Eat

Kokuban

OH HAI neglected Belgian blog. I have so much to tell you but I have been horribly, unusually busy. I haven’t even had time to sit around watching my favourite owl webcam. Tsk. Anyway, one of the things I was busy doing was writing a review of a place Metropolitan has ALREADY reviewed, before my time. Facepasta, my friends, facepasta. So here it is, a bonus review of Kokuban that will NOT be appearing in Metropolitan in May. Oh my god. I even went TWICE. Sob. More posting to come, including cocktails at Hotel BLOOM!, a gorgeous exhibition at the Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits, and various others.

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I’m British, so I‘m brilliant at queuing, but in Brussels I rarely get the chance. Well. There’s the supermarket. And anything to do with local administration. And the ‘customer service’ counters in the metro, and.. ok, fine, sometimes I have to queue. But Brussels residents are largely spared that particularly dismal modern British experience of going for dinner and waiting so long in a draughty line that your companion’s arm begins to look like a tasty alternative food source.

You do, however, often have to queue in Kokuban. Why? There’s nothing particularly special about the look of this noodle joint on a side street in the traffic-heavy hinterland of Avenue Louise: pale wood bench seating, dark walls, exposed pipes. The main decorative feature is the large blackboards (‘kokuban’ in Japanese) covered with cheerful, if puzzling doodles: a jolly chicken laying an egg, a dolorously spouting whale.

So why the queues? Because, quite simply, it’s delicious. The food is plain, sometimes startlingly so: a wide shallow bowl of udon noodles in fish broth comes with a few rounds of of spring onion, some wakame, a single slice of deep fried tofu. The oyako-don is a bowl of sushi rice topped with flaked salmon, roe and a sprinkling of nori. Just that. But the broths have a deeply satisfying umami kick that keeps you slurping, the roe bursts in your mouth with a saline explosion of flavour, the noodles have a texturally pleasing slither and bite. It’s simple food, perfectly done. Even pudding – a perfectly balanced bitter-sweet green tea ice cream encased in a sort of chewy rice candy – is wildly moreish.

Service is ultra-efficient, as it needs to be with hungry diners piling up in the doorway, but it’s also warm, multilingual and charming. All in all, a worthy outlet for my British queuing skills.

Rue Vilain XIIII 53-55, kokuban.be (0) 2611 0622

Noodles €12-18

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