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 photovaco.com)

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