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