Sunday, 26 April 2015

Au Bon Bol (rue Paul Devaux)

One afternoon a couple of Sundays ago I was in a street near Sainte-Catherine when my attention was caught: in the window of a small Asian restaurant, a woman was making noodles, twisting and twisting great lumps of dough until they became long, stretchy strands. Her action was mesmerising and we stood watching for a while, regretting that it wasn't yet dinner time. So when I returned to the area, with an appetite, Au Bon Bol seemed an obvious choice.
(photo from here)

As you would probably expect, there's little chance of a relaxed, romantic meal here. This isn't technically canteen dining: most of the tables are individual twos and fours (many of which were colonised by groups of two, which seemed a bit of a missed opportunity), but you're left to find your own by the rather harassed staff, who clearly have yet to be persuaded of the value of small talk. Again, this fitted the establishment's character, but the odd smile would have been nice, and given the frenetic busy-ness of the place I was surprised by how long it took to receive menus, order, and have our food arrive.
As a confirmed fan of dumplings of all kinds, I was eager to try the xiao long bao (4 for 5E), especially as the menu highlighted them as a 'suggestion', and warned my friend that the boiling hot soup inside would make them tricky to eat. The dumplings were indeed very hot, but didn't seem to contain much soup. That said, I enjoyed their hearty meat filling, which was much less bland in texture and taste than others I've had, and while the wrappers were slightly thicker than ideal I took this as a sign that they were home made.
Neither of us is particularly fond of noodle soup (to me at any rate it combines the disadvantages of both components with few of the advantages) so we both had fried noodle dishes, paying an extra euro (which made them 12.50Eish) to be served with the 'chef's sauce' rather than plain. I have to say that the difference was barely discernible - yes, the noodles were lubricated with some sort of sauce, but one of indeterminate flavour, and my friend had to make his own, much spicier version with the condiments on the table. On the positive side, there was none of the greasiness to which this sort of dish is often prone, and the thick noodles had a good 'bite'; we were also impressed by the quantity and quality of the protein element (chicken, beef and prawns in one case, and just prawns in the other, although a stray strand of red meat was unearthed).

So we didn't have a terrible meal, but the brusqueness of the service and the feeling that we were ever so slightly ripped off with the noodles left me less than enthusiastic about Au Bon Bol. There are a lot of other Asian restaurants in the area, after all.

Au Bon Bol (I didn't realise at the time but this website suggests that ABB has a bigger sibling nearby)
rue Paul Devaux 9
1000 Brussels


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