Friday, 28 August 2015

Sakagura (rue du Marais)

Have a look at the picture below: what do you see? Nothing? Try again. Still nothing? Don't worry: this is a photo of an establishment that I initially managed to walk past three times, convinced I'd got the wrong address. Tucked away in a nondescript street not far from the rue Neuve, surrounded by office blocks, Sakagura - a.k.a. possibly Brussels' most anonymous restaurant - is unlikely to be a candidate for much walk-in custom.

On my two visits, though, without exactly being crowded this little Japanese outlet has been doing steady business, thanks to a mixture of takeaway customers and small groups of office workers who know it's here and come to take advantage of the simple menu over quiet conversation: each lunchtime there is a different 'don' with rice, a bento box, and a bigger 'special lunch box', photos of which (with prices) are helpfully posted on Facebook and Twitter at about midday. You can also order from a small selection of side dishes. 

On my first visit I went for the bento box, which happened to be salmon grilled with miso paste and chicken tempura (8E). I was a little surprised when this turned up almost immediately, in its plastic box - the lunch dishes are clearly all prepared in advance at the same time, ready for consumption in the restaurant or outside. Still, despite the lukewarm temperature I enjoyed the hefty block of chicken with its crispy coating and the subtler flavour of the miso. The accompanying salad was unremarkable but refreshing, although it didn't really need to include a small helping of noodles, as the bento rice on its own was a little heavy.
The second time, it was the 'don' of the day, with the rice on this occasion topped with roast pork and spring onions, that took my fancy. For 6E (including another plastic dish), this was a good deal. Again, the rice was filling, but it was generously topped with thin slices of pork that I'm afraid initially reminded me of a school roast dinner c. 1995 but on closer inspection turned out to be decent quality, although they could probably have been cooked slower and for longer. The piquancy of the spring onions was welcome and they were coated in a soy dressing that gradually and pleasingly soaked into the rice. I also had some gyozas - at three for 3E this seemed less good value, but they had been nicely steamed and had a tender filling that worked well cold.
Sakagura is closed at weekends but it is open on weekday evenings with a more extensive menu - I'd be intrigued to know what that's like, given its far from lively location, and I find it hard to imagine the subdued lunchtime atmosphere changing much later in the day. Still, on balance the people who work nearby are lucky to have a fairly cheap and filling lunch option, which is a little bit unusual and (if we're comparing Japanese with Japanese) certainly superior to the mass-produced sushi that would probably fall into a similar price range. I expect they manage not to walk straight past it after a while, too.

Rue du Marais 15
1000 Brussels


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