The Nordic Fusionist vodkas had a magnificent day view at Phare du Kanaal Christmas market. The winter batches are now sold out, with Pearnilla (Pear, vanilla and cardamom) being the frontrunner. Thanks a ton to everyone who came, and keep an eye out for the spring creations. We are dreaming of fresh pine shoots, birch sap and lilac nectar. We will keep you posted here and on our facebook page.
| Guest post by Johanna | Sophisticated, slightly sweet and slightly sour, here is our take on an American classic – the Whisky Sour. This elegant drink looks smashing with your cocktail attire and is easy to make without compromising on taste or glam factor.… Read More
| Guest post by Johanna | In order to survive the long, grey Belgian winter or the even longer, dark and absolutely freezing Scandinavian winter, one develops certain survival techniques. Of these, my absolute favorite, has to be the consumption of a warm beverage with… Read More
On an anonymous side street between De Brouckere and Congrès, next to office blocks and empty car parks, one finds the simple Japanese restaurant Sakagura. Despite its modest appearance, eating here is a culinary pleasure, and for very reasonable prices. Walking around the empty office blocs by night the area can feel dystopic, but stepping in through Sakagura’s doors saves you from the apocalypse.
We tried their ‘Omakase umi’, which consists of three little salads and two extra dishes of your choice. The salads are exemplary if you like fish and squiggly vegetables. One contained meaty octopus slices in zesty ginger, and the suspiciously named “mountain jellyfish”, turned out to be a juicy vegetable in vinegar and chili. All the salads were fresh, filling and and delicious, with interesting flavours you don’t get in your typical Japanese restaurant. But the typical Japanese restaurant often sells mass-produced sushi, and sushi isn’t on the menu at Sakagura.
To the salads we were served pan-fried gyoza dumplings with chili and salty sauce, and deep-fried chicken made of the browner, tastier parts. The queen of the table was a lightly boiled tuna with horseradish, which was pure tender deliciousness. Horseradish and fish is always a winner. Our greedy eyes ordered in vegetable tempura as well, but this was far too much food after what we already ordered, and it felt bland compared to the first dishes.
My greed has few limits though, and we finished with a green tea panna cotta, dressed with sweet red beans. To me it tasted like fish and cream at the same time, but perhaps that says more about my tastebuds than Japanese desserts (from what I understand it’s an acquired taste). Next time, I’ll finish with sake instead (because they have a large selection) and try eat slightly less. Because I’m definitely returning.
Sakagura, Rue du Marais 15, 1000 Bruxelles, http://www.sakagura.be/, 02 201 78 88
Ergon is a very humble-looking Greek deli, but don’t let this fool you. Grab a seat inside the light, loud shop, and you can be served the most impressive delicacies. Their balsamic-glazed grilled octopus with fava bean puré and fried bean balls is a sweet, smoky bliss. If you’re feeling cold and want something densely filling, their beef ragu with orzo pasta and greek cheese is incredibly satisfying – like a rich, silky bolognese with big chunks of steak.
They also serve a highly recommendable spread of dips, including aubergine tartar, spicy feta paste, squid ink tsatsiki and hummus. You can sample some Greek herbal teas, which are still foraged off cliff slopes around the country. In addition to all the great things above, Ergon is good value for money. I look forward to returning an evening with plentiful time, to sample all their meze snacks.
My friend Jenny who first spotted this place is an Ergon fan because they serve Greek food at its best. With five years in Athens, and a degree in classical archeology and ancient history, I trust her judgment on this, and eat there happily.
|Ergon, Rue du Parnasse 1, 1050 Ixelles|
Places like Gramm are special. Eating their five-course tasting menu (with a cute amuse bouche and a cheese board), is not dinner. It is something else. Attention has gone inte every tiny detail on the plate, and the flavours are innovative, yet go together perfectly. Gramm is the kind of place you go to when you have time, and good company, because you will spend four hours eating little dishes, sipping away on a smooth wine.
Arriving, we were met by a charming waitor who explained the concept of the evening for us. He brought us aperitifs for the amuse bouche, and then a dry natural wine, tasting surprisingly much like a Gueze beer, but with more complex aftertaste. The first nibble was a goat cheese jelly served on a bed of beetroot, which was both tasty and amusing.
The second dish on the menu was a soup of pumpkin, chestnuts and umami crisp. It was sweet, rich and beautifully balanced with the salty umami. After the soup there was ham with celery and herby mayo, which married like the most beautiful ham sandwich. The meat-free substitute to this dish (three small cucumber pieces) was one of only two small let-downs during the evening. However, a skipjack (a member of the tuna clan) sailed in to save the day, dreamily soft and just barely touched by the pan, with carotts and vinegar.
Then the real heroes arrived – the main dishes. Fredrik was served tender cod with a herby sauce, together with perfectly fried and salty oyster mushrooms from Permafungi, grown only a kilometer away in the cellars of Tour & Taxis. As a meat-eater, I was served a 12 hour slow-cooked, almost caramelised veal. It was the most succulent I have ever tried, simply sublime.
As if we were not sold already, we were also treated to a cheese board with goats cheese, rocquefort, nettle cheese and a golden Belgian hard cheese, accompanied by home-made bread and fluffy butter. That the pear sorbet that followed on this was a bit of a disappointment was entirely forgivable, because all the rest was so enjoyable. Aside from the acoustics, which are a little loud, Gramm is close to perfect. Prepare for a slow, thorough dining experience well worth your time.
Gramm, Rue de flandre 86, 1000 Bruxelles, tel: +32 2 324 99 66
Fancy toasties makes for a light lunch in the EU quarter on Thursdays.
Today is Thursday, which is good news for bureaucratic toastie lovers – Keep on toasting is parked up in Square de Meeûs by the European Parliament. They have a simple concept – four different kinds of Croque monsieur and one kind of dessert. They do exactly what’s on the box – a very good croque. One might think that five euros is a bit excessive for two bits of bread with some cheese and ham, but the small touches make it all worth it. I so far only tried the croque-summer with ham, cheese, pineapple and tomato relish. The bread is of outmost importance for a dish such as this, and it is deliciously fried to crisp perfection. The tomato relish has strong notes of thyme, which works wonders with the soft pineapple. And the ham serving was generous – it all works beautifully. Perfect for a sunny October break in the park.
Fresh, personable mediterranean meze stop in handy distance from the EU institutions.
Kitchen 151 serves up mediterranean meze-like dishes and fresh mains with outmost elegance. Their lovely waitor/chef readily tells his guests everything about the menu, and the house wine is sweet and deep. In the almost Scandinavian decoration of the light and wooden-decked restaurant, a Swede feels quite at home. This first time I visited I had their fresh fish kebab with a mild turmeric sauce. Most recently I enjoyed a gorgeous salad with tender asparagus, grilled sweet cherry tomatoes and courgette, pine nuts, sun-dried tomato and thyme dressing.
But the starters are the real stars – you share a few (or many) meze, which comes with fresh Turkish bread and incredibly smooth, almost milky Tahini. Their raita is to die for, the lentil salad fresh and bursting with zingyness and coriander. I like my baba ganoush a bit smokier than their variety, but who cares when everything else is so enjoyable?
I have a confession to make. I’m unphazed by gourmet pizzas. It’s not that I haven’t tried that pizza yet – I’ve had a multitude of connoisseur pizzas (although, admittedly, I haven’t been to Naples). They are all really nice, I just don’t think there’s that that much of a mystery to them. I don’t believe in the sublime pizza, unless you are really, really hungry. And if you are really, really hungry, even a Doctor Ötker pizza will be amazing (in fact, I eat them on a regular late-night basis, dipped in spicy sriracha mayo).
All this said, I do have a favourite pizza place in Brussels. Perhaps you can take it as a stamp of high esteem that even a pizza sceptic like me will hold this place above all the others. Da Vincenzo in place St Boniface always serves up a perfect crust, and perfectly savoury sauce, which means that you don’t need lots of extras. Their best pizza in the crudaoila, with fresh tomatoes, parmesan and rocket. That’s all. Grabbing one of these to go from St Boniface and pairing it with a bottle of wine in the park is an incredibly good idea. They are delicious.
Da Vincenzo, Rue du Paix 13, 1050 Brussels.
I “was” a cat as a four-year-old. I made my own little bed where the cats slept, replied to questions with obnoxious cat noises, and pretended to eat cat food when people were looking. Fast-forward 23 years, and thankfully I’ve grown out of that. But many people, like me, have a special relationship with cats. Luckily for us, there are cat cafés – a Taiwanese invention, which is big in Japan (obviously). The basic idea is that you go to a café with some resident cats, have something to eat or drink, and play with the cats.
Le Chat Touille is Brussels’ first cat café, with friendly cats from a local shelter. It has been covered by all kinds of media, including Swedish television. The shelter cats at Le Chat Touille want attention and cuddles, and can find a new owner at the café (they are available for adoption). The place is rather special, as you would expect from a cat café. It is very clean and nice, but small and popular which means it gets easily crammed. Consequently, there is some competition for the cats’ affection. As for the cats, they are very playful, and enjoy eating off customers’ plates. The owner is a little nervous about the cats’ behaviour, which is a shame, as “cat people” don’t tend to mind cats walking all over them. And I guess you don’t find many dog persons here.
The tea and cake served were according to my friend Agneta very good, and not terribly expensive. You may have to wait a little, since there is only one person serving. But this is a a good time to play with the cats. We did not sample the food, but it smelled nice.
Le Chat Touille is an interesting place to say the least, and worth visiting if just for the novelty value of having tea with cats and their fans. I would suggest going after work, or arriving early on the weekends, as it fills up quickly. Enjoy your cat moment.
Le Chat Touille, rue Tasson-Snel 11, 1060 Saint-Gilles, http://lechattouille.eu/