Monday, August 04, 2008


mr alien was in town on business, and very kindly brought me out to dinner on his very generous expense account. It was however a monday night in the dead of august (when many good restaurants in brussels go on holiday). determined not to be subject to the trappings of a usual tourist spot, i upped the efforts of my restaurant search (by eschewing the usual timeout guide wisdom for the recommendations of the lovely secretary at bigbankbrussels) and was nudged favourably towards jaloa.

mr alien was understandably hungry at the time I met him – and the 10 minute walk from his hotel near rogier to ste Catherine wasn’t helping. Ignoring his hints at stopping at quick for dinner, we soldiered on and rewarded ourselves with the order of the ‘surprise’ menu – 4 courses of seasonal food, putting you at the absolute mercy of the chef’s whims.

We were first served with a trio of tasters – a very light carrot soup, an even lighter carrot mousse and a fritter of courgette and cherve. It was all very tasty, but for that brief moment of doubt, I questioned whether this was the starter or simply an offering of amuse bouche. And for that brief moment of doubt, my heart sank ever so slightly because mr alien was very hungry and I hoped this wasn’t one of those restaurants where they served dollhouse sized portions in the name of chi-chi-dom.
Thankfully it was just an amuse bouche, because next the real meal started when we were served a tian of tuna tartare with tomato, chervil, coriander and dill and an olive breadstick. Drizzled generously with olve oil, it was a taste of the Mediterranean sea. It was light and refreshing, but substantively set us up for the rest of the meal to follow.
The fish course was in the form of a langoustine, wrapped in filo pastry. Atop a bed of ratoutuille and saffron foam. The saffron foam seemed rather odd as a combination to the ratoutuille, but it did bring out the edgy sweetness of the langoustine.
Veal sweetbreads served with green and white asparagus. Ris de veau is one of those things you don’t really find in London, but in Brussels, it seems to be a rather common occurrence – cooked rightly, it’s an extremely tender piece of meat without an overtly offaly aftertaste. It was fortunately cooked relatively well here in jaloa – the softness of the sweetbreads yielding against the bite of the asparagus, drizzled with a somewhat acidic yet caramelized sauce.
Pudding– a simple offering of cream with summer berries, topped with a round of speculoos, the Belgian gingerbread biscuit, bathed in a dense, rich chocolate sauce. It was one of those deserts where you try to kid yourself is healthy because it contains some manner of fruit, but the taste of decadence on your tongue as the cream and the chocolate sauce meet the crunch of the buttery speculoos tells you otherwise.
We did stumble out of Jaloa more than sufficiently satiated and I was certain I did mrs alien proud by ensuring her husband had been well fed. So till the next time you’re in town with your expense account mr alien…


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