The year 1986 was marked by both breakthroughs and setbacks. Advances in technology helped the Soviet Union launch the Mir space station, and the UK and France built the canal. Unfortunately, he also saw the space shuttle Challenger disaster and the explosion of one of the Chernobyl nuclear reactors.
In Belgium, the country’s footballers were greeted as heroes after finishing 4th in the World Cup in Mexico.
The year was also marked by another event: the opening of L’Orchidée Blanche in Brussels, now one of the best recognized Vietnamese restaurants in the country.
In 1986, when Katia Nguyen (on the picture) opened the restaurant in what was then a quiet Brussels district, she could not have realized what a huge success it would be.
This year, the restaurant is celebrating its 35th anniversary, a real milestone, and it has come a long way in the meantime, to the point that it is now synonymous with fine Asian cuisine, not only in this now lively district of Brussels but further.
Indeed, the rumor had spread so much about the quality of the excellent Vietnamese cuisine offered here that it was awarded, a few years ago, the prestigious title of “Best Asian restaurant in Belgium” by the famous Gault et Millau gastronomic guide.
Katia is the first to accept that her success also owes a lot to her team, which happens to be all-female (this in part reflects the traditional role women occupy in Vietnamese cuisine).
The oldest of these is Trinh, who has been cooking wonderful Vietnamese meals in the small open kitchen for some 20 years now, while other “veteran” staff include Huong, who has been here for 15 years. and Linh. , a newcomer who worked here for four years!
They and their colleagues are beautifully dressed in authentic Vietnamese costumes, another thing the restaurant is famous for. Keeping staff so long also reflects Katia’s excellent management style.
All of this is a far cry from the time, in the 1970s, when Katia first came to this country for her studies. Like so many of her compatriots, she had fled the Vietnam War in search of a better life in the West and set out to start a new life in her “new” home – Belgium.
For connoisseurs of good Vietnamese cuisine, this was rather good news.
The standard set when Katia, still relatively new to Belgium from Saigon, opened the restaurant in 1986 is just as high today as it was then.
Despite the terrible health pandemic that has wreaked havoc in the hospitality industry here, Katia’s “army” of loyal customers are now returning to sample the wonderful delicacies concocted by her very talented team of Vietnamese descent.
The restaurant is located near the ULB university and here everything is prepared on site. The dishes are based on traditional or more contemporary recipes, but similar to the best you might find in Vietnam itself. Many diners here consider the spring rolls to be the best in Belgium but if they are succulent, the gastronomic riches of this house take you on a culinary journey, stretching from the north to the south of Vietnam and all the stops in between. .
The restaurant never really closed during the closings as it continued to serve a quick take out service. Now completely reopened, take-out accounts for around 30% of the business. Customers can pick up their order or have it delivered to their home / office.
With the arrival of summer, it is good to know that there is now a terrace for up to 20 people on the street outside while at the back it is an outdoor space. pleasant with around thirty seats and open until October.
Inside, the restaurant can accommodate 38 people on the ground floor and 32 upstairs. There’s also a great-value two-course lunch menu, just € 13, which is particularly popular.
The a la carte choice is huge and offers a range of meat, fish and poultry dishes – all of them fabulous and very tasty. There is also an excellent drink and wine list and also look for a nice menu of suggestions which changes weekly.
The charming and very welcoming Katia has come a very long way since she set foot in Belgium. That a restaurant is still thriving 35 years after it opened is a huge achievement, especially in this “post-pandemic” era, but that this same place has been under the same ownership all this time is quite remarkable … which, in fact, both the food and the service are also described very precisely here.
Happy 35th anniversary L’Orchidée Blanche!