Triple "whammy" to celebrate Mid-Autumn festival

It may have escaped your notice but the Mid-Autumn Festival in China, an annual celebration on the Chinese lunar calendar, is fast approaching.

Referred to in China as zhongqiujie, the festival is one of the largest in mainland China and East Asia.It began as a celebration of the moon but, today, the tradition is centred around family reunion and happiness.

As it’s only a short break people typically no longer make dishes at home but book a meal in a restaurant instead to save time and spend more time with the family.

In Belgium and the West, it’s much less well known than Chinese New Year but if you want to mark the occasion in style, then L’Orchidee Blanche in Ixelles is a great place to do just that.

The restaurant, at the heart of the bustling university quarter, is just celebrating a triple-whammy of successes.

First up was the award, from Trip Advisor, of a “Travellers’ Choice” designation. This is a much sought-after award given only to those eateries that have a proven track record of consistently positive customer comments.

Success number two came with the commendation, specifically a “certificate of excellence”, from another similar website, this time “Restaurant Guru” whose director Andrew Priest said it was “well-deserved.”

The third and final success came when the Vietnamese Embassy in Brussels selected the resto to help promote “Vietnamese Culinary Week” in Belgium which is taking place this week (22-27 September).

The idea is to showcase those Vietnamese restos in the country which serve “typical” food from the country. L’Orchidee Blanche features therefore on a small but select certified list of such restaurants and, additionally, the embassy’s website (there is also the chance to win a prize).

The embassy shows these restos are known for their “passion for delicious food”, something that certainly applies to L’Orchidee Blanche, its Katia Nguyen, its Vietnamese-born owner and her hard working team of mostly female staff.

Those familiar with Katia and this eating place will not be surprised by its succession of recent successes.

Katia herself says, “We try to serve delicious food and provide a nice, polite welcome. This is why we are so successful and are managing to survive what has been an awful period for the industry.”

She is happy to keep going, despite the sector facing an unprecedented crisis, because, as she puts it, “I have a real passion for my job” (and how many people can truly say that?)

There are hundreds of Vietnamese restos here now but this place is unique in that it first opened way back in 1986, long before most other such places arrived on the scene.

The food is as good as ever and features a suggestions list, changing monthly. Good to know that if you like something from this list you are welcome to order it on any follow-up visit.

Faves on the menu include the following: Cahn Cay and Pho, Wan Tan Frit and Banh Mi Tom (starters); Salade de Papaye Verte et Scampis; Boeuf de Rangoon and Boeuf au Poivre, Canard laque aux crepes (the famous Peking Duck), Poulet grille au curry, Canard au curry vert, nouilles sautees au porc and vermicelles de riz (mains and extras).

Another popular option for Katia’s loyal band of customers is the speciality, La fondue du golfe du Siam which is a very reasonable €55 for two persons. Try to round things off by tasting the lovely Mooncake, a Vietnamese tradition (in case you wonder the red colouring from the beetroot used in its preparation).

If you are unfamiliar to Vietnamese cuisine, first bear in mind that in the north it is salty, spicy in the centre of the country and sweet in the south. The cuisine here is from the south which is where Katia was born.

During the lockdown, the place continued to operate with takeaway deliveries). It still does takeaways, with 10 per cent discount, within a radius of about 10km.

Ladies really are in charge here: In the kitchen, there’s the three lady chefs, plus another five women who work front of house.

In Vietnam, where all the staff hail from, it is quite typical to find women, rather than men, in the kitchen so this “all female team” continues a long-standing Vietnamese tradition.

The ladies, all very polite and welcoming, are also turned out in quite beautiful traditional South Vietnamese tunics, each specially brought to Belgium from Vietnam.

This tastefully decorated resto, is spread over two levels, each furnished and stylish, and there’s an outside garden terrace. Highly recommended.

L’Orchidee Blanche

Chausee De Boondael, Brussels

02 647 5621

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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