When Lanh Pham Thi recently threw a party to mark the 30th anniversary of her restaurant she could have been forgiven for experiencing a touch of déjà vu. The reason is that many of the attendees included people who’d dined at “Gallery” when it first opened way back in 1988.
Most have not only remained loyal ever since but have also introduced their children to the delights of this lovely Vietnamese restaurant. It means a whole new generation of diners are now among the regulars here. Given the quality of the food and also the remarkably reasonably prices that should not come as much of a surprise.
Aside from the business success story she oversees, the story of how the lady owner arrive here is fascinating in itself. Born in Laos, she ended up in Belgium (via Vietnam and Thailand) thanks to a Catholic humanitarian organisation. Indeed, she was among the first ever Vietnamese Catholics to arrive in Belgium.
Her first point of call was Antwerp where she stayed until romance and marriage brought her to Brussels in the late 1980s.Looking for a new direction, she and Maurice, a political scientist and her then new husband, took the plunge and decided to try their luck in the horeca trade. Their target for a restaurant – what at the time was a furniture showroom – seemed an inauspicious choice.
But the sheer longevity of the business and army of loyal customers has proved the move absolutely right. Three decades down the line, the restaurant remains more popular than ever. That is partly thanks to its wonderful position, just around the corner from the imposing Palais de Justice, but mostly due to the fact that it can be relied on for great food, great service and great prices.
It has a lunch menu, fixed a la carte and also a short suggestions list that changes every couple of months or so. Typically, this might include a trio of scampi mayo wasabi sauce, Thai basil mussels, sweet and sour pork sauce or grilled duck breast with honey and ginger.While it serves unashamedly traditional Vietnamese food this comes with a decidedly modern twist.
There’s a classic choice of starters, including assortment of nem, dim sum and rouleaux de 4 saisons – all delicious. For mains, you have a selection of chicken,beef and seafood. The chicken dishes include poulet au noix de cajou with fresh pineapple while there are some equally very tasty brochettes de boeuf aux feuilles de “lop.”
From the veggie section, a personal favourite is the tofu while the seafood selection boasts a super scampis grilles a la citronnelle fraiche. The crustaceans and fish range are beautifully prepared and also include grilled monkfish medallions with lime leaves and Thai-style steamed cod traps. With winter almost upon us, you may well be tempted by the fine range of scented soups which, like everything else on the card, are very reasonably priced indeed.
Renowned for its home-made dim sum, you should also try the Vietnamese-style carpaccio, spring rolls and assortment of four-season rolls (a platter to share with two).
For some, an Asian meal isn’t complete without some noodles and here, the nouilles sautees au poulet is particularly recommended. To round off a great meal (and if you still have room for more!), you really should indulge a little by trying one of the delightful deserts. These include the restaurant’s own version of a great Belgian favourite (dame blanche).
To best accompany these fine Asian dishes, a selection of red, rosé and white wines can be found on the Gallery’s menu. These include wines from France, the Loire and Alsace via Bordeaux and Provence. The impressive list also features wine from Chile and Argentina while, for lovers of bubbles, the champagne of Edmond Roussin and Laurent-Perrier, is also available.
Dining here takes place in a refined atmosphere far from the cheesy kitsch of some Asian eateries. You are seated in ultra-comfortable cream-coloured armchairs surrounded by subtle lighting and all in a casual atmosphere. The very welcoming owner has added beautiful paintings and furniture, some directly from Vietnam, and some personal touches, which complete the harmonious décor.
With the addition of nice service, the scene is set to sample some great Vietnamese cuisine. The restaurant, located very close to a Metro line, has 65 tables and is also suitable for group meetings, birthdays and private dinners.
For decades generations of the same families have come here to eat, along with businessmen, diplomats, professionals and of course, lovers of Asian cuisine. All have remained faithful to this restaurant, attracted by its refinement and the sheer quality of its authentic cuisine. Like many Vietnamese who came to Belgium in the 1970 and 1980s, the owner has worked very hard to make a success of her life in her adopted homeland.
The results are plain to see at her great restaurant where the true values of Vietnamese cuisine really do tickle the taste buds.
Good to know:
- Address: Rue du Grand Cerf 7, Brussels
- Contact: 02 511 80 35