This past Saturday some friends invited us to the opening of Toukoul, a new Ethiopian restaurant near Place Sainte Catherine. The invitation said open bar and live jazz, which is all it took to convince me to go. When we arrived the place was jammed packed (either due to its popularity or offer of free drinks) and there were only a few hors d’œuvres passed around, thus we didn’t get a very good sense of the food. So yesterday evening the husband and I braved the cold to return for a proper meal.
As neither of us is that familiar with Ethiopian cuisine, we asked the waiter for his recommendations. With a smile, he very patiently described the choices and selected some of his favorites for us to try. The menu itself was also quite helpful as it includes a full glossary of Ethiopian food terms for us novices.
We ended up ordering two sauces with meat and two vegetable dishes – both served along with ayeb (spicy ricotta cheese) and salad on top of an injèra (large crepe/pancake). This comes with a basket of extra rolled-up crepes to help scoop up the food, as you’re meant to eat with your hands. I cheated a little bit and relied on the spoon provided to help get every last bite.
The two main dishes we had – Doro Wot Alicha (chicken and egg with turmeric) and Beg Wot (lamb with turmeric) – were both very flavourful, but a little shy on the meat. The chicken dish had one leg which the husband quickly devoured. My favorite was actually one of the vegetables Yemiser Wot (spicy pureed lentils). Excuse the picture of the food here – we were so hungry I forgot to snap it before we started eating.
I loved the interior – a modern take on the traditional toukoul, the hut of the Afars ethnic group, a small house made of wood and hay. The walls are lined with rough cuts of split wood planks, which give the whole place an organic, clean feel. They’ve done a great job with the bar and kitchen design (open metal shelving and exposed heat ducts) and have tastefully hung Ethiopian masks and decorations amongst the lights.
Toukoul is run by the same Ethiopian-Belgian behind KoKob. The waiter explained that he opened this second restaurant in an effort to return to authentic Ethiopian cuisine. I’ve only eaten at KoKob once before, but much prefer the atmosphere at Toukoul. Not only a restaurant, this is also a bar with live music on Friday and Saturday evenings from 8:30-10:30pm. You can check out upcoming events here.
Overall we had a good evening with good food, for a reasonable price (€50 for two, including drinks). I’d definitely go back with a group of friends to try a few other dishes and hear some music on a Saturday night.
1 Rue du Marronnier, 1000 Brussels
Tel: +32 2 223 7377
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am-11:30pm (food service 12-3:30pm, 6-11:30pm)
Images via Toukoul.