Tonight, I had a lovely dinner out. Since these don’t come as often as I’d like, I try to relish them when I can. Here’s the thing, though. Remember how post-Katrina and nothing was open? Then, things slowly started opening, but at weird times and on weird days? Then, life settled in, but somehow, those strange opening hours stuck? Well, this is my life here in Brussels.
Inevitably, I want to try a new restaurant on a day that restaurants are not generally open … like a Saturday. Now, you’d think, hmm, Saturday night, seems good. But no. Saturday’s are apparently often reserved for big groups at the nicest restaurants. Let me rephrase: sometimes it feels like they don’t much care about the little people here.
I understand it from a business perspective. Make more money, in less time, with less effort, and go home before midnight. Seems reasonable. But for those of us who just want a nice meal out after a long long week, Saturday is our night. Alas.
So, armed with the knowledge most things are closed, I did what I could. I expected to hit one out of three, and I was right! We settled on The Greenhouse, a small yet comfortably lit restaurant tucked into an alcove off Avenue Louise, one of the ritzier parts of town. I made a reservation, as I always do, but when I got there, the place was rather empty. I think it was likely because yesterday was Valentine’s Day and everyone went out last night instead, but I was able to choose my seat, which was nice. I picked one right by the window, overlooking the outside terrace and the heaters for those who wished to brave the wind and cold.
As my dining partner was a victim of the train schedule (late by 30 minutes), I chose something different this time while I waited: a Kir Royale. I was introduced to the Kir Royale in 2008 by my favorite professor of all time. We were at an amazing dinner party in a restaurant cut into the mountains in Luxembourg … I remember it like it was yesterday. That meal was amazing on so many fronts — food, dining companions, conversation, drink. Exquisite.
Back to Brussels! I had the rather sweet Kir Royale and then my new dining partner appeared, fashionably late and very apologetic. It was fine, though, of course. I like to take the time to peruse a menu and slowly drink a nice aperitif.
We decided to share two plates and to share a half-liter of house red, a Granache. The wine was basic, not too complex and easier to drink as the dinner wore on. We started with the Tartine Beef Carpaccio, and then ended with the Penne with Eggplant. Both were quite tasty.
The Beef Carpaccio had something we had never seen before: pesto. The toasts were perfectly crisp, topped with a generous helping of pesto, followed by the beef and then a little shaved parmesan atop. Splendid! It was perfectly balanced, sweet and spicy and crunchy and soft and cold but warming … bravo.
Next up was the Penne with Eggplant. The penne was exactly al dente, and the rich red sauce with eggplant strips was just like home. Slightly sweet with a touch of spice, it touched all the right taste buds but did not leave anything to crave. Topped with grated parmesan, it was a satisfying dish.
We almost stayed for dessert … until we had an unexpected visitor. They claim he was new, but we weren’t so sure. Needless to say, we paid and held on a bit until it was definitely time to go. I don’t begrudge them the visitor. We’re used to them in NOLA, but I don’t think they are so used to them here. 🙂
All in all, it was a pleasant evening full of new stories and old, wonderful conversation in French undertone and accents, and a budding new friendship to which I am truly looking forward. Happy Krewe du Vieux, NOLA. I love ya.