Monday, July 26, 2010

In the Element

I'm both excited and sorry to say that my husband and I are moving back to the U.S. at the end of this summer. It's a new adventure - and hopefully a continued adventure in eating - but it's sad to say farewell to Brussels. What it does mean is that I've got a month of farewell dinners coming up in the next few weeks, which is great for my belly, but may not provide a lot of blog material, between the home-cooked meals and visits to many of the old favorites before we go.

One of those old favorites was L'Element Terre, which we visited last week on our farewell tour. This is one of Brussels' vegetarian restaurants, in the sense that they serve scampi. But they also offer plenty of "real" vegetarian options, based on a round-the-world theme.

Each dish first notes the country that it hearkens from. Their appetizers come in normal or "tapas" size portions, so we opted for three tapas for the four of us: Moroccan chick-pea-and-lentil-based "merguez", beautifully spiced and accented with chopped tomato and coriander; Ceylan's vegetable pakoras, which I would have called tempura, served with a pineapple-and-cinnamon chutney - a lovely flavor but not necessarily lovely with the tempura; and a Lebanese smokey baba ganoush served with the requisite pita.

My African vegetable and heavily-peppered-tofu skewers were topped with a chunky and spicy peanut sauce, served up with a pot of rice and some fried bananas. All yum although the tofu really had too much pepper. Around the table we had Moroccan tajine, again with aromatic spices and a bit of heat (a side of harissa or other hot sauce would have done well); a smooth and rich Indian chick-pea stew; and Italian vegetable strips wrapped around cheesy peppery stuffing. We had arrived hungry but by this point were happy and at the perfect point of well-fed-ness, with cleaned plates in front of us and enough room left for dessert.

Three of four dessert options involved chocolate, plus one fruit-based (cherries). We had one slice of chocolate-hazelnut torte, and another of white chocolate torte. The latter was based more on a sort of rice-pudding flavor although the white chocolate was present but not strongly enough for me, a great lover of rich white chocolate desserts. The choco-nut choice was nice, with a drier consistency and not too much sweetness. Espressos and fresh mint teas made for an excellent accompaniment.

The weather obliged so we sat in their garden, a nice, quiet and small area with tall bamboo and a cherry-plum crossbreed tree next to us. The indoors is also quaint with wood paneling and touches of red.

L'Element Terre is strong on presentation, and almost every dish is accented with a piece of fresh fruit - at least it was at this summertime meal. It's a feast for the eyes and the mouth, great for a nice and relaxing night out.

L'Element Terre
Chaussee de Waterloo 465
1050 Ixelles
Tel. 02 649 32 27
Closed Sundays and Mondays; reservations generally a good idea, particularly for garden seating in the summer


Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Oh this is so typical - I always discover the best things too late! I shall enjoy reading your restaurant reviews anyway. Good luck back in the US.

Sharon said...

Thanks for the good wishes! I hope you enjoy reading the archives. Hopefully I'll post one or two more before I go... if I can find time amidst the moving boxes.