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