I spent a weekend in Brussels because I wanted to see Janelle Monae. It was self-indulgent, but also a birthday gift to myself.
I also knew this would be a great opportunity to try a few Asian restaurants, since lately The Asian Craving has been mostly about restaurants in the Netherlands.
Naturally, I looked up ramen spots. It’s an easy Asian cuisine to research in a city, and the ramen spots that pop up in a search are dependably good. But ramen is a streak I’m trying to break.
And so somehow, due to the incredible Instagram algorithms, I learned about Maru.
The first picture that was on their feed when I looked at their account was of a green tomato kimchi. The following pictures were all just as intriguing, and so I added it to my list.
The restaurant had maybe 12 tables, including the tables outside, and seated maybe 30 people at once. When I arrived, there seemed to be one table left, and so I sat down. A waiter came over and asked if I had a reservation. I didn’t, but they were kind enough to let me stay.
The menu itself is simply yet chaotically designed. Its section titles seemed to be illustrated by hand (entrees, beverages, sides), but the menu items appear in a typewriter font with possibly hand-stamped elements.
Upon first glance, the menu didn’t seem to offer what I expected, but then again, what did I expect? I went into this restaurant without looking at their menu online, or with any idea of what I wanted to eat. As a person eating alone, any BBQ seemed out of the question. But as a person eating alone, I could also order whatever the fuck I wanted and not worry about whether another person would be willing to share it.
I ordered the sea bream. Not what I would consider standard Korean fare, but most Asian cuisines prepare fish in a way that European cultures don’t – whole and with clean, intense flavors. Unless the fish is small enough to be fried and eaten whole, many Westerners tend to eat fish filets, rather than the entire fish. (I know, not all Westerners.)
The sea bream came out, cut in half, served with thin daikon steaks on a bed of chopped leaks and soy sauce (or were they green onions?). It was also accompanied by kimchi, spinach, pickles, and rice.
Every bite was such a delight. The light saltiness of the daikon melted with every bite. I’d pinch a healthy piece of fish onto the rice and savored the combination of flavors and textures. I’d cleanse my palette with a bite of kimchi, pickles, or spinach, just to enjoy the fish again. It had been a minute since I had eaten a whole fish with bones, but it’s not a skill easily forgotten.
Maru Restaurant (make reservations!), Chaussée de Waterloo 510, Brussels, Belgium 1050, +32 2 346 11 11