Bite Me, Brussels.

Reviewing food for the foreigners, without all the fluff.

Archive for April, 2012

Charli’s Chocolate Croissant

Posted by rachelinbxl on April 21, 2012

I enjoy reading the Eurostar magazine on my train rides to and from London. They have interesting short reviews on London, Paris and Brussels ‘places to be’. New restaurants and cafes are highlighted, as well as an interview with a local person on their average saturday wander, including a few favourite shops and a cafe. That was how I came to read a review of Charli’s Boulangerie. I’ve seen this bakery a hundred times. It’s on the street down from the Asian supermarket, next to the shop dedicated to all things mushroom /fungi and opposite the Noordzee, just before Place St Catherine. I had never noticed the queue, however. Once I heard that it did ‘the best pain au chocolat’ in Brussels, I had to try. So, having made my Sunday pilgrimage to South station market, and then the less frequent shop at Kam Yuen for Thai curry ingredients, I dragged my heavy shopping bags to Charli in search of a quick sugar and butter rush. Well, with that queue, in the drizzle, it had better be the BEST pain au chocolat EVER.

I am not a pain au chocolat fan. I don’t like the shape, I think. Croissants have this beautiful, promising crescent moon shape (hence their name), and the middle tip that is folded over is often delightfully crunchy for its extra exposure to the heat of the oven. Pain aux raisins (sometimes called escargots) have a delightful snail shell shape, and are stuffed with raisins, which I adore. They come in crunchy, or soggy with the sort of custard cream they envelope in the spirals. I love both. But pain au chocolat is like a long fat sausage roll. It is unappealing. Also, whilst I adore chocolate, I am not a fan of it IN my bread products. So luckily the review had spoken highly of a pumpkin seed coated loaf of bread made with beer. This encouraged me to stay in the queue. I could at least watch through the tall windows as the staff feverishly emptied fresh products from the ovens and stocked the shelves. The 2 servers were also working very efficiently (most un-Belgian), so I felt sure that the queue down the street wouldn’t take long. Indeed I was served in less than 10 minutes. Not even the time I had had to wait for a tram to get into town. Not bad.

There was no pumpkin beer bread. I opted instead for a loaf with figs and walnuts (3 eur). I resisted (with difficulty) the fresh almond croissants being unloaded into the display and took a pain au chocolat (1.3 eur). I started eating the ‘slug’ on the way to the tram stop. Charli opts for the double chocolate tram tracks in their pain au chocolat. A good start, because if you’re going to put chocolate in pastry, it should be very present. The top was a crunchy shell, but the interior was very bread like (white fluffy bread – not the sourdough type that I had just bought too, but not fine layers of patisserie). I was rather unimpressed, but felt it would really benefit from being warm, so managed to hold myself in until I could get home and wack it in a hot oven for 3 mins.

Pain aux figues et noix... et un pain au chocolat

This is the loaf and the half eaten pain au chocolat before they went in the oven. Since I was warming things, I also put in a slice of the bread and enjoyed that with butter and marmalade. The bread is excellent – the fig and nut add a little something without being too overpowering. The texture is fantastic. The pain au chocolat was improved by the warmth. The chocolate that had escaped on the underside was runny and hot, but inside the roll was still solid. The top was definitely crunchy, but the inside still a little bread-like. Almost brioche. I have to say I might have been better with a croissant.

Charli’s has a sit down area, but it was packed on a Sunday at 11:30. Maybe a place to try mid-week! Next time I’m in the area I’ll see if I can test that beer and pumpkin loaf… and maybe give in to an almond croissant.

Charli Bakery

34 rue Saint Catherine
Brussels

Food: A
Atmosphere: C
Service: A
Price: B
Languages: French, English, probably Dutch

Posted in Break your fast, Chill Corner, Drop By | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

All you can eat Curry

Posted by rachelinbxl on April 15, 2012

I have posted in the past about my difficulty to find satisfactory curry in the ‘Gourmet Capital of Europe’.  See Desperately seeking curry and Indian Welcome.  I had been meaning to try Sawad and Anarkali for a while. This post is about the latter, which was easier to get for for a few friends who decided to join me for curry.

I hear they used to serve a la carte.  It is now exclusively a buffet restauarant. The lunchtime buffet is just 12 euros, and in the evenings it is 18 euros. There is a reduced selection available mid-week for a bit less, I believe, but we were there on a Friday. The 18 euro buffet price includes a dessert and a tea or coffee… beers are 3-4 euros extra, as are lassis. I had a beer, so I can’t comment on the quality of the lassi.
The service was a little patchy. I arrived first of the party and since we hadn’t reserved I went inside to squat a table for 4. The waiter brought me poppadoms and a plate with various dips and chutneys, but didn’t ask if I wanted a drink. 2 more guests arrived and he was still nowhere in sight. The fourth arrived and she hardly got her coat off before he wanted to know what we wanted to drink!

One friend almost immediately spilled his beer over the table, the poppadoms and the chutneys. The waiter could only supply serviettes to clear up the mess, but was decent enough to supply a spare beer. He did not clear away the beer soaked napkins or plates until the end of the meal, however.
While we were on our first tour of the buffet, 4 legs of chicken appeared at the table (no idea which one this was, it was slightly spiced grilled meat). A naan appeared shortly afterwards. It was an excellent naan, hot, buttery and fluffy… but getting another proved to be impossible. Good thing there was plenty of other things to try.
I tested the lady’s fingers (okra): OK, not too spicy.. I’m still not an okra fan
The chicken with mango and pistachio was in a creamy coconut sauce. Tasty, but only in small quantities.
The tikka masala chicken was made with tandoori chicken (breast roasted in a very red marinade. The sauce was a bit liquid and not balanced enough on the various spices for my taste).
The lamb vindaloo was my first attempt at the spiciest curry on the menu. It was spicy. The first mouthful felt fine, the second was still flavourful (though no way to detect the cardamoms that were floating in the sauce and were listed as a prime ingredient), the third mouthful was with lots of sauce.. and I suffered afterwards. Burning lips and throat. Thanks goodness for rice, naan and beers!
The pilau rice with cardamoms was fair, but I was trying to restrict the starch intake to be able to test the curries
The daal was pleasant, not very spicy. The chana (chick pea) curry was also good, with bay leaves. I enjoyed the cold chick pea salad more though – more coriander.
The mixed vegetable curry was not too spicy, but the vegetables were inevitably a little overcooked. The vegetable samosa was a highlight for me. I couldn’t find the pakora/bhajis that were on the menu, which is probably good as I adore those and would probably have truly overeaten!
As it was, after 2 visits to the buffet, we were all sated and couldn’t contemplate trying any more, though there were still flavours left to explore (after the vindaloo, not much was registering though).

We didn’t wait long for him to come and ask if we wanted dessert. I ordered kulfi, and one of the party tried simple ice cream. We all took chai; I checked it was made with milk, but forgot to ask if it was masala chai (spiced) or plain. It turned out to be plain, and made without sugar, rather unusually.. but quite pleasantly less rich after all the food. The kulfi was good.. cardamom and pistachio and a bright green colour. The chocolate ice cream came drowned in cream and with little pieces of the candy that you find in the Indian digestive spices chewing kit – which came with the bill and that I enjoyed. This was the first time I have been served that in Belgium.

All in all, for 21 euros, I felt that the choice and the quality was satisfactory. Next time I am craving curry I may just stick to one flavour! But next time, I may have to test Ashok’s (see below).

I never know how to photograph buffets. Does one walk along, opening each bronze coloured bain marie and photographing the content? Or does one take a picture of a mixed plate and try to identify the mixed content? This time, despite having my camera with me, I opted not to take pictures. Buffets are eaten with the taste buds, not the eyes. No plate with a mix of curries looks appealing. So excuse the lack of photos on this blog.

Anarkali
Rue Longue-Vie 33 – 1050 Brussels
Food: B
Atmosphere: C
Service: B-
Price: B+
Languages: French, English

Cycling back from the japanese supermarket Tagawa today, I went past Ashok’s, which I hadn’t heard of. Another to put on my list of places to test! Perhaps Brussels will make it to a good curry this Brusselicious year!

Posted in Feeling Carnivorous? | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Brusselicious Tram Experience

Posted by rachelinbxl on April 4, 2012

Part of the Brusselicious festival of food experiences this year (2012) is the Tram Experience. The menu changes every 2 weeks, with Michelin star chefs from different restaurants inventing menu’s to be prepared (at least partially) and served on board of a specially converted 50 year old tram as it performs a 2 hr tour of Brussels. I HAD to experience this!
I didn’t select the date based on chef, but on availability of a weekend date when a friend from the UK could join me. So, by chance, it was Pierre Resimont of L’Eau Vive who came up with the menu we experienced on Sunday 1 April (no joke). The boarding pass said 11:45 for a 12 noon departure. This was very optimistic! We boarded nearer 12:20.
One of my first questions was whether a table was reserved – or whether it was a free for all as couples fought for the tables for 2 (which are more popular than the tables for 4). But no, you are assigned a table by the gentleman receiving guests at the Poelaert tram stop. People were a bit more dressed up than for a normal tram ride, which I thought was really cute, as it is NOT the same as a Michelin star restaurant!
There are hosts to welcome you, and take your coat, however. The chef preparing the dishes came through and explained the amuse-bouches, which were not on the menu, and our waiter explained each wine (selected to go with the food). So.. what you see here are:
The tram table for 2 seen from the outside as the tram pulled in ; the amuse bouches – foie gras with a granny smith mousse, a double layer pea conconction with a quails egg and mushrooms at the texture change, and pizza dough worked into a crunchy bread, with truffles in. All very tasty and served with an excellent glass of cava.


The menu then listed: mushroom soup with farmhouse eggs, foie gras, artichoke, chestnut. This was very good – though the crunchy bread added nothing. Then there was Anjou-style young pigeon with puree of Jerusalem artichokes, buttered cabbage and legs a la Royale (a source of great amusement to my dining partner who was unimpressed with the actual presentation of these legs!). These were accompanied by a Macon village Chardonnay (very pleasant) and a Mas from Roussillon (less impressive, very French, which is not my thing – too much tannin) respectively. There was then a Rum Babe with pineapple and mango. This was mini, and the service lacked flair. The table of 4 next to us had eaten their mini portions before the little jug of rum arrived! Luckily we had been served a lot later – with rum before dessert ;-).

The chef can be seen preparing our pigeon in the small kitchen. Not bad for a small area, and yes, there is a toilet on board – though the unlock on the outside works even if it is locked from the inside.. and there is a sign explicitly requesting that gentlemen sit to urinate.. which given the bumps is probably necessary. The tram driver tried desperately not to shake us around too much, and compared to most tram drivers, it was smooth. There was only one time I was serving water and almost missed. The tables have sunken circles to hold the glasses, plates etc in place.
The two hour tour follows this route. The tram itself looks better at night (see another blog), but I was glad to have the view during the day. And we were lucky that it was cold, but sunny!

But was it good??? Well, I really enjoyed each of the courses. The mushroom soup was probably my highlight, and I could definitely have skipped the dessert without feeling I had missed anything. Wine and water were a volonte, which was surprising, considering that the website had specified there would only be 1 glass of each. The service was swift.. but not rushed. In fact the two hours passed very quickly. My friend from the UK was delighted, but I won’t be offering a Michelin 3 course meal to every visitor! Still, an experience indeed.
And when we disembarked, our chef got out to say goodbye – see the last pictures.

Posted in Far and away, Get it to go, Hot List | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Uccle Punch

Posted by rachelinbxl on April 1, 2012

A guignol is a sort of puppet, a punch character of punch and judy fame. The waitress who welcomed me to this restaurant in a rather out of the way part of uccle reminded me of a puppet show in that she was tiny, but with a large mouth, loud voice and plenty of witty repartee!!
i headed the wrong direction to use the toilets and she informed the chef i was here to make desserts and do the washing up. She asked me if i wanted a drink while i waited for my friend and i answered that i would give him 5 minutes. She came back with “but not 6 right, because then he missed his chance”
But either way the resto is a place with character, and a huge choice of dishes, even before the suggestions.
I went for a risotto with shrimps and mushrooms, which was salty but tasty, with large pre-peeled prawns in it, and my friend for the traditional onglet a l’echalottes, with croquette potatoes.

The meat was definitely only just medium for the cuisson, but the sauce was tasty.
The pinot noir half bottle was overpriced, and rather mediocre. Perhaps a glass of the house red would have been a better budgetary choice. The beer selection is not wide, so wine is definitely more tempting.

For dessert i opted for the tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream, which my friendly judy waitress offered as tarte flambee. I grinned and acquiesced. I wasnt expecting to pay 3 euro extra for the calvados or equivalent that she poured, rather belatedly over the thin pastry and barely caramelised apples, making my ice cream melt rather precipitously. Unimpressed with dessert. My friend’s moelleux au chocolat was ok, but not amazing. Not dark enough in cocoa, perhaps. We didn’t leave a tip.

Le Guignol, Uccle

Food: B
Atmosphere: B
Service: A
Price: B
Languages: French, English

Posted in Drop By, Tourist Traps | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »