From the Naamsepoort/Porte de Namur to Sint-Guido/Saint-Guidon, in T-shirts and in bathing suits, this summer is hot. Here are five places to make up an iceberg with which to combat global warming.
All the signs indicate that we will remember the summer of 2018 as particularly warm and dry. Will this be sustained in August? It’s difficult to say. What is certain, however, is that, without reaching the record levels of the summer of 1976, July was dominated by a vast anticyclone, the very same which has taken up residence over most of Europe.
Under the all-powerful rays of the sun, should you stay shut up at home, with the doors and blinds closed? Of course not, make the best of it while you can. We are in Belgium, after all, who knows when we’ll see such good weather again?
Letting off steam
The good news is that Brussels has several spots that can provide a much-needed blast of cold. The first that springs to mind is Yamato. What, that restaurant where they steam the food and where, in wintertime, the diners disappear beneath a thick layer of mist? Yes, that’s just the place!
When summer arrives, the place has plenty going for it. To start with, it has outdoor seating. Its usual number of seats is doubled by a small terrasse, so you no longer have to wait while reading a manga in the original Japanese. This option is even more inviting at the moment because the roadworks on the street mean you can enjoy your chosen dish in peace and quiet.
So, what does one order? The place made a name for itself with its excellent gyozas and ramen, and deservedly so: they have some of the best broth in the capital. If you can’t face this steaming dish, that doesn’t matter. From May until the end of September, the menu includes “summer ramen”, consisting of cold noodles served with soy vinaigrette. The dish is brought to life by a variety of vegetables (tomatoes, cucumber, cabbage, etc.) and thin slices of pork and omelette. This delicacy is perfectly suited to this heat.
The drinks also offer a chance to cool down, with two gems that are absolutely not to be missed. The first is a delicious yuzu beer, Uijin Yuzu Blond. Beer-lovers, rest assured, this is a quality product, made not with flavourings but with the zest of real yuzu fruit from the Kochi Prefecture. Designed in Japan, this beverage is brewed in Belgium by a brewer with an excellent reputation, Alexandre Dumont de Chassart of the Brasserie de Jandrain-Jandrenouille. With an alcohol content of 6.5%, Uijin has a delightfully fresh palate which combines bitterness and acidity.
The other must when it comes to cool drinks is the very trendy “matcha frappé”, freshly made with green tea powder and crème fraiche. Served iced, this drink will lower your body temperature by a few degrees.
Under a cover of snow
If you like Japan, another place in the same vein, Samourai Ramen is like a cool breeze in summertime. With direct ties to one of the first Japanese establishments set up in Brussels (Samourai, which opened in 1975), this place offers its take on fast food of the kind you find in Tokyo. Here, once again, it’s all about the ramen.
The version at Samourai can be made with one of three different broths; miso (fermented soybeans), shoyu (soy sauce), or tonkotsu (pork marrow). Once you have chosen your type of broth, you can add garnishes of your choice: Japanese-style roast pork, breaded scampi, guinea fowl fritter, or gyoza (Japanese ravioli), not to mention the famous tamago, an egg cooked in vinegar for seven minutes, shelled, and marinated in sugar and soy sauce for 24 hours.
Hidden in a corner of the menu is the delicious cold dessert “yukimi daifuku”, which translates literally as “daifuku snow-covered view”. This mixture of ice cream and glutinous rice paste has the effect of a cool pack on the body.
Roasting in the sun
Perhaps, however, in a similar vein to the matcha frappé, you prefer the idea of a drink that is usually served hot but which has gone sleeveless for the summer? In that case, you have to try the latte frappé at OR Coffee Roasters. Founded in Westrem in 2001, this label has four outlets (two in Brussels and two in Ghent) and is an absolute must for lovers of coffee.
It is the brainchild of Tom Janssen and Katrien Pauwels, two IT professionals who made the move to roasting coffee because of their love for the product. What distinguishes this label is the fact that the majority (70%) of the varieties they offer are sourced directly using a modus operandi that guarantees fair trade.
Although the outlet on Ortsstraat/rue Orts is charming enough, we prefer the one beside Jourdanplein/place Jourdan. We love its village-like atmosphere and the unpretentious little terrasse where you can watch people rushing by like headless chickens. When it’s cold in the city, the espresso macchiato is, without a doubt, our first choice. But when a blazing sun is beating down, we reach for the latte frappé.
That’s because this place has really mastered milk foam, the key ingredient in this drink. The version they serve is almost like a milkshake, though less heavy. They use a pleasantly small amount of sugar, which prevents the mixture from being too viscous on the palate and becoming more like a dessert than a coffee.
Breaking the ice
When the thermometer reads over 25° C, a tried and tested classic for instantly cooling down is of course to pay a visit to an ice cream parlour. Two options spring to mind. The first is to go to a Neuhaus shop.
The chocolatier gives you the option of personalising your ice cream. The preparation takes no more than 45 seconds. First, you choose the flavour; vanilla, chocolate, or raspberry sorbet. Then, you can opt for it to be covered with either milk chocolate or dark chocolate. Finally, you just need to select a crunchy topping, choosing between cocoa nibs, Brésilienne, or raspberry crumble. To top it all off, they give you the option of accompanying the ice cream of your choice with a classic nougatine biscuit.
The second ice cream place that’s causing a stir is Bargello. Originally from Luxembourg, this ice cream maker subscribes to the Florentine tradition in its purest form. The texture is wonderfully creamy.
Particularly memorable flavours include the stracciatella, “bacio” made with hazelnuts, and “crema Fiorentina” with lemon zest. It is worth mentioning that their original creations include a very good frozen chocolate mousse. What more do you need to keep a cool head?