Brussels Bistro is a new month-old restaurant situated off Queen East from veteran restaurateur Roger Wils. When the new bistro was first conceived, Wils wrote a modern menu, "but, I ripped it up" he tells me and returned to his Belgian roots and 20+ years experience as chef and owner of the Broadview and Danforth institution, Café Brussels, which closed back in 2007.
The restaurant takes over from the converted house that was formerly Amuse Restaurant. Some of the interior walls have been knocked out to open up the space and sunny yellow paint brightens it all up. Oversized vintage lithograph posters hang on the walls along with framed Tin Tin comic strips and sketches. Tables are clothed with white linens and set for formal six-piece service.
The menu boasts classic bistro fare like the Confit D'Ail ($10) featuring cloves and cloves of garlic, slow cooked in olive oil and served over a round of Quebec-made Paillot de chèvre and garnished with thyme. Smearing it over the accompanying freshly baked baguette makes for an excellent beginning, though it should come with a warning: share with your table or find yourself eating multiple heads of garlic in one sitting.
There are 10 varieties of Les Moules ($19) that are sold by the kilo with twice-fried frites and house made mayo on the side. When the steaming bowl of Marinières-style mussels comes to the table, I am quick to declare my love for the metric system; a kilo is a LOT of mussels and they're notably plump specimens steamed in white wine with shallots and infused with the licorice-y notes of fennel.
Finally, from the En Plats, I try the Bouillabaisse ($36, lead photo), a saffron scented seafood broth surrounding an array of descendant shellfish including clams, mussels, prawns, scallops and tonight, lobster, which adds a richness to the plate that's entirely welcome.
Classic cocktails are available on request but the bar menu is mainly dedicated to French wines. I try a Les Jamelles Merlot priced at $10 a glass and am thankful for the generous pour.
Brussels Bistro is open Wednesday through 'til Sunday from 5pm to 10pm. There is a second floor wine bar still in the works and the possibility of a rooftop patio that might take over the adjacent Cobbs bakery.
Photos by Morris Lum