Thursday, April 29, 2010

Heading Up North

It's been weeks since my last posting - but in my defense, I was on vacation, then there was a volcano delay... and then I was just plain lazy. As if that wasn't bad enough, today's post is a little bit of a cop-out, but I promise there are more postings of new restaurants coming really soon!

On to today's cuisine: Up North, a Scandinavian restaurant. You'll find my full review in Bite, my Flanders Today weekly column. I did enjoy a lovely meal there - although if you are really vegetarian, this is not the place for you. If you eat fish, however, bon appetit!

The menu is fairly small, with fish featuring prominently, and a few meat dishes. The portions were ample, and the aquavit was refreshing. Scandinavian food features strong flavors, so this is not really a good place for cautious eaters, either. But the food was tasty, the service friendly, and the atmosphere comfortable.

Go here to read my column, and go here to eat:

Up North
Rue des Chapeliers 36
Brussels 1000
Tel. 02 502 77 29
Reservations not a bad idea
Open Tues-Sat for lunch and dinner

Friday, April 2, 2010

Pasta Party

We are now part-way into the Jewish holiday of Passover - 8 breadless days. Modern interpretations actually prohibit anything that could remotely be perceived as "leavened", or even items that might have been physically close to something leavened and therefore could - hypothetically - be contaminated. In short, lately we've been eating a lot of vegetables, fish, and of course the ubiquitous matzah, the unleavened "bread" (i.e. crackers) of the holiday.

But last Sunday, after scouring our kitchen from top to bottom and a day spent cooking special Passover dishes, Gidon and I set out for one last leavened bonanza, or as I like to call it, our "yeast feast". And when it comes to Passover prohibitions, no one does it better than Italy. So we tried out Fratelli la Bufala.

This restaurant is no secret. It's a highly trafficked venue on Rue Americaine, and part of an international, family-run chain, mostly found in Italy but with about a dozen other countries on their franchise list.

And, as you might guess from the name, the focus is on buffalo - its meat, milk, and the cheese made from that milk. To our chagrin, we were informed before ordering that they had had a busy weekend, and by the time of our dining on Sunday night, they had actually run out of the buffalo mozzarella. Given how packed they were on this particular Sunday (and I don't imagine this was a fluke of Jews dining out before Passover), it seems they could do with some better planning in that regard.

So while I can't really discuss the mozzarella with you, I can tell you that we certainly didn't starve and we actually very much enjoyed our mozzarella-less meal. We shared a starter of layers of baked aubergine with tomato and provola - a smoked, smooth cheese with a consistency similar to mozzarella. A great beginning.

I tried to order the gnocchi, served with a buffalo milk ricotta, but unfortunately they were out of that, too. I switched gears to the tortiglioni, in a buffalo cream sauce with zucchini (known to some around here as courgette). The pasta was al dente, the flavors were subtle, we were happy. We also sampled a pizza, which did feature buffalo mozzarella - we checked that when ordering. The crust was chewy and toasty, the toppings were fresh; the happiness continued.

On to dessert: mini cannoli, filled with buffalo ricotta, accented with chocolate. Our neighboring diners were a course ahead of us and when we saw this dessert served to them, our path was clear. A light and lovely ending.

While I was a bit disappointed with the limited menu, I was still pleased with the meal we ended up eating. To top it off, the service was friendly, and the setting was comfortable. At about 30 Euro per person, it was right on par with this trendy neighborhood's dining scene. It's worth a return visit - hopefully next time with some of that mozzarella.

Fratelli la Bufala
Rue Americaine 118
1050 Ixelles
Tel. 02 537 6700
Closed on Mondays
Reservations not a bad idea (enjoy the "cheesy" video...)