Restaurant Review

Umamido (Brussels, Belgium): Big Ramen Bowls in a Small Space

THE STORY

As usual, my day centered around visiting this ramen spot, which opened at noon. This meant I had time to have coffee and a bite beforehand.

I decided to visit a Portuguese bakery (because why not?) within a healthy walk’s distance from Umamido. This way I could have my coffee and small breakfast bite a couple hours before destroying a bowl of ramen.

While walking to Umamido, however, I decided to eat a pastel de nata I had purchased to go.

Rookie mistake.

I didn’t need the pastel de nata. I just wanted it.

Umamido Ramen Restaurant Flagey Brussels Belgium Asian Japanese Noodle Soup

When you go out for ramen, it’s good practice to show up hungry. Of course, this can be dangerous if you’re also walking the thin line between appropriately hungry and hangry.

When I finally arrived at Umamido, I worried that I wasn’t hungry enough. But it seemed too late for another walk around the block.

Umamido Flagey Brussels Belgium sign graphic design

Umamido has five or six 2-top tables inside, and maybe four seats at the bar. The space is so intimate that I couldn’t get into my seat without brushing against the table next to me. There’s just the chef and the waiter - any more than that and it’d be a crowd.

THE REVIEW

I had the Ramen of the Chef, which is described as “The ultimate ramen, spicy, fatty, salty, totally Umamido, the bowl that feeds the soul.” This description is not wrong.

This was a bowl of ramen unlike any other I’d ever had.

Ramen of the Chef Umamido Restaurant Flagey Brussels Belgium Asian Japanese Noodle Soup

What was most intimidating was the bacon, if that’s what you would call it. Just one look at these two slabs of crispy, meaty pork and I knew I was doomed. There was no way I could finish this bowl.

But I happily accepted the challenge.

And instead of corn, there were green peas. While not as sugary sweet as corn kernels, they still added a refreshing flavor and texture. The raw red onion and rocket were also a wonderful surprise.

With the added pinch of kimchi, this ramen was spicier than I expected. But that’s what beer is for.

I recommend this spot for ramen lovers both new and veteran. It’s not a traditional or typical ramen joint, but you’re also not a traditional or typical traveler if you’re seeking ramen in Brussels.


Umamido Flagey (there are seven locations, one food truck, and no reservations), Chaussee de Vleurgat 1, 1050 Elsene, Ixelles, Belgium

Tai Wu (Rotterdam, Netherlands): Great Dim Sum That Doesn't Require Reservations

THE STORY

You may be wondering “‘Doesn’t require reservations?’ What dim sum place does?”

The one I tried to go to before going to Tai Wu. That restaurant.

It was my birthday. I had been planning to get dim sum on my birthday for weeks. Generally, the way it works is that you get up and out the door by 10 a.m. on a Saturday in order to beat the rush. First come, first serve.

Tai Wu Dim Sum Chinese Restaurant Rotterdam Netherlands Holland asian food travel craving

There have been multiple occasions when I end up hangry by the time I arrive at the dim sum restaurant, only to wait another 30 minutes for a table. It’s just an accepted reality of dim sum: you eat nothing so that you can wait for an unknown amount of time to then stuff your face with dumplings. Regardless of where you are, these rules hold true.

Or so I thought.

We arrived at the dim sum restaurant, and they asked if we had a reservation. At first, I thought “Is he speaking to me in Dutch? Because I don’t think I understood his question.” But he then repeated himself and yes, he was confirming whether I made a reservation.

Tai Wu Chinese Dim Sum Restaurant Rotterdam Netherlands dumplings haam sui gau wu gok asian craving travel

After telling him we did not have a reservation, he said that he could not seat us. In my hangry state, I muttered something snide and proceeded to leave.

I had previously marked Tai Wu as another restaurant to try, and so we went, hoping they would let us sit without a reservation. To our delight, they sat us immediately.

Tai Wu has a few dozen tables for various-sized parties, but most are large enough to fit a lazy Susan in the center. And while no one was carting around trolleys of dumplings (which is no longer commonplace in dim sum restaurants), there a luxurious chandelier hanging from the high ceiling.

By this point, I was ravenous.

 (The Ramen Marauder claims I was creeping on another table’s food in this picture)

(The Ramen Marauder claims I was creeping on another table’s food in this picture)

When restaurants still pushed dumpling carts around the tables, it was easier to pace myself. I had to wait patiently for the dumplings I wanted. Now, however, I can order all of them at once, which usually leads to a combination of shameful overeating and a waste of food.

Maybe this article will serve as a reminder to my future self not to order so much. But probably not.

Tai Wu Chinese Dim Sum Restaurant Rotterdam Netherlands chicken feet lo baak gou asian craving travel

THE REVIEW

When ordering dim sum from a menu, usually the options are limited. Not at Tai Wu! They had everything I wanted: siu mai, har gao, chicken feet, fried taro, those glutinous rice balls filled with ground meat, baos, turnip cakes…it was a joy.

If you wake up craving dim sum on a Saturday morning, bring your appetite to Tai Wu.


Tai Wu, Mauritsweg 24-26, 3012 JR Rotterdam, Netherlands, +31 (0)10 433 0818

Pho 61 (Antwerp, Belgium): A Vietnamese Restaurant in the City Center

THE STORY

Antwerp, Belgium was never on my list of places to visit until a friend in Germany asked if I wanted to meet her there on a September Saturday. Just an hour train ride from Rotterdam, I figured it was an easy day-trip.

Easy to get to, hard to leave.

Pho 61 Vietnamese Restaurant Antwerp Belgium Bun Cha Ban Xeo The Asian Craving food and travel Europe

The only other time I had been to Belgium was my visit to Brussels a few years back, which was enjoyable, but did not make other parts of Belgium as desirable to visit. (But as I wrote in my Maru Restaurant post, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and will absolutely visit Brussels again.)

The city, simply put, is beautiful. In just the first couple hours, I wrote down a handful of restaurants I want to visit in the future, including Super Mercado, which was closed at the time. We walked through a farmer’s market on our way to lunch, wandered through the shopping district, and spent most of the afternoon in the garden of a small beer cafe - so small that at first I thought we had walked into someone’s home.

Cafe Kulminator Antwerp Belgium beer bar The Asian Craving Westvleteren

(Side note: check out the website Beer Hunter. This guy named Michael Jackson passed away in 2007, but his blog has been saved. Take a minute to look at what this beer enthusiast started doing in the mid 90s!)

It was a perfect place to spend time catching up with my friend. We had no agendas in mind, other than to meander. There were plenty of small distractions and unexpected delights that we could have explored, but we only had so many hours (and meals) in the city. The day flew by, and I wish we could’ve spent the whole weekend together in Antwerp.

Pho 61 Vietnamese Restaurant Antwerp Belgium The Asian Craving food and travel in Europe

If you have been following my personal journey in my newsletter, I’ve been busy keeping my life together and less focused on dining at various Asian restaurants (a sad existence, I know). So when we arrived in Antwerp, I hadn’t done any research on where to eat!

Luckily, with the ever-present internet, I learned about Pho 61 through a variety of Instagram hashtags and accounts. With a name as simple as a word and a number, that was all I needed to know.

As we approached the restaurant, I grew hesitant - was a Vietnamese restaurant in the old City Center really that good? Yes, yes it was.

Pho 61 Vietnamese Noodle Soup Restaurant Antwerp Belgium The Asian Craving food and travel Europe

THE REVIEW

Our group of seven plus a baby ordered a variety from the menu at Pho 61, including Vietnamese carpaccio, fried won tons, dumplings, bun cha, and pho. If you enjoy the funky freshness of Vietnamese cuisine, as well as raw beef, the carpaccio was delightful. The won tons and dumplings were standard delicious (not many are included in a single order though).

The highlight though of the meal was, of course, the pho. The broth was hearty, with a strong cinnamon flavor. As I’ve mentioned previously, the pho here doesn’t seem as salty, and at times is too oily. This pho was indeed not as salty as in the States, but thankfully was not oily. I had the pho with beef balls, which I recommend, though others seemed quite pleased with their sliced beef. I heard the bun cha was pretty good, too.

If you’re with a large group of people who just want some good, flavorful food in Antwerp, visit Pho 61.


Pho 61, Grote Markt 42, Antwerp, Belgium 2000, +32 3 232 90 13