I miss living near the Etanges d’Ixelles. It was so nice being able to walk to Place Flagey for the weekend market or up to Natural Cafée, my favorite place for a coffee. It was also so handy being close to Kokuban, a great Japanese noodle restaurant just off Avenue Louise.
Kokuban is easy to overlook, with its discrete exterior and side-street location next to the mini Delhaize on the corner. It has managed however to become very popular with the neighbourhood locals since opening a couple of years ago. I probably walked past it a dozen times on one of my many Sunday visits to the Delhaize for bread and milk (why is it so hard to get to the regular supermarket?) and always said to the husband, we must try that place one of these days.
Well we finally did and now it’s on my go-to list for a reliable, good lunch on a Saturday afternoon. Kokuban means blackboard in Japanese, which is a prominent feature in the restaurant’s décor. The interior is rather minimalist in style, with a few large wooden tables, simple stools, soft lighting and big blackboards with Japanese text (the menu I’m guessing?). The staff are friendly enough and the service is always fast.
The menu is relatively straight forward, with a selection of otsumami (small dishes) and main dishes like ramen, udon noodles and rice bowls. There is no sushi here. I usually start with a bowl of salade d’algues (seaweed salad yum!) and the husband always orders edamame, which are served warm and disappear pretty quickly. Another great starter is the gyoza, delicious Japanese dumplings served with a dipping sauce – great for sharing.
As for the mains, I’ve managed to try a few, including the miso ramen (pork and vegetables with noodles), karaage ramen (crispy chicken over noodles and broth) and gyudon, a good, gooey beef and onion mixture over rice. The noodle portions are generous but sometimes the chef is a bit stingy on the meat (two slices of pork on top just doesn’t cut it for this girl). Overall though, the food is tasty and good value, with starters around €4 to €6 and noodle bowls at €12 to €14. They have a good lunch deal, which includes a starter, main and drink, as well as a limited menu for takeaway.
Kokuban definitely gives Yamato, the other Brussels Japanese noodle restaurant, a run for its money. Plus you know it must be the real thing when there are always Japanese expats among the patrons. Oh and be sure to wash it all down with some sake!
53 Rue Vilain XIIII, 1000 Brussels
Tel: +32 2 611 06 22
Open: Monday to Saturday, 12-2pm, 7-10pm
Images via Kokuban.