Monday, March 22, 2010

St Job Soirée

In case you weren't aware, Place St Job is one heck of a dining bonanza. Avenue Jean et Pierre Carsoel, running down the hill into the square, is lined with restaurant after restaurant - every one that I've tried makes for a great night out. Prime restaurant real estate!

Our most recent excursion landed us at La Soeur du Patron. The Uccle/St Job restaurant also has an Auderghem branch, with almost the same menu. I had heard a few positive rumors about this place, so at the end of a long work day, we treated ourselves to a meal.

The interior is quite chic, with red walls, and soft lighting emanating from unusual light fixtures. I have to admit that "real" (i.e. non-fish eating) vegetarians are going to run into some issues here, but if you're fish-friendly (or even better if you're carnivorous), you'll be pleased.

A page of standard Belgian starters was followed by a page of carpaccios. Between the three of us, we were off to a running start with a tuna carpaccio seasoned à la japonaise, scampi croquettes, and a salmon tartare on a bed of taboule. As I said, short on real vegetarian options, although their page of salads looked delectable, with one or two vegetarian choices, and several others probably easily adaptable to a vegetarian palate.

For mains, they offer pastas (mostly with meat or fish), fish choices, plenty of meats, and a page of "world food", again, all with meat or fish. We opted for a lime-glazed salmon, and a perch with yellow pepper coulis (also duck with calvados, mushrooms and apples for my truly non-veggie friend). The fish were both accompanied by nicely seasoned vegetables but the fish themselves were a bit on the bland side.

On to dessert: L'Arabica was delicious although I must admit I did not commit the list of ingredients to memory. Suffice it to say, it involved meringue, mascarpone, chocolate, coffee, and I think some ice cream. Very tasty.

For our second dessert, we couldn't resist their wildest offering: speculoos ice cream with parmesan shavings and balsamic vinegar coulis. Yes, you read that right. Sound weird? It was. The flavors were (obviously) diverse and I was very aware of different taste sensations happening in different parts of my mouth. But the flavors never really came together in a coherent way, making the experience intriguing but not worth repeating.

The bill worked out to about 45 EUR per person, although we paid a bit less after scoring a RestoPass discount. All in all, a nice meal with some adventurous flavors; worth a visit, but not for every day.

La Soeur du Patron
Ave Jean et Pierre Carsoel 5
1180 Uccle
Tel: 02.374.08.80

Chaussée de Wavre 1700
1160 Auderghem
Tel: 02.675.00.92

Both locations closed Saturday/Sunday lunchtime
Sunday evenings are complicated - Uccle is open Fall/Winter on Sunday nights, Auderghem in Spring/Summer, at least according to their website. Call ahead in any case, as reservations are a good idea.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Something pretty in the EU Quarter

Looking back over my blog entries, I see that Italian is the most popular of the various cuisines I've covered here. I find that kind of amusing, because my husband likes to point out that when I'm in charge of making dinner, we end up with something Asian (stir fry, curry) whereas when he's the chef of the night, we end up with something more European (e.g. Italian).

But I can hardly say I have anything against Italian food, and indeed, one restaurant in particular is a lunchtime favorite amidst the boring sandwich shops in the EU Quarter.

Carina means "pretty" in Italian, and seems to be pretty authentic - from the Italian ladies who run the operation, to the beautiful, fresh ingredients.

Vegetarians will find plenty to choose from here. On the cheap/quick side: opt for one of the paninis, displayed in the case at the front of the restaurant, heated up on order. Thick ciabattas, marinated vegetables, and flavorful cheeses - you can't go wrong.

You'll also find their exquisite vegetable plates, featuring fresh and marinated vegetables, usually some lentils or other protein source, and half a ball of fresh mozzarella. The price is a bit steep for a plate of vegetables (around 9 EUR) but I occasionally indulge myself in this treat nonetheless.

Salads and pastas are also available - last week, I opted for their ravioli in a sage-butter sauce. Rich, but not heavy. Sit down for your meal (instead of partaking in their bustling take-away business) and enjoy fresh foccacia with your order.

I don't often have a lunchtime dessert, but their fresh fruit salad, displayed in the take-away case, is truly a work of art and sometimes proves irresistible.

Carina is a popular lunchtime option, and may even suffer a bit from its success: all those diners make for quite a din - I often have felt like I'm shouting to my tablemates just be heard. A small price to pay for good, fresh food, though.

Rue de la Science 10
1000 Brussels
Tel. 02 230 81 88
Open lunchtimes Monday to Friday
Reservations recommended

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Another Indian Adventure

At a reader's recommendation (many moons ago), I finally got my act together and made it to Les Feux de Bengale, an Indian restaurant in the neighborhood of the Grand Place. I'm skeptical of many restaurants in that area, as I've found that many offer mediocre, overpriced food, but a recommendation is worth a lot in my book.

We started with the requisite papadums and chutney selection, so far, so good. My mango lassi was very thick and not too sweet; not bad, but not the best I've had. We then sampled all the vegetarian appetizer options on the menu: malakatani soup (which seems to have as many spellings as there are Indian restaurants), onion bhaji, and vegetable samosas. All were good, although I missed having an accompanying sauce for the non-soup starters.

Mains: first, the obligatory palak paneer. The spinach was thick and flavorful, the paneer seemed to be actual paneer (not always a guarantee), and the whole thing was nicely flavored with herbs and spices. Check.

Number two: bhindi bhaji, fried okra. A personal favorite, okra sometimes cooks up to be sort of slimy. Not so here, where the okra were fairly firm, and even a bit spicy. Check.

Lastly: dal. It was pleasant but fairly forgettable - the malakatani was a more memorable lentil option.

Throw in a few chapatis, raiti, and rice, and you have the makings of a serious Indian evening. Enjoyable and filling, it was a nice meal but probably not worth heading across town for. That said, everyone finds themselves in the Grand Place area at one time or another, and for that, Les Feux de Bengale is a nice option.

Les Feux de Bengale
Rue des Eperonniers 69
Brussels 1000
Tel. 02.513.51.63
Open for dinner every day