We finally made it to Breizh Cafe on this Paris trip; this restaurant specialises in the galettes and crepes from Brittany and is probably on everyone’s list of places to eat in Paris. I’d recommend getting there soon after their opening time for lunch if you’re trying to get a table without a reservation; and even if you have a reservation, don’t be surprised if you’re seated in their shop next door (it’s perfectly normal though we saw some tourists leave in a huff when presented with that option). We got there about 15 minutes after they opened and got a prime table on the sidewalk; soon after, the entire restaurant was full.

It took us a while to choose the fillings for our savoury buckwheat galettes – everything on the menu looked incredible. I knew that everything would be good – the restaurant is known for the quality of the ingredients it uses. A Galette Bretonne was filled with creamy mushrooms with cheese and smoked ham and the buckwheat galette was fabulous, all flavourful and crisp at the corners. (A neighbouring couple who left their “galette crusts” made me quite upset.)

Galette Bretonne

A Galette Artichaut was the classic complète – ham, cheese and egg – with the addition of artichoke hearts. Perfect.

Galette Artichaut

Of course, we couldn’t leave without a sweet crepe. After a long deliberation, we finally decided to split a Crepe Quimperone – a crepe filled with apple puree, drizzled with the cafe’s salted caramel sauce and topped with vanilla ice cream. Yes, it was as incredible as it sounds.

Crepe Quimperone

I see now why there’s always a crowd here! We’ll be back.

Breizh Cafe
109 rue Vieille du Temple
75005 Paris
France

We spent last weekend in Paris – it was a much needed break from work though it did feel like we traded one city full of tourists for another. That said, I love the change of culture, of language, of scenery. On Friday evening, we caught a Eurostar train to Paris, checked into our hotel in the 11eme and then headed straight out to find the nearby Les Niçois, a bar/restaurant that brings the French Riviera to Paris.

It was crowded on that Friday night but we just managed to find the last two seats in the place. We also managed to order food just before the kitchen closed and we dined on an Assiette Nissard, featuring a variety of Niçoise specialties: pissaladiere, pizza nissarde, panisses, tapenades noire et verte, anchoiade. With a basket of bread, this was a perfectly sized sampler of fantastic treats from the south for one person.

Dinner at Les Niçois in Paris on Friday night. The place is brilliant! You can play petanque in the basement!

But we were two and we needed a couple other light dishes. Croquettes were filled with a vegetable mixture similar to ratatouille, the flavour of which was very reminiscent of the south of France.

Dinner at Les Niçois in Paris on Friday night. The place is brilliant! You can play petanque in the basement!

I couldn’t leave without an order of grilled sardines. These little oily fish were perfect. Just perfect.

Dinner at Les Niçois in Paris on Friday night. The place is brilliant! You can play petanque in the basement!

As it was close by to our hotel, we even dropped by for a drink on our last day, prior to picking up our luggage and heading to the train station. It was quiet on a Sunday afternoon and they were preparing for the barbecue they hold every Sunday evening.

Untitled

I’m leaving what’s possibly the best for last! They have a games room in the basement, complete with a petanque court!

Basement Petanque

It’s a seriously fun place!

Les Niçois
7 Rue Lacharrière
75011 Paris
France

My last few days in New York were mainly spent at a work conference in Brooklyn. There were still a lot of opportunities to dine well though!

Lunch one afternoon was at Hill Country Chicken, next door to Hill Country Barbecue Market. Their fried chicken was good but not a patch on that at Pies ‘n’ Thighs. I’ve been told I should just get fried chicken at Popeyes rather than these ‘fancy’ places though!

Hill Country Fried Chicken

That night, I made my way to Chinatown where I went in search of a branch of Xi’an Famous Foods. Their famous liang pi cold skin noodles were excellent and the kind of light comfort food that was just what I needed. The slippery noodles had been tossed with a vinegary chilli sauce with lots of shredded vegetables and bits of gluten.

Liang Pi Cold Skin Noodles

I also ordered a spicy cumin lamb burger, another of their popular dishes. It was quite spicy but I felt that the lamb was a bit on the dry side; I would have preferred a bit of fat in there to give it all some moistness.

Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger

The next night, I was looking for a real New York institution as I was taking a guest out (hi, A!) and Katz’s Delicatessen came to mind. I’d not tried it and we were not disappointed! That pastrami was excellent!

Pastrami

Dinner

For me, I chose a soup and half sandwich combo. For the sandwich, their pastrami reuben, with plenty of pastrami topped with sauerkraut, melted cheese and Russian dressing. It nearly defeated me.

Half a Pastrami Reuben

On the side were two pickles – a very sour dill pickle and my preferred half pickled but still very crunchy pickle.

Pickles

My matzo ball soup was just ok – its chicken broth was just good enough. I had to leave most of it.

Matzo Ball Soup

We clearly over ordered. We ordered fries and I think we only had one or two. To drink, I had my very first chocolate egg cream, that fizzy concoction of chocolate syrup, milk, seltzer and no eggs. They featured heavily in the books that I read when I was younger and it was a bit of a thrill to finally taste one (it tastes exactly as you’d expect of the sum of its parts).

Chocolate Egg Cream and Fries

Dessert was easy enough; we just crossed the street to an extremely crowded (it was Friday night) Il Laboratorio del Gelato. Their gelati do change often so not all of their 200 flavours will be available. My Greek yoghurt and lemon ginger were very refreshing and my taste of their olive oil flavour…well, tasted of exactly that!

Greek Yoghurt and Lemon Ginger

Don’t forget to get a ticket as soon as you get in there or else you’ll be waiting for ages!

For lunch the next day, I brought another old friend and colleague back to Hill Country Barbecue for a brisket sandwich. A soft potato bun attempted to sandwich together a mound of peppery chopped brisket (both lean and moist) with lots of barbecue sauce. Good stuff.

Brisket Sandwich

That night, I met up with Diana and Michele and we had dinner at Cocoron which specialises in homemade soba. Homemade soba! I’d certainly not tried that and it sounded excellent.

To start though, we split a couple of cold appetisers: spicy cucumber…

Spicy Cucumber

… and a refreshing off-menu homemade tofu.

Homemade Tofu

The soba! I chose a cold dish for that abnormally hot day; this was their sansai soba, which came with a whole myriad of vegetable toppings.

Cold Sansai Soba

I poured the dipping sauce on top, mixed it all together and slurped down the delicious and surprisingly al dente noodles.

Cold Sansai Soba

For my very last lunch in New York, prior to my evening flight, I went with a suggestion from Diana, who proffered the name of El Tenampa when I told her I had a hankering for Mexican food. I took a subway train further into Brooklyn and got out at what appeared to be quite a suburban neighbourhood. After walking a few blocks, I found El Tenampa, a Mexican shop (‘supermarket’ would be pushing it) with a cafe in the back.

I arrived just before its noon opening time and so sat waiting in the dark with a couple of Mexican families. At noon, the lights were turned on and we queued to order at the counter. When our food was ready, we’d either be shouted at or pointed at if we were watching and it was up to the counter again to pick up your food. When you’ve finished eating, it’s back up to the counter again to settle your bill.

The best and most stressful part of the whole experience was the trip to the salsa bar! What should grace the top of your tacos? There was green salsa, red salsa, radish slices, lime wedges, pickles and, rather amazingly, guacamole. Guacamole at a help-yourself salsa bar. Of course, I guac’ed up all my chosen tacos: lengua, cesina, chorizo, and pastor.

Tacos

These were some legit tacos. I also had a tamal de mole. I love tamales and this was my first filled with the classic mole poblano sauce.

Tamal de Mole

To my surprise, there was a half a chicken thigh in there too, bone and all! And this was one fine tamal.

Tamal de Mole

I’ve read good things about their cemitas and soups too. And one couple I saw had a brilliant idea: buy some of the fresh chicharrones at the front of the shop and bring it to the cafe to eat with lunch. I wish I had an El Tenampa near me!

Hill Country Chicken
Hill Country Chicken on Urbanspoon

Xi’an Famous Foods
Xi'an Famous Foods on Urbanspoon

Katz’s Delicatessen
Katz's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Il Laboratorio del Gelato
Il Laboratorio Del Gelato on Urbanspoon

Cocoron
Cocoron on Urbanspoon

El Tenampa
El Tenampa Deli Grocery on Urbanspoon

And that’s it! That was our big trip to New York this year! As usual, all our photos can be found in this Flickr photoset.

The morning of the third day started with a visit to Lincoln Center, the arts and culture hub I missed seeing on my last trip. It’s certainly a beautiful space – lucky New Yorkers!

Metropolitan Opera House

After a bit of wandering (and a disappointing avocado toast at ‘wichcraft), we found yet another Dean & Deluca where this time we tried a peanut butter and jelly doughnut from Doughnut Plant.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Doughnut

Mmm…now I’ve heard great things about the doughnuts at Doughnut Plant, and especially about this particular doughnut, but it was just too much. The dough itself was overshadowed by too much peanut butter, too much jelly. Perhaps I chose badly.

Onwards we went to 5th Avenue, down to Rockefeller Center where the Easter decorations were still up…

Easter Bunny

… and then down to Bryant Park and the New York Public Library where my favourite reading room was closed that day! A shame, I love that place.

Bryant Park

Lunchtime! We caught the subway from there to somewhere in East Manhattan to visit Momofuku Ssam Bar for lunch. I’d visited on my last trip to NYC and I wanted to return to try their lunch menu; ok, I was mainly there for their rotisserie duck.

But first, their famous steamed buns again. I think what makes them stand out from other pork belly buns are the not one, but two thick slices of braised pork belly. Indulgent!

Steamed Buns

And that rotisserie duck! I would have liked more of it… but what we had was excellent. This is not your ordinary roast duck as in between the breast and skin was tucked some pork-based forcemeat. This is truly the mutant animal that would be welcome at my celebration table (bah to the turducken).

Rotisserie Duck over Rice with Chive Pancake

We got it with all the fixin’s available: the chive pancake above (only ok), the bowl of lettuce below (we weren’t entirely sure what to do with it and tried eating the duck ssam style), and an excellent broccoli salad with dried bluefish (below that).

Lettuce

Broccoli Salad

For dessert, we split a Thai Tea Pie, which whilst not tasting particularly strongly of Thai tea, was a delightful ice cream pie and a complex tang provided by a tamarind sauce.

Thai Tea Pie

Afterwards we walked over to Momofuku Milk Bar which had not yet opened when I was last in New York. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy any of their sweets (I tried a few over a couple days). Their cookies (compost and corn) weren’t great to me and their cake truffles were bleh (dulce de leche). Perhaps I should have tried their soft serve. Their bagel bomb (a round bagel filled with savoury cream cheese) was quite good though.

And then onwards we went to the Flatiron Building and where I spotted the city’s Eataly, that huge emporium of eateries, delis and shopping all direct from Italy.

Flatiron Building

The sunny weather necessitated a gelato and we queued up to try that at Eataly. I mean, it’s from Italy so it has to be good, right?

Gelato at Eataly

Wrong. The flavours were muted; the texture wasn’t great. Boring. Oh well, the rest of Eataly looked exciting.

We didn’t have anything planned for the rest of the afternoon but we did want to see a few more galleries at the Met so back up on the 6-train we went. It’s impossible to see everything there in only a day or two and I wish we had a whole week for its!

Later that evening, we headed back to the East Village (fast becoming my favourite place to eat in Manhattan) and while we first thought about pizza, the place we had in mind was extremely crowded. We turned the corner and headed for some American-Italian food at Parm instead.

We started with some vegetables – spicy rabe was actually pretty spicy (to our surprise) but this heat paired well with the slightly bitter greens.

Spicy Rabe

String beans oreganata were grilled until the beans were tender and will black grill marks and they were tossed with a spicy breadcrumb mixture. These were brilliant – I know I’ll try throwing green beans onto the barbecue this summer….when I get a barbecue.

String Beans Oreganata

Of course, Parm specialises in anything parmigiana, i.e. anything topped with red sauce and cheese and it’s all melted together in the oven. We had a couple of small sandwiches.

The chicken parm roll was breaded chicken with tomato sauce and melting cheese in a soft bun.

Chicken Parm Roll

Inside the Chicken Parm Roll

Eggplant parm (that’s aubergine if you’re not familiar with the Americanism) was silky slices of eggplant layered with the sauce and cheese. Both parms were excellent.

Eggplant Parm Roll

Inside the Eggplant Parm Roll

After dinner, we ended up walking past the pizzeria again and this time it was empty. And open (ok, it was still very early in the evening). And that meant getting a slice. This was Prince Street Pizza, a tiny place that sells pizza by the slice – we were there for their square slice with spicy salami. As recommended by Serious Eats, I asked for our slice to be extra crispy, meaning that it just spends a bit more time in the oven during reheating.

Square Slice

A most excellent Sicilian slice this was – and we loved the crispy base.

To make up for our crappy gelato earlier in the day, we walked around the corner from the pizzeria to AB Biagi‘s yet again! Here’s strawberry and a vegan almond. What made it vegan? Almond milk! It was fantastic.

At AB Biagi's again!

It was a good end to the day!

Doughnut Plant
Doughnut Plant on Urbanspoon

Momofuku Ssam Bar
Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon

Parm
Parm on Urbanspoon

Prince Street Pizza
Prince St. Pizza on Urbanspoon

It’s difficult to believe that we were in New York City last week! It was only my second time but Blai’s first time and we were gonna hit all the high spots and, of course, eat well! We flew American Airlines direct to JFK and I was pleasantly surprised by how much space we had and quality of the food provided. What wasn’t so great was the flight taking up most of Friday, which meant that we landed mid afternoon Friday, checked into our Airbnb apartment in downtown Brooklyn, and then went directly to find dinner.

My friend Diana had sent over a huge list of delicious places and one really jumped out at me – Yemen Cafe & Restaurant on Atlantic Avenue, only a 15 minute walk from where we were staying. As soon as we sat down, we were brought a huge round of warm clay oven bread, lemon wedges and zhoug, the fresh green and spicy sauce served with Yemeni food.

Warm Clay Oven Bread, Lemons, Zhoug

Two bowls of lamb soup were also presented to us. It smelled very lamby but its flavour was much gently than that which its scent hinted.

Lamb Soup

And a plate of salad! This, we think, accompanied our main course and was brought as a sort of starter.

House Salad

Being somewhat wary of American portion sizes and not wanting too much waste on our trip, we ordered only one main course and one appetiser to split between us. Weirdly, we wanted something quite comforting and ended up with hummus! It was excellent homemade hummus and we ate probably way too much of that round of flatbread with it.

Hummus

And then our main course, the Yemeni national dish saltah, arrived. This was a hot stone bowl of a thick, slightly gelatinous vegetable stew topped with a frothy fenugreek sauce. We stirred our bubbling bowl hesitantly…and ate a little with rice. Then we tried it with bread and knew that we were onto a winner. It really is best with the warm flatbread – somehow the stew (with okra being the thickening agent) went amazingly well with it. I need to find saltah in London!

What we should have done was follow the lead of the Yemeni guy at the next table who dumped in a couple spoons of zhoug and stirred vigorously before tucking in with his wife. He was impressed by how we cleaned our bowl though!

Saltah

The saltah came with a portion of their lamb haneeth, a falling off the bone chunk of tender spiced slow roasted lamb. The rice we ordered as a side dish and that highly scented pile of spiced basmati came with a little drizzle of saltah sauce on it.

Lamb Haneeth and Rice

And to drink? Iced Yemeni tea, which hit the spot.

Iced Yemeni Tea

Our first proper day in the city started early… like 6am early. Jetlag had hit us a bit and we used that early morning to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan.

Untitled

After walking for a bit (and having a bit of tea somewhere), we found ourselves in Chinatown and we headed for a place on my list for cheap dumplings (also, it opened at 7am, which was useful) – Vanessa’s Dumpling House. One order of fried pork and chive dumplings and a veggie filled pancake (a thick wodge of soft bread) saw our tummies filled for under $4. Bargain.

Dumplings and Filled Pancake

Then it was catching the 6-train and visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of my favourite places in the city and where we spent most of the day.

Temple of Dendur

All that walking through the galleries builds up an appetite! We walked (some more) to a nearby Papaya King and grabbed hot dogs to eat in Central Park. On the way, we also ran into a Dean and DeLuca (the upscale grocery store) and picked up a doughnut from Dough.

It’s here I need to mention the fantastic weather we had during our week there. Thumbs up!

Two Papaya King Hot Dogs

Dulce de Leche doughnut from Dough

Anyway, lunch was great! Papaya King’s hotdogs were excellent (no, I couldn’t tell any difference from Gray’s Papaya from my last trip) but as for topping, I don’t really get the New York onions, a stewed mixture that hints of cloves and cinnamon. I preferred the relish – pickle relish mixed with mustard. Their corn dogs and curly fries are excellent too. And that doughnut! Oh, it was brilliant – this was a dulce de leche one with icing that wasn’t too sweet and topped with lots of toasted almond slices.

After lunch, we returned to the Met again! And still, after spending most of the day there, we didn’t ever make it to the second floor!

All that walking around the Met was killing our feet and we needed another sit down mid afternoon. Tea and a snack then and that snack was our very first black and white cookie, a New York classic. It was alright (soft cakey cookie with icing) but I didn’t see the great appeal of it.

Black and White

One final round through the Oceania galleries (fantastic) and it was time to go. Dinner, as is normal for any jet-lagged traveller, was required a little earlier than usual. However, our chosen restaurant, Ootoya in Times Square, had a one hour wait for a table (it was Saturday night). No matter – we waited in the Starbucks next door. When we finally sat down, we were ravenous.

My kaasan ni set was a stoneware bowl of chicken katsu in a soy-dashi broth topped with lots of grated daikon and a poached egg. I ordered this as a set, with rice, miso soup, steamed egg, and pickles.

Kaasan Ni Set

Blai’s buta shio koji with negishio was fantastic – the pork belly had been marinated in shio koji before being grilled and were then topped with sliced spring onions that too had been in shio koji. It was so utterly savoury and moreish.

Buta Shio Koji with Negishio

Altogether it was a lot of food! I only just about managed to squeeze in some warabimochi (another big portion!) at the end!

Warabimochi

And that was only our first 1.5 days in the city.

Yemen Cafe & Restaurant

Yemen Café and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Vanessa’s Dumpling House

Vanessa's Dumpling House on Urbanspoon

Papaya King

Papaya King on Urbanspoon

Ootoya

Ootoya on Urbanspoon

Another travel post! I was in Genoa in Northern Italy for work a few weeks ago (my first trip there) and despite it being a very short visit, I managed to pack in quite a lot of eating. I really wasn’t very prepared for the trip, having to spend more time on the work part of things, but the city surprised me – it turns out that Genoa has the largest medieval city centre in Europe, an entirely rejuvenated old port area, and plenty of affordable and excellent eating. I also had a short list of the food highlights of Genoa and Liguria (thanks for the list, A!) and I did manage to eat all the main things on it!

It all started on my first lunch break when I wandered into Zena Zuena on Via XX Settembre. This “fast food” eatery had a number of foccacias and pizzas on display and locals were crowding the counter to get a couple slices for their midday meal. I joined the scrum and ordered a bowl of minestrone alla genovese and slice of Focaccia di Recco.

Lunch

The minestrone in Genoa is tinged green, being laced with the fabulous pesto of the region, and was served with a slice of the typical bread of the region – focaccia, topped with lots of olive oil and a bit of rosemary (tucked in the napkin in the corner). The foccacia di Recco is also known as focaccia al formaggio; it’s not like the usual thicker focaccia but is made of dough as is used with pizza, rolled very thinly and is used to sandwich a layer of cheese (usually a fresh stracchino). The entirely thing is cooked in a pizza oven until the bread is cooked and the cheese is oozing out.

After work, while wandering around the medieval centre, making the most of the fading light, I encountered many enticing food shops and bakeries and not having a moment for aperitivo, I stepped into one bakery with trays of farinata in their window.

Farinata

A snack sized portion of farinata was sliced off for me – only 60 cents! I think many people do this when alone as they didn’t blink when I asked for it.

Snack Sized Portion of Farinata - 60 cents!

As for the farinata – it was a thin baked pancake made of chickpea flour, not unlike the socca of Nice. I loved it.

Anyway, that little snack was a precursor to a proper meal – I had identified Trattoria Ugo as a place serving traditional Genovese cuisine at very reasonable prices and I went early to ensure I’d get a seat. I needn’t have worried; the trattoria was quiet on a Tuesday night but not worryingly quiet – many locals trickled in through the evening.

In the Trattoria

For my primo, pansotti con salsa di noci, a very typical pasta dish from Genoa. Pansotti are a type of ravioli that’s normally shaped as triangles but here were made into semicircles; they’re filled with wild greens and the intensely creamy and cheesy walnut sauce paired incredibly with them.

Inside the Pansotti

For my main course, I ordered the house special – acciughe ripiene (stuffed anchovies), served with breaded and fried mushrooms, a slice of aubergine prepared the same way, and grilled vegetables. I tried asking what the anchovies were stuffed with but there didn’t seem to be an actual answer – I believe they’re always stuffed with the same thing: cheese, garlic and breadcrumbs. Here they were fried but I saw many delicatessens also selling them roasted. Delicious.

Acciughe Ripiene

For dessert, I chose a budino alla vaniglia con cioccolato fondente – a homemade vanilla pudding with dark chocolate. This smooth pudding was a little firmer than a pannacotta but was no less delicious for it.

Budino alla Vaniglia con Cioccolato Fondente

Three courses (without drinks) totaled €27.

The next day, I used my long lunch break to trek to Antica Sa’Pesta, an old restaurant in the medieval part of the city. The place looks like time stood still from the beginning of the century, with its old wooden tables with shared seating.

Antica Sa' Pesta

I ordered only a single dish, their gnocchi with pesto (there’s usually something with pesto each day) – I had heard great things about their pesto and I wasn’t to be let down. The gnocchi were excellent but it was the pesto that stuck with me – it was an extraordinarily vibrant green and with a great basil and cheese flavour. If it was one thing that surprised me, it was the amount of cheese that went into the pesto here.

Gnocchi with Pesto

Various baked pies and dishes were also on offer for takeaway. I wanted to try one of the vegetable pies that are so common in the region and went with a slice of torta di bietole, made with Swiss chard, to takeaway.

Torta di Bietole

I ate it later after work and though it was a bit on the soggy side, it was fantastically delicious. There was a thick layer of a fresh cheese on top of the cooked chard and the flavour of it all had me wolfing it down with my fingers.

After the pesto lunch, on the way back to work, I grabbed a gelato from Cremeria della Erbe, meant to be one of the best gelato purveyors in the city. I was surprised by how soft the gelato was but was reassured by a local that this was how it’s meant to be. My strawberry sorbet and coffee-ciok (coffee gelato studded with milk chocolate bits) were fabulous.

Gelato number two

That evening, I sought a shop that has been selling candied fruit for centuries – Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano.

Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano

Inside, I found the saleswoman wrapping Christmas pandolce … for Carluccio’s! So yeah, Carluccio’s pandolce is from this most famous of Genovese shops. I’ll be trying one this Christmas for sure! Anyway, I returned home this time with some of their candied chestnuts (scented with a bit of orange blossom) and chocolate covered candied orange peel, some of our favourite things.

On my last morning, I returned to a cafe just a few doors down from Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano – this cafe was Fratelli Klainguti and it and the candied fruit shop were both greatly favoured by Italy’s most famous composer, Giuseppi Verdi, who spent over 30 winters in the city.

Fratelli Klainguti

I decided to try their Falstaff, Verdi’s most loved hazelnut paste filled brioche.

Verdi's Falstaff

With a cappuccino, that was my breakfast that morning. The Falstaff was very good (the hazelnut paste was incredible) but to me, didn’t need that extra sugar fondant on top. Verdi clearly liked his pastries very very sweet!

A Cappuccino and Falstaff

There’s even a signed picture from Verdi himself, proclaiming that the cafe’s Falstaff is better than his own!

Verdi

Right before I headed to the airport, I visited the Mercato Orientale in search of some fresh pasta and pesto to bring home. I did find some but I also discovered a busy, vibrant market with beautiful fish, meat and produce of the region. Oh, how I wished I could have brought it all home!

Untitled

If you’re looking for more Ligurian specialities, the ones I didn’t have time to seek out were: stoccafisso accomodato (a stew of dried unsalted cod), coniglio alla ligure (Ligurian-style rabbit), trippe (tripe). And you know what? The city is extremely pretty too – make sure you find time to visit the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo (avoiding lunchtime when it’s closed!) and the numerous palazzi.

Cattedrale di San Lorenzo

Untitled

Porto Antico

All my photos from my short trip can be found in this Flickr album.

My Instagram feed probably gave it away but I was in Belgium last week for work. Sadly, the excitement of the novelty of Belgian food has now worn off for me – it was probably the endless chips, dairy and mayo that did it. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with chips, dairy and mayo but when encountering some combo of the three at almost every meal….well, yeah, I needed a break.

On our last night in Leuven, we were, to our relief, brought to an Italian restaurant. I think I’d been expecting an average Italian restaurant, perhaps catering for the cheap-and-cheerful student population, but what I was not expecting was a brilliant Slow Food restaurant. And that’s exactly what Ristorante Rossi is.

We had all been booked in for their €35 3-course menu; there’s also a 5-course menu, an a la carte option, and occasional themed menus that reflect one particular region in Italy. The restaurant itself is quite small and quaintly decorated with vintage Italian signs and red and white checked tablecloths. On that Thursday night, the place was packed (Leuven, being a university town, has a busier Thursday night than Friday night. On Fridays, the majority of the students go home.) and buzzing, and the food on the surrounding tables looked excellent.

Anyway, first was an amuse of vitello tonnato on crostini. I love that classic combination of creamy tuna sauce with mild and tender veal.

Vittello Tonnato Crostini

Next was a giant pea and cheese arancino sat on a bed of pea puree, drizzled with pesto. This generously-sized ball of fried risotto (about the size of my fist) went down easily and I may have also helped myself to my friend’s unfinished portion. I clearly had no idea of the size of the next few dishes to come.

Pea Arancino with Pea Puree and Pesto

The pasta course was spinach and ricotta ravioli in a fresh tomato sauce with mint. This was fabulous (such an unexpected combination) and I could have gorged on this for my entire meal. But good thing I didn’t. I was again offered my friend’s extra ravioli but I just couldn’t manage anymore, especially when I saw the fish that was to come!

Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with Tomato Sauce and Mint

Our main course was that fish I saw – I’m not entirely sure of the species but it was a white fish that flaked easily and had been cooked with a delicious crispy skin. This was served with a celeriac puree, a creamy gravy, green beans and to my utter surprise, seared foie gras! And that little blob of dark green in front? A pesto of parsley and pistachio, from what I could gather – gorgeous stuff.

Fish with Foie Gras and Celeriac Puree

Dessert wasn’t included in the menu and I opted to share a massive serving of tiramisu (€6,50). This was gorgeous, with lots of coffee and quite light, just as I like it. Look at those distinct layers!

Tiramisu

I forgot to get a photo of the little squares of chocolate cake that came with coffees and the bill – the two layers had been sandwiched together with cream and Nutella! Dreamy!

It’s not the cheapest restaurant in Leuven (not sure if the students from the main university go there!) – our meal (with drinks and desserts) worked out to €50 per head. I definitely recommend it and definitely also recommend making a booking before you go.

Ristorante Rossi
Standonckstraat,2
3000 Leuven
Belgium

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