travel

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

Restaurant Hong Kong (Bordeaux, France): In The Absence of Red Wine

THE STORY

In February, we visited Bordeaux expecting a weekend drowned in wine tastings. I had been dreaming of walking from winery to winery in Saint-Émilion, happily making our way to the town center from the train station in a haze of red wine giggles. I wanted to eat their famous coconut macaroons while overlooking the French countryside in a mildly intoxicated stupor.

That did not end up happening.

Bordeaux Saint Emilion

I tried to call the wineries to make appointments, but no one would answer, even though the social media accounts were active. I also reached out to a tour group to arrange tastings, who replied to say they were on holiday during that time. In all the research I had done, nothing indicated that wineries were closed in February - I thought "holiday" meant they simply weren't available that weekend.

Significantly less red wine was consumed than I had hoped during that trip. Good news, however, was that we ate a variety of Asian food!

Bordeaux Saint Emilion Winery Vines

As I mentioned before, we were in Bordeaux for the Lunar New Year. In anticipation of a wine-soaked weekend, I hadn't done much research on how to celebrate the Lunar New Year in the city, but after seeing the parade, I wanted to have some semblance of a New Year's meal.

We decided to go to Restaurant Hong Kong, just a short walk from where we were staying. According to the internet, they had a delicious looking dim sum options, and these days, you can get dim sum at any hour.

Everything about it felt right: it had maybe 20 tables, a good variety of Asian decor, and an older Asian man sitting in a corner watching TV. The host was extremely patient with us as I spoke terribly broken French and he spoke decent English. It was the perfect way to ring in the New Year.

Bordeaux Restaurant Hong Kong Chinese Vietnamese

THE REVIEW

Even though it was the dim sum that got us through the door, we ended up ordering two pork buns, caramelized pork, and spare ribs. The pork buns were ginormous - so big that one took up an entire steamer. It wasn't a char siu bao, but I still enjoyed it.

The spare ribs also were not what I expected, but were still tasty. I thought they would be smaller for some reason, like Chinese spare ribs, but these seemed to be Vietnamese - crispy and served with nuoc mam (a dipping sauce consisting mostly of fish sauce). The caramelized pork was the least surprising but probably most delicious part of the meal.

All in all, our experience was a wonderful way to spend the Lunar New Year weekend.


Restaurant Hong Kong, 116 Boulevard Maréchal Leclerc, 33000 Bordeaux, France, +33 5 56 96 62 11

Fufu Ramen (Bordeaux, France)

THE STORY

Bordeaux may have had the most Asian restaurants we've seen during a long weekend. I knew beforehand that the city is home to a plethora of beloved food institutions, but just the number of casual Asian dining spots was surprising. When all is said and done, I believe we ate more Asian food than any other cuisine while we were in Bordeaux.

We also happened to visit during the Lunar New Year, which is always supposed to be a delicious time. In the past, I've cooked dumplings and pork belly lo mein and salt and pepper shrimp, and I've also gone out for incredibly lavish meals with family and friends. This year felt tame, and to some extent, sad.

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But lo and behold, we came across a parade, complete with a dragon and a lion! We followed it to a small square where a short performance of the dragon chasing the sun took place (the lion called it quits as soon as we reached the square).

While the celebration we witnessed was small, it sparked my interest yet again in the Asian diaspora in Europe. What do people choose to hold on to as immigrants? What do people choose to celebrate as the generations go on? How do these immigrant traditions contrast with resident culture? Do the two cultures feel partitioned or combined within an identity?

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With those thoughts in mind, we attempted to have lunch at Fufu Ramen, but it was packed. I tried to step inside to put our name on a list, but I couldn’t even fit through the door because it was so packed. We decided to go back for dinner right when it opened. We were successful.

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THE REVIEW

If you’re looking for ramen in Bordeaux, this is the spot.  I ordered the chachuramen, and the Ramen Maurader had the tantanramen. The chachuramen was a clean flavor - not too salty or oily. The pork was also perfectly cooked. I’d say, however, that the tantanramen was better. It was a tahini/miso mix that was also kind of garlicky. It was so delicious (if you’re preference is tonkotsu style).

As I mentioned, the wait on a Friday for lunch was insane, and we went for dinner when it opened. I recommend adding it to your list of places to eat, but be ready to wait (probably).

 

Fufu Ramen, 37 Rue Saint-Rémi, 33000 Bordeaux, France, +33 5 56 52 10 29