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