Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lebanese Evening

Al Barmaki has been on my list for a long time. It's got a pretty good rep on the blogs, and it's mentioned in the Michelin guide. The latter may also relate to the one recurring complaint: it's overpriced. And to some extent, it is. But the food is also delicious and when you're paying for real estate a couple of blocks from the Grand Place, you have to pay a certain price for quality.

A vegetarian can eat well at Al Barmaki, but only the mezzes. You have to order a minimum of three per person, which is also just about the right size for one person. The server also offered to make up a mixed platter for us, even vegetarian, but I was wary of what the bill might look like so we ordered six dishes of our own choosing.

The menu just gives the names of the dishes, no explanation, but the server was happy to answer questions. Our six dishes were:
- Hommos: this had a significant smokey flavor that surprised me but was quite nice. If you want it with tehina, that's a separate dish; we passed on that.
- Tomato and cucumber salad: ample and delish, done up with a fresh, light dressing. As good as it was, I have a hard time justifying 7 euros for it.
- Cheese in pastry: another winner. The pastry dough was thicker than I expected; the cheese was soft and mixed with herbs. Yum.
- Labne: there was much debate between this dish and another mezze of yogurt with garlic. With 20/20 hindsight, I think we should have tried the yogurt - the labne was thick and creamy but I've had better.
- Fried eggplants and cauliflower: I envisioned fritters made of both items, but this was actually just the vegetables, fried up. The eggplant was exceptional. The cauliflower was a little boring.
- Falafel: another success. Crispy, good size falafel balls, and we had unconsciously ordered all the fixin's.

All this was served with thin, soft bread (I was corrected for calling it pita), and we got a bowlful of tasty black olives (and I'm normally not a fan of black olives) and pickled peppers. Service was mediocre by Belgian standards, and although the setting isn't particularly swanky, it would definitely make for a good date location.

Plus the place gets bonus points for the table seated right next to us: five older gentlemen who looked Lebanese and also looked like they ate there at least twice a week. That's the best vote of confidence any restaurant can ask for.

Split down the middle, the bill came to just over 25 eur for each of us, including drinks, which might be a bit on the steep side but isn't outrageous. In my never-ending quest for quality food in the area of the Bourse, I think I can safely add Al Barmaki to my list.

Al Barmaki
67, rue des Eperonniers
1000 Brussels
Tel. 02 513 08 34
Open from 19h to midnight, Mon-Sat
Reservations recommended.

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