My first visit to an Ethiopian restaurant was in Barcelona to ‘Abyssinia’. Yes, indeed, not in Ethiopia but in Barcelona. I went there with my dad, who was fascinated with the ambiance, sitting almost on the floor and eating with your hands and spent some time talking to the owner about the fact that Abyssinia was a kingdom within Ethiopia and about the culture and history of the country in general.
This was five and a half years ago. In-between I had Ethiopian food in Paris and New York, so now it was time for me to try the famous ‘Toukoul’ in Brussels. Located very close to St Catherine, this place is not necessarily a spot I would just bump into, but several other people seem to, as the place was packed when we got there on a random weekday at 20h.
Here, you don’t sit on the floor. The place is quite modern, but with some traditional elements, a lot of wooden decoration, a nicely equipped bar and a terrace where you can enjoy sunny days in Brussels. The waiters are very nice and the cooks are fun, happy to advise you on your choice of food or wine. The food was delicious, traditional, full of flavours and very filling, as Ethiopian food is. We had a cocktail to start which was great, a mix from rum and pineapple juice. We also had a bottle of Pinotage, which was decent, but not the greatest South African red wine I tried.
So what is Ethiopian food about? In general it’s easy, you get a big platter lined with the typical Ethiopian ‘pancake’, it’s a flatbread from sourdough looking a bit like a sponge due to the many little holes in it. It stuffs you quite fast and some people find it a bit too acidic, but I am a huge fan of the unique taste. You then get an extra basket with more of the flatbread, which you take a piece of and use as a little pocket to take the stews and vegetables with to then put it directly, with the bread of course, in your mouth. The sourness of the bread along with the savoury, spicy and interestingly flavoured ingredients and spices make this a quite unique taste experience.
At Toukoul it works the same, with the small difference that you can either take platters where everything is pre-selected, or you can just choose some dishes yourself, stews or fried, and create a platter of yours. They all come with a side of 2 veggies. All the stews and sides were delicious, just as I knew it from before. It’s not a cuisine I could eat every day, but for sure every other week.
It’s a buzzing place, perfect for a date in case you’re not too afraid to share food and the traditional start to the meal might bring you even closer: You don’t just start eating. Each person takes a piece into their hands and feeds the other. It’s not an obligation of course!
Good to know
Price: Around 25-30E per person for dinner