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May 3, 2011 06:58 AM

Brussels conundrum

Browsed most of the Brussels suggestions and a lot of places on internet, problem is that I'm looking for a nice romantic place to take the wife, centralish if possible, who would like something nice and seafoody, while I am a vegetarian, and would like something nice and veggie, and the menus I've checked out so far have provided plenty of the former but little or zero of the latter. Any ideas??

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  1. I think that perhaps the popular Idiot du Village might have some vegetarian offerings. It's supposed to be romantic, so that fits one of your requirements. I've been researching restaurants for an upcoming trip, and this place looks very interesting. One photo showed pasta....

    1 Reply
    1. re: zuriga1

      Well done, zuriga! Just shows you, I must have looked at umpteen places and never came across this one: couldn't find a website for them or menu to read, but apparently they have a Menus végétariens (sur demande) even...and it does look a nice place. Otherwise, other veggies seem to recommend L'element d'terre, though it's a bit of a hike from the centre...thanks again!!

    2. Three options to try, though I've only been to two:

      Cafe des Spores - A bit out of the center, but a real favourite. A tribute to all things mushroom (even the desserts), and an excellent wine list. Menus change daily and are very limited, but at least some of the options are veggie-friendly. It's tiny, so reservations a must.

      Le Fourneau - A small-plate place right on Place Sainte-Catherine. Fish lovers will be very happy here; vegetarians might have a harder time, but in looking at the "suggestions" on the web site, a goodly number of them are vegetarian. I've been here twice and loved it both times.

      Soul Resto - Not been here, though veggie friends have been very pleased with it. A bit new-agey in that their menus are designed to reinforce vital energies, but certainly vegetarian-friendly to a greater extent than the other two. Very central, just off the Place du Sablon.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Kelly

        Thanks, Kelly. I do love mushrooms! Soul gets some very angry write-ups around the web, but then so most places. I'll keep le Fourneau in mind!

        1. re: stuartJ

          L'element d'terre is closed, unfortunately. So I've booked the Idiot and an Ethiopian place called Kokob! Thanks for your help!

          1. re: stuartJ

            When are you going, Stuart? If it's before the middle of June, let me know how the idiot was. :-)

            1. re: zuriga1

              Well, zuriga, I made the discovery that the eponymous Village Idiot is in fact any vegetarian who goes there expecting to be fed! It was a very depressing evening, mainly due to the ferociously unapologetic waitress (“We are not responsible for what liars write about us on the internet …! That is not the basis of our chef’s cooking…! Be quiet madam, let me speak…! – hushing my wife like a child – Perhaps we can find something…etc etc): why didn’t they just tell me on the phone that they had nothing available? Anyway, I didn’t walk out – my wife’s weary, hungry, pleading face stopped me – but I should have. Apart from all that, it’s a nice wee place, other customers were welcomed with shouts of delight and kisses, and the meat-eating half of the marriage had a great meal! Thank the lord for Kokob next day, where we had a six-dish vegetarian "discovery" menu and the staff were friendly, fun and helpful!

              1. re: stuartJ

                Thanks for your report. We're not vegetarians and the location is near our hotel, so maybe we'll give it a go next month. The waitress sounds like she needs some training with how to speak to customers!

                1. re: zuriga1

                  Yeah, if she'd just been a bit smarter and kinder the whole evening could have gone differently - and I was still angry from the evening before in Bruges when the same damn thing happened! Why do so many French restaurants say they can do something vegetarian and then fail to produce?? Anyway, I'm sure you'll have a lovely time - great desserts too!

                  1. re: stuartJ

                    if it was a restaurant in Brussels, it wasn't a French'll have both the French AND the Belgians at your throat for that statement.

                    It's because vegetarian isn't always all that well understood. Most things will be lacto-ovo, and it will not be uncommon to have a beef or chicken broth. It is what it is.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      you know, like Italian restaurants in England? Indian restaurants in Italy? That sort of thing.

            2. re: stuartJ

              I love Kokob. One of the places I love to visit when going home. Great neighbourhood, too, if you're looking to roam around after. Or before.

              1. re: Lizard

                Leaving tomorrow, zuriga! I'll let you know. I must take a notepad with me...first Bruges, then Ghent, then finishing off in Brussels.

                At my age, Lizard, probably roaming around before rather than after...

                1. re: stuartJ

                  Hi, Stuart...Be careful in Bruges...some very trendy places, but they are totally profit-motivated...we ate at the Poule et Moule (Chicken and Mussel)...and noticed a disproportionate number of shells in our bowls...we suspect they were recycling used mussel shells in order to fill up the bowls...
                  In Gent (Ghent) there are some absolutely excellent (and VERY reasonable) Turkish restaurants...I recommend them highly.
                  Just talked to my friend in Gent...she says the weather is fantastic right now...have a great time!

        2. Depending on when you get to Brussels, I was just there last week and I saw a lot of tasting menus focused on asparagus, so you may find some good luck for veggie options. For example: LOLA had a whole asparagus dedicated tasting menu that you can pick and choose from.

          1. I know the OP has already gone to BRU, but I've been following this post with interest and ate quite well this week because of it. I am not a vegetarian but I eat like one sometimes, and there's so much beef available in BRU that the occasional veggie meal is welcome.

            Since it's late May, the town is awash in asparagus and I had a great dish last night in the Park Side Bistro. It's in a dead part of town, deep in the European Quarter (I was here for some EC meetings) but the food was wonderful - slices of white and green asparagus with morels and a poached egg, all in a lovely broth in a big bowl. And the service at this place was very nice, polished and professional. The clientele are all well-off Euros and Americans working at the EC.

            I looked around for moules but they are apparently out of season so the better restaurants didn't serve them (although most of the tourist traps do - wonder where they get them). I also went to a local chain Steak Frit (I wanted to go to Le Fourneau but it was closed on Mondays) where I had a very nice steak and extra good frites. Tonight I went to Lola and had a really good meal - more asparagus (when in Rome...) with pancetta and another poached egg (I love eggs) and some house-made terrine de foie gras. I ate at the bar and the service was excellent, even though the bartender tipped an entire glass of rose on me. My two other glasses of wine were on the house and she and the manager were very apologetic and gracious. I go home to Boston tomorrow so it's not a big deal, but I won't be wearing these jeans on the plane!

            I loved the Place de Sablon and wish I hadn't discovered it on my last night. I'll be back in a few months and that will be the first place I go!

            8 Replies
            1. re: Valyn

              I’m usually on holiday during asparagus season, so it is often a life-saver! I had asparagus soup several times for lunch and a very nice dish of Asperges a la Flamande at Oud Handbogenhof in Bruges where we ate twice, despite the lack of veggie options – a friendly place in a quiet part of town. If I ever went back, I’d certainly try Tom’s Diner, a nice looking spot not far from the OH which offers two or three interesting veggie dishes but was fully booked the night I wanted to go. A disaster at the Die Swaene (someone told my wife it was a “romantic” place to go …) where the menu out front states that the chef will “create something for vegetarian guests.” Humbug, he “created” a dollop of soggy cheese risotto and a plate of dry, tasteless vegetables. My wife ate well, as usual. There are quite a few places for veggies in Bruges, Ghent and Brussels, but they don’t tend to open for dinner. (“Belgians do not eat vegetables for dinner,” I was told.) One overheard quote from a tour guide: “Vegetarians are treated like lepers here.” And one from G. Ramsay recently on the box: “There’s no bigger pain in the neck than a vegetarian.” Ah well.

              1. re: Valyn

                It's nice to read comments from a fellow Bostonian because I may have a better chance of putting them into perspective.

                I'm going to Brussels for Wednesday night this week and I was told to check out Lienard for the best chicken in the world, perhaps. However, I have frites on the top of my list and I understand that moules are possibly second to frites as the best truly Belgian fare. Steak is not high on my list since I am looking for items that truly represent the traditional (non-gourmet) local foods of the region that I cannot get in the US.

                I've been told that Maison Antoine in Place Jourdan is one of the best places for great frites and I read that Au Pre Sale is one of the better places for moules.

                Thus I have two questions -

                1. what do you consider to be the truly Belgian foods/dishes that MUST be tried during a short visit to Brussels?

                2. If you had to pick two full service restaurants to recommend for some of these items as providing the best quality traditional food, which would they be?

                (BTW, I am hoping that mussels are in season now...)

                thanks very much.

                1. re: Buzzy2


                  I saw you asked this elsewhere but here are some typical foods to try:

                  * Crevettes Grises (served with mayo on sandwiches or stuffed in tomatoes)
                  * Croquettes au crevettes
                  * Filet Americain (my favourite)
                  * Eels in green sauce
                  * Gaufres Liégeoises (don't bother with the Brussels style)
                  * Boudin noir/ Boudin Blanc (noir are my favourite)
                  * Dishes with endives/chicons
                  * Waterzooi

                  Stoemp, Carbonades, are also traditional, but I wonder who would serve this in the summer (these are typically winter dishes). That said, things have changed since I was a child, and specialities are now offered year round and mussels always seem to be in season-- they just might not be local.

                  1. re: Lizard

                    Thanks very much for the suggestions. Do you have any favorite restaurants for the Croquettes, Eels, Mussels or Waterzooi?

                    (By the way, the other inquiry I made was directed at one particular writer I was hoping to contact from my home town.)

                    1. re: Lizard

                      I think I am going to try 'T Kelderke - they seem to have many of these items including Stoemp.

                      1. re: Lizard

                        I went to 'T Kelderke tonight and tried the Croquettes, Stoemp and a few other items. The Waterzooi was a big dish and since I was trying moules and other items also I couldn't handle the Waterzooi also. The review is under 'Brussels Recommendations' in the Europe section in case you are interested. Thanks again for the comments.

                    2. re: Valyn

                      Any special tips for the Place du Sablon area? That's where we're staying next week. Thanks.

                      1. re: zuriga1

                        In the Sablon area, try Ciao for good Italian food or La Clef des Champs for traditional Franco-Belge food. Both places have been there for years but are dependable.

                        Antoine in Place Jourdan is not a restaurant - it is a frites stand in a car park which sells frites etc wrapped in paper. Some of the bars around the square don't mind if you bring your frites in when you order a beer - but don't try this in a restaurant.