It is not often that I am defeated by a meal in a restaurant. Sometimes I worry that followers of this blog will picture me gradually chomping and gulping my way through Brussels, literally consumed by the culinary offerings here - rather like an insect in Roald Dahl's giant peach or, worse, one of his gobbling, grasping villains.
I do like food, and eating, very much. I like hearty meals, as I used to enjoy at home - involving generous amounts of mashed potato, or indeed potato in any form. For that reason I immediately appreciated Belgian cooking, for here was another country that seemed to worship humble purée, stews and root vegetables -where else could the chicon have attained such status? Yet while swede is one vegetable prized by British people, in Belgium it is impossible to find anywhere. I suspect it is fed to livestock. I am also unsure what happens to British chicons, if they exist.
Japanese cooking, on the other hand, does not use potatoes, chicons or overdose on carbohydrates. At least that's what I believed. But at Anata I realise that I know even less than I thought I did about Japanese cooking. I order a beef, noodle and vegetable soup together with 5 gyoza (ravioli). After all, soup is a lighter option, right?
Some time passes and, despite the lovely throat-warming flavours of the soup, I am struggling. It really is good, with beef pieces and vegetables and even some boiled egg surprising me as I slurp and savour. I plead with my friend to help me, but even then I am forced to give up, two-thirds of the way through, my mum's disapproving words ricocheting inside the brain.
Yes, it was a shame not to finish: my eyes were clearly bigger than my head! Next time, I will remember that soup is not necessarily a lighter option, particularly where noodles are involved.
Anata has friendly (Japanese) staff, very reasonable prices and a good central location. If you're a novice you'll enjoy the unstuffy surroundings and the chance to practise chopstick technique without feeling eyes boring into you. Do not be fooled by the menu panels inside: service is quick, but fast food this is not. And, if you reserve, you get a ringside seat of the chefs at work.
Boulevard Anspach 74
Tel: 02 502 85 87
Open 7 days a week