewed on this blog) carries frozen H&H bagels. New Yorkers, eat your heart out. But recently, I heard about Au Pays des Merveilles ("Wonderland", as in, "Alice in"), a little bagel restaurant/coffee shop in St Gilles. Whereas most Belgians seem to think that a bagel is just a roll with a hole in the middle, APDM at least gets the bagel concept a little more accurately, if not exactly up to North American standards.

I felt obligated to go with the classic: cream cheese and lox. A bit of criticism here: for one, APDM actually has a section on their menu called "classics" - and cream cheese and lox does not make the cut. More to the point, don't get your hopes up for lox; smoked salmon was all that was on offer, although I've come to expect that in this bagelly-hopeless country. (For those who don't know, lox is not smoked and has a salt content high enough to harden your arteries just by looking at it.) I was happy to see that they were generous with the "schmear" (i.e. cream cheese), and the service gets two thumbs up for friendliness.

APDM's bagels come in from Amsterdam, and I'm glad they make the trip. These certainly beat the other "bagels" on offer around town (perhaps with the exception of those frozen H&H beauties, but the fresher the better so I'm about 50/50 on this one). Also the tea, coffee, and hot chocolate selection makes this place a surefire destination for a Sunday brunch. Clearly other people agree, since the small and adorably decorated seating area was full up by 11:30am last Sunday morning, and there was no shortage of people lined up for takeout.

The bagel conundrum remains, but give APDM a try.

Au Pays des Merveilles
42 avenue Jean Volders
1060 Saint-Gilles
Tel. 0488 476 826
Open 7/7! Mon-Fri from 9h-18h; Sat-Sun from 10h-19h

Friday, February 27, 2009

Yum Yum chez Bon-Bon

You don't need me to tell you how good Bon-Bon is. Putting aside it's Michelin star, every review seems to be downright orgasmic when they start in on Bon-Bon's fresh market menu. But they have yet to answer the burning question: can they do vegetarian?

Gidon and I were celebrating the last of our anniversaries (huh? see here - click on "Two weddings?") and decided to splash out with a dinner at Bon-Bon. After all, we'd heard so much about it and thought it was worth the risk. Also, it's right in our neighborhood and we pass it all the time, and what's a better way to tempt someone than that?

We called ahead of time and they said they could do vegetarian, no problem. When we confirmed the reservation, they wanted the full run-down of what we do and do not eat. This was way more interest than any Belgian restaurant has ever taken in my diet before. After a lengthy explanation (yes to cheese and tuna, no to turbot, please don't ask me why) we were warned that they do either a 3-, 5-, or 7-course dinner, and 7 courses was going to be a bit difficult under the circumstances. We could decide between 3 and 5 that night. Fair 'nuff.

The restaurant itself is small, lots of wood panelling, and a nice mix of old styles with modern touches. We started with a creamy mozzarella and fresh tomato amuse bouche. Simple but elegant. We also got started on their tasty, crusty bread with salty butter that was a lovely accompaniment throughout the evening.

They showed us the menu of the evening (other than the 3/5/7 bit, diners are not given a choice), even though we wouldn't be seeing a great deal of it. For the meat-eaters out there, it sure looked tasty on the page - and at the table next to us, where we watched them work their way through the 7 courses with much pleasure and appreciation. We opted for 3 courses.

For our starter, we had a fresh tuna tartare with a herb sorbet. A refreshing kickoff - and one that we shared with the rest of the restaurant. Our main dish was a vegetarian concoction: celeriac raviolis; cooked bok choy; a crispy latke - I mean, potato pancake; and a few other veg, all accompanied by a bearnaise sauce that I enjoyed but Gidon might have preferred a few other flavors along with it.

At this point, I did have a moment of panic in my head: although the food had been delicious, the portions were small small small, and I thought "we're going to head home, having spent a decent amount for this fancy meal, and I'm going to have to make dinner!" Fortunately, my freaking out (as usual) was premature. For one, those small portions are served slowly and are more filling than you expect. For two, we weren't even halfway through the meal yet.

We were offered the cheese course, and you don't need to sell me on cheese. This was an add-on to our 3-course menu but well worth it. They wheeled out an exquisite selection of about 20 French and Belgian cheeses, which our waitress described so quickly, I could barely process it. Overwhelmed and mouths watering, Gidon and I asked her to just make up a selection of her choosing - 8 different cheeses in total. We were both blown away by the first, which I described (in a good way, I swear!) as tasting "like a farm." It was a strong, earthy flavor that was just terrific. We followed it up with chevre, blue cheeses and others, but although all were delicious, that was the most memorable. Now if I could only remember what it was called...

They asked if we wanted dessert or would move straight on to coffee. 20/20 hindsight: we should have gone to the coffee, which is accompanied by a small selection of four 1-to-2-bite delicacies. But in the interest of research, or because it was our anniversary, or whatever excuse you want to insert here, we said, "dessert, please!"

The waiter said: "Your first dessert will be fresh pink grapefruit with lychee and rose sorbet" but I have to admit I kind of tuned out at the word "first." A scrumptious combo although a bit too sweet for Gidon. This was followed by Dessert, Part Two: essentially some frozen yogurt (plain, i.e. yogurt, flavor) and lait d'amande ice cream. Both were lovely although I'm more of a fruit-for-dessert person myself. Also around the second dessert was when I started announcing that I was going to "explode," which was promptly followed by the arrival of the coffee with its accompanying set of desserts. My, my.

When the bill arrived, it was obviously nothing to sneeze at. But we had had a special, if somewhat restricted meal, and certainly an anniversary to remember.

Bon-Bon: salon d’artisan cuisinier
Rue des Carmélites, 93
1180 Uccle
Closed Saturday lunch and Sundays.
Tel: +32 (0)2 346.66.15

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Who knew Broccoli could be funny?

I am overdue here for introducing my new favorite website. Granted it has nothing to do with food, let alone vegetarian food - it is called and it is exactly that: a new video every Tuesday and Thursday of an older Jewish person telling some sort of bad joke. This one is called "Broccoli", which, of the jokes available, is the closest to having anything to do with a vegetarian blog. Enjoy, and visit the site!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lots of yum chez Lotus

Eating anywhere in the vicinity of the Sablon for less than an arm and a leg is well-nigh impossible. Not to mention that it's about 95% Belgian food (directions: cook food, add bacon, serve). So we're always a bit frustrated when we find ourselves in that neighborhood and hungry. This problem has been augmented by the subscription we took out to the Bozar this year for their chamber music series - good for the ears, bad for the stomach.

Imagine my glee when my frantic Googling turned up Lotus Bar. Main dishes for 15 eur? One block off the Sablon? Thai?!? Sign me up!

Be warned: they are short on veggie dishes. We ordered from the few available, which meant one order of vegetable pad thai, one order of vegetables cooked up in a spicy thai basic sauce, side of rice. There's a couple other things on the menu (by which I mean a "couple" - i.e. 2) that will feed a vegetarian, so it's far from ideal in the diversity department. But the two dishes we had were filling, tasty, served up quickly (in time to make it to our chamber music concert) and each around 12 eur. Hard to beat.

The decor is pleasant enough, although there's a bizarre dry-ice-smoky statue thing going on in the middle of the room. We ate early as pre-theater-goers, but the place was starting to fill up, and I gather that reservations may not be a bad idea since it's not a huge place. They also have a full bar and a long list of cocktails for those who like to spend 7-10 eur on a beverage (hence the "bar" of "Lotus Bar"). Also, they deliver.


Lotus Bar
12 Joseph Stevensstreet, Sablon
1000 Brussels
T 02/514.50.59
Opening hours: Lunches and dinners except for Saturday lunch; no delivery on Tuesdays

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Follow me, and I promise not to lead you off a cliff

I've discovered the "Followers" gadget on blogger, which you'll now see on the right side of the page. I thought I'd try it out but only so long as it doesn't leave me feeling like a loser - which means I'll keep it up for a little while here and hope that some of you actually decide to follow my blog.

Try it! It will be fun! It's a win-win situation: you'll get restaurant tips, and I'll get to feel better about myself knowing that someone out there actually reads my blog.

It's these types of functionalities that keep me the heck away from Facebook et al. It's way too easy to get overly competitive about how many virtual friends you have...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Best pizza in Brussels? Sì!

When it comes to pizza, there's been one clear resto at the top of my list for the last 4 years: Cosi Com'è. I was first taken there within about a month of arriving in Brussels - one of our Bruxellois friends introduced it to us as "the best pizza in Brussels," and I have yet to find a place that proves him wrong.

Pizza is a hotly debated topic and my friends from New York could easily get into a knock-down-drag-out fight with my Italian friends over what qualifies as true pizza. All I know is that the huge, thin pizzas that come out (slowly but surely) from Cosi Com'è's ovens are tasty as hell. Ask for their red pepper oil to give your pizza a nice extra kick.
In my past few visits I've also discovered their excellent pastas - they aren't listed on the menu but they are displayed beautifully where you first walk in and are definitely worth a try (their Raviolis aux Cepes is my personal fave). For those of you who prefer take-out, Cosi Com'è boasts one of the weirder attractions of Brussels: an outdoor pasta vending machine. I've never tried it but I suspect all their dishes are better when they come from behind the counter, and for take-out purposes, just phone your order in ahead of time.

As for the people behind the counter, they do leave something to be desired when it comes to service. Never come to Cosi Com'è if you are on a tight schedule, and don't be afraid to gently remind the waitstaff when they forget to bring your drink or anything else you've asked for. The decor is nothing special - fortunately they have expanded their seating area to include a pleasantly lit basement room, but reservations are still very strongly recommended on any night of the week. Stay patient, and I assure you the food is worth the wait.
Let me know your suggestions for quality pizza in Brussels - it's the easiest thing in the world for vegetarians and I'd love some suggestions.

Cosi Com'è
Place de l’Altitude Cent, 3
1190 Bruxelles
Tel : 02/ 345 48 09
Closed Mondays and weekend lunchtimes - and watch out for an epic summer closing in July/August

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Kosher Brussels: PilPel - CLOSED

First of all, Happy new year! I hope 2009 will bring peace, health and happiness to the world. It certainly promises to be an interesting year, starting with a fairly momentous event on January 20th...

But back to the real important things in life: vegetarian food in Belgium. While searching for a sardine recipe (apparently they are one of the 11 healthy foods you aren't eating), I stumbled on Written by a woman who is half-Trinidadian, half-Jamaican, and Jewish, I figured I could not go wrong (I was right, her sardine pate was delicious). We got in touch and she asked whether there was much of a kosher restaurant scene in Brussels, so I figured I would post something in reply.

Brussels is indeed shy on kosher options, while Antwerp has no shortage of kosher eateries (for a few highlights, see the article I wrote for Flanders Today magazine). That's what an active, ultra-Orthodox community will do for you. But of the teeny bit Brussels has to offer, my resto of choice is PilPel.

Kosher food comes in three varieties: dairy, meat, and pareve (neither milk nor meat). The fourth category, treyf, covers all the non-kosher stuff. What's good about kosher establishments is that you have certain guarantees walking in; for example, a dairy restaurant will never have any meat products whatsoever. This can be a handy thing to know as a vegetarian. Moreover, if you're vegan, ordering something vegetarian in a meat restaurant is a pretty safe bet since there will be no dairy products for miles (but do watch out for eggs, which are pareve, and can appear in both meat and dairy restaurants).

But you didn't come here for a lecture on the laws of kosher eating.

PilPel (Hebrew for "pepper") is a meat restaurant, but a vegetarian can get by quite happily. For one, they have falafel. For two, they have a whole slew of salads that you can order one by one, or as a mixed assortment. This includes delicious hummus, as well as different combinations of eggplant, tomato, cucumber, carrot, beet, and more. Everything comes with warm, thin, happy pita bread. And of course the meat options open up many more doors, so it's a good choice for a simple meal when you're heading out with non-veggie friends.

Nothing fancy, but definitely yum, and although you're sitting in a mini-mall, the decor is actually quite pleasant (hint: make sure to check out the shape of the ceiling lights when you visit). They also have a shop in case you feel inspired to pick up some kosher food.

A word to the wise: non-Jews do not often realize the quantities associated with Jewish eating. The general thought process is "the Russians are coming!" In short, we have a deep-seated fear of expulsion, to be followed by starvation. You have been warned.

Avenue De Fre 82 (De Fre Shopping Center)
Uccle 1180
Tel: 02-374-5300
Open: Mon-Thurs lunch & dinner; Fri lunch; Sunday from 12pm-10pm