Life in (and around) Brussels…

Random tips on things to do and places to go in Brussels and beyond


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Kamo: best Japanese in town (according to Michelin)

Update: October 2016. Prices have gone up considerably now that Kamo has been in its new and fancier Chaussee de Waterloo location. The lunch special is €22 and other lunch dishes are priced at €25-30 with a more limited selection. tasting menus have also increased in price by €10-15.

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I finally made it to Kamo – and once I tried it, I had to go back…

This is the only Japanese restaurant in Belgium with a Michelin star, but it is very different from all the other Michelin awarded restaurants in Brussels I have tried… so if you are looking for a fancy dining experience, look elsewhere. If you are just looking for good food, definitely put this on your go-to list!

Kamo must have earned its Michelin star solely on the quality of the food. The venue itself is your simple, small and basic Japanese restaurant with the standard sushi bar seating and about a dozen tables. It is small and relatively packed, no fancy decor, and none of the dressed up waitressing staff you would encounter in your average Michelin joint. Which is what I loved about this place: unpretentious, good food, with fast and friendly service… and good food (did I mention that?) Very good food.

Plus, what other Michelin star restaurant could you eat lunch at for EUR 15??

My tips and highlights:

  • Book in advance (Tel: +32 2 648 78 48) This place is always PACKED. It is closed on weekends.
  • The lunch special is just EUR 15, but arrive early or it might be sold out. Other lunch dishes range from EUR 18 to EUR 25.
  • There are two menus for EUR 45 and EUR 60 if you have time for a leisurely meal and want the full Kamo experience (see a full review from another blog here).
  • For me, the cooked dishes are what really make Kamo stand out and what the chef is best at. Everything I have had there was cooked to perfection, even an “unglamorous” dish, such as fried chicken.
  • If you go for lunch, go with an appetite and get a lunch set (which comes with soup and a few other side dishes) plus another dish a la carte… The food is healthy and light, so it goes down easily!
  • Wanna know more? I will let the pictures talk for themselves… (and check out also some great photos here from Brussels Kitchen)
  • Looking for other things Japanese? Take a look at the Top Japanese restaurants post and other posts.

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Delicious cooked sardines


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Sashimi


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Sashimi lunch set


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Side dish: green beans


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Seafood side dish close up


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Side dish: your simple, basic green salad with traditional Japanese mayo dressing


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Sashimi in sesame sauce and broth (two-step meal: eat half with rice, then put the other half in the broth and add rice). Delicious.


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Sushi


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Best fried chicken ever

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Michelin deals: Chalet de la Foret

In a nutshell – My preferred 2-star Michelin restaurant in town for the food (great lunch deal), ambiance (quiet and relaxed forest setting) and terrace (perfect in the summer). The only weakness is the service, but that will not stop me from going back (again). Read on for the full review…

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Selection of amuse-bouches: fish tartar, black coal foie, tomato emulsion

If you are looking for a nice terrace to enjoy the last days of summer weather in Brussels, head over to Le Chalet de la Foret, one of Brussels’ three 2-star Michelin restaurants (Seagrill and Comme Chez Soi are the other two), and undoubtedly the one offering the most charming, agreeable and worthwhile dining experience.

The Chalet, located in the Bois de la Cambre close to the (also upscale) David Lloyd gym, is best enjoyed during lunch in their outdoor terrace, which has plenty of seating (reservations are still highly advised). Besides the larger menus that are also available in the evening, there is a special three-course lunch menu for just EUR 45 (not including drinks). Plus, if your budget or hunger levels require, you can drop the entree, main course or dessert with a corresponding price reduction.

The food is fresh and stays away from rich, heavy sauces. Surprisingly – in the best way possible – some of the dishes taste superbly like homemade dishes, albeit with the expected Michelin-level presentation and finesse. Appetizers in the summer might include a tartar of salmon in a cucumber emulsion or other fish (pictured below), and main courses typically consist of a heavier meat dish (beef, veal, or in the photo below, a delicious ox tail creation that melts in your mouth). Having said that, I am not sure if the food deserves the second Michelin star (same with Seagrill).

The only downside is the service, which is not up to Michelin standards (they sometimes forget to introduce the dishes; bread and drinks service lacks attention, even meaning having to proactively ask and chase to get some water; looong wait for the check).

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Other pointers:

  • Accessible by car (not as easily by public transportation). Plenty of on-site parking.
  • If you want to have one of the longer menus, arrive early or the kitchen will no longer allow you to order it.
  • The restaurant is open on weekdays only (weekends and holidays for private events if you have a pretty substantial budget…)
  • For a Michelin-on-a-budget meal (if there ever was an oxymoron…), you don’t have to get the full three-course lunch menu but can choose to drop the appetizer, main course or dessert. (At least theoretically… I assume one could substitute the main course for a different dish from the (way pricier) a la carte menu, but I cannot picture them eyeing you favorably if you decide to make a meal out of just an appetizer and the complimentary amuse-bouches…)
  • Count on at least two hours for a leisurely lunch, although you could speed through it in 1 hour 15 minutes (but why would you want to do that?)
  • For light drinkers: Limited by-the-glass wine selection, but some good half-bottles available.
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One of six different types of bread available that day

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Butter – salted and unsalted

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Complimentary mousse appetizer

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Sea bass (?) tartare

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Ox tail with vegetables (excellent)

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Refreshing and delicious dessert (lacking proper description from the restaurant staff)


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Culinaria 2013 dates announced!

Tickets are on sale now. New chefs will participate this year. Watch out for the team behind Bouchery, which is promising (they used to run the one-star Michelin Bistrot du Mail, which was great).

Life in (and around) Brussels...

UPDATES: You can now book your tickets (EUR 75 to 100)online. The theme in 2013 is “Pure Street”. Among the new chefs participating in the 2013 edition, watch out for the team behind Bouchery, which is promising (they used to run the one-star Michelin Bistrot du Mail, which was great).

Mark your calendars: Culinaria will be back this year from Wednesday, 29 May through Sunday, 2 June.

Probably THE gastronomic event of the year in Brussels, Culinaria gathers a number of Michelin-starred chefs across the country to offer original menus at prices that are generally significantly lower than what you would find at their restaurants. (Having said that, prices have gone up given the success of the event in past years. Updated: Looks like the organizers decided not to offer a cheaper lunch menu, so prices for the 2013 edition are fairly higher, ranging from…

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Seagrill review

Seagrill, one of Brussels’ three two-star Michelin restaurants is tucked inside the Radisson SAS hotel next to De Brouckere. With only 12 tables and a spacious, modern, minimalistic setting (albeit with classically Belgian brown tones in the entire decor), Seagrill offers a pleasant dining experience, although maybe not what one would expect from a two-star establishment with the price tag that goes with it.

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The service is good, attentive, polite and friendly, but not as impeccably well-trained as in other restaurants of the same, or an even “lower” (I use this term loosely…  one-star restaurants still have pretty high standards) category. At times, it felt they were rushing a bit and were perhaps too noticeable. The atmosphere is pleasant: there is plenty of space for a relatively quiet, private meal as the room is spacious and tables are not close to each other. However, the acoustics are not ideal. If you have a group or the restaurant is full, it can get somewhat loud (again, this is “Michelin loud”, and not “Saturday night Saint-Gery-bar loud”…)

So, finally, the food: good, well cooked, appealing presentation, good portions and the expected amount of amuse-bouches, but nothing surprising… And worryingly enough, nothing that I would crave more of! I probably would not have had second servings of anything, which was disappointing. Also of concern is the fact that the desserts were more memorable than the main courses. The homemade caramel was delicious, as was the lychee sorbet on the pineapple dessert. However, these were just a few elements of the ensemble. [Caveat: I had the lunch menu. Maybe the dinner menus are more thrilling… ?]

To his credit, the chef, Yves Mattagne, was actually in the house and came out of the kitchen to personally greet diners once all main dishes had been served. That’s something one doesn’t see every day and is a praiseworthy gesture.

Was I expecting much? Of course! The experience was nice, but not life-changing and without any wow-factor. There was no “Hmmm… you should try this” or “wow, can I have more of this?” which many other restaurants (with or without stars) do manage to elicit…

For a more exciting, surprising and engaging experience, I would place my bets on this year’s new edition of Culinaria (and at a much better value!)

Seagrill. Lunch menu (three courses) for EUR 65


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Michelin meals under EUR 35

Let’s be honest, we don’t live in Brussels because of the nice weather, the charm of the city, the customer-centered attitude, or the local warmth… but the food here, that’s a different story… where else could one eat at amazing, Michelin-starred restaurants for less than 35 euros??

The catch: you have to go for lunch during the week (public holidays excluded, of course) and book in advance, and the wine is extra of course, and at Michelin-establishment prices…

So, where to go?

Bistrot du Mail – lunch menus (Tuesday to Friday) for 25 or 29 euros in a modern, trendy setting, with friendly service. Read a full review in this earlier post. Unfortunately, it seems this restaurant is temporarily closed… no answer on the phone either, so you might want to put this one on hold… Location: close to Chatelain, on rue du Mail 81. Call +32 487 59 37 49 for reservations.

Chalet de la Foret – lunch menus for EUR 34 (first, second course and dessert). This is probably the most formal of the four restaurants on this list. It has an older, more exclusive feel to it (maybe also because it is the one place that is not easily accessible by public transportation, given that it is in the middle of the Bois de la Cambre). The portions are plentiful (maybe a bit too much sometimes) and the service is impeccable. The quality and interest-rating of the food at the Chalet, however, is lower than at the Bistrot du Mail, which offers a more original and sensory experience. Location: Uccle, Dreve de Lorraine 43, in the Bois de la Cambre. Call +32 2 374 54 16 for reservations.

(Chez) Marie – lunch menus for EUR 18, with an appetizer and main course. (If you order dessert on top of that, your bill will still be well under EUR 35). The setting is less formal than in the other restaurants, more brasserie-like and the service is also more relaxed. What I did miss were the amuse-bouches. All we got was some sliced bread and butter to whet our appetites… which is not much. The food, however, was nice and fresh, simply prepared: marinated salmon as a starter, followed by a white fish (mulet). But no surprises or “wow” moments. A bit of variety (meat-fish combo) would have been nice but at that price and with that quality, I cannot complain. Location: right off Place Flagey (on the side of the Etangs d’Ixelles), rue Alphonse de Witte 40, call + 32 2 644 30 31 for reservations.

Le Passage – lunch menu for EUR 25, including a mise en bouche, a first course, a second, and no dessert, but some mignardises instead (which is usually more than enough after everything that comes before…). Location: Uccle, close to Saint Job station. Call +32 2 374 66 94 for reservations.

People are picking up on these great deals, so book fast before the prices go up (some of them already have… the original post was supposed to be “Michelin meals under EUR 30…”)

The 2-star (technically, 2-macarons…) Michelin restaurants also offer lunch menus at lower prices than their regular menus (still not at a price that would allow one to justify going there on any given day…), but that will be the topic of another post later on…