Two and two makes four and Italy plus Israel makes one amazing lunch. No, I didn’t have a glass of wine too much, but this is what is awaiting you at Racines here in Brussels just today for lunch or dinner. Celebrating two unique cuisines that combine some incredible ingredients, chef Alaa Musa and Ugo Federico managed to turn a dream marriage into reality.
Alaa Musa runs two successful restaurants in Israel, one in Haifa and one in Akko, both making use of traditional Israeli ingredients and cooking techniques while giving them with some modern twists. Israeli cuisine is becoming something more and more popular around the world, Alaa says. I can sign this statement, as a proud owner of three Ottolenghi cookbooks and having visited a bunch of Israeli restaurant, the Palomar in London among others.
Israeli food is, similar to Italian food, more of a culture and something that is being celebrated. The food, the wine, the atmosphere, everything is a feast of laughter and happy people enjoying the pleasures of great tastes.
If a well-known Israeli cook is coming to town, what place could be better suited to host such a unique experience, organised by the Israeli embassy, than Racines?! The restaurant that sources all products themselves, makes use of seasonal and regional vegetables only and pays big attention not to violate the textures and tastes the different ingredients offer. Similar to the approach of Alaa, Racines tries to follow the ideas of the Slow Food Movement.
The food menu that you’ll experience is absolutely epic. One dish is created by Ugo, one by Alaa and the final one by both. Five courses are what you get, not more and not less and believe me that’s more than enough. We started off with a Baba Ghanoush with nuts and chives and a garlic clove that looked like a little leopard, I guess Alaa grilled it, but I have no clue. I must say it was one of the best Baba Ghanoush I ate so far.
Ugo’s contribution to the first course was a Mackerel in 3 different ways: scottato (burnt), sweet and sour and tonnato. Different textures, different tastes – a firework for the tastebuds.
Course number two was ceviche from sea bass, shanklish cheese, olives, pistachios and red pepper along with a taboule with sea bream, mint and tahini by Alaa and an artichoke a la Giudia with sumach and scarmorza, a Capri croquette with oregano yoghurt and a bomba (fried piece of heaven) filled with ricotta with tomato and curcuma.
This was followed by spider crab Tortelli (filled pasta) in a fish bisque and chives: The pasta absolutely tender and freshly made at the spot, the filling full of taste and the bisque giving the dish the final touch and this taste that makes you feel as if you sit right at the Italian coast.
An incredible fish soup that made me once more realise that it is all about the quality of the products, promptly followed the Tortelli by Ugo. The shrimp was crisp, the clams unbelievably tender and melted in my mouth like butter, the calamari on point and all joined by a delicious broth of tomatoes and preserved lemons.
The absolute highlight was the dish created by the both chefs though. Sea bass with a perfect crispy skin, so tender you could eat it with a spoon, no need for biting, just let it sit in your mouth and wait for it to slowly disappear, bedded on a risotto from Freekeh (an Israeli grain that was handpicked 2 weeks before it landed on my plate), spinach, green beans, carrots, tahina and lemon. Hello sexy, this was a dish I won’t forget so quickly.
What’s for dessert is a secret, go there and you’ll find out!! Service is great, the chefs absolute sweethearts and the experience unique and one you shouldn’t miss. I’d go a second time if I hadn’t plans already.
Good to know:
- The 5 course menu costs 62€ and is only available on 26 April for lunch and dinner