Old Boy - When Publicity Is Deceiving
Who hasn't heard about Old Boy? A bunch of newspapers have written about it being a little gem in the heart of Ixelles, several bloggers have been promoting it...Overall the concept looks nice but I wouldn't believe what everyone writes. The colleagues and I visited Old Boy for lunch last week with high expectations and the results wasn't that incredible...
We left the office quite early to arrive at Old Boy around noon, we wanted to make sure we'd have a table since booking was not an option (first arrived first served basis). There were 5 of us so we sat at the high table outside, the weather was still good enough. When we looked at the suggestions of the day, there were none left and it wasn't even 12:30 PM so we picked a few dishes from the short menu that we received, together with some drinks.
Our order looked like this:
1x Jasmin Beer
2x Bottles of still water
4x Classic Braised Pork Bao [Menu of the day > Starter]
3x Tom Kai Gai [Menu of the day > Main Course]
1x Sate Cauliflower
1x Spicy Cold Sesame Noodles
1x Kai Yang
1x Nam Prik Pao Eggplant
With this, we felt like we'd have a good overview of the menu and of the quality of the food...We actually started with an overview of the service which was a mess...
The drinks arrived properly but the rest was not organized at all. In short, dishes arrive whenever the kitchen is ready with them = 3 of us got the Classic Braised Pork Bao and managed to finish them while 2 waited for their starters. The 4th Bao arrived when the 3 Tom Kai Gai were served and the girls were already eating them. The rest of the dishes arrived one by one, with still 2 of us watching others eat... When we asked a waitress about this she said that "it was how Old Boy works, bites to share which arrive whenever the kitchen is ready"... However when we take 3 lunch menus (which include starters and main courses as explained by the staff) and 2 of us order with the waitress starters and main courses, you'd expect some sort of organization. Once you label something "lunch menu", you can't really pretend the dishes are bites to share and that they arrive one by one.
Food wise, I wasn't too happy with what I received in my plate, neither were the girls to be honest. I can't say the food is really Asian or good, it has the name and "influence" for sure but you can taste that it's far from traditional...Which I usually don't mind if it's well prepared:
The Thai soup was very sweet and the chicken way too fatty...One of my colleagues was grossed out and kept removing bits and pieces that couldn't be chewed.
The Bao and Cauliflower Sate were sweet as well and the eggplant was overcooked which made it's skin hard.
As for the Spicy noodles, they were again quite sweet and I couldn't really taste the sesame or shiso which is a shame, the ingredient list looked interesting!
After an hour's wait, the lemongrass chicken arrived, again very fatty but not sweet and actually tasting like lemongrass which was an improvement.
Now let's talk about portion sizes because this is an important aspect of a meal... A Bao cost 6€ and you only get one that you'll eat in 2-3 bites max. Other dishes range from 8 to 12€ which is actually expensive for "sweet bites"! If you read the blog, then you know I don't mind paying more for good food, but if it's only Asian by name, sweet and the portions are small >> I can't recommend or be satisfied.
I expected a lot better from an "Asian Bistrot" that got such great publicity but now that I am digging reviews, I can see this was not just a fluke... Seems like service is generally disorganized, people tend to find the price of the food expensive and a bunch of people are not convinced by the chef's recipes. Someone even found sand and insects in their artichoke so the attention to detail & customer experience is questionable.
Overall the concept is not bad and an Asian Bistrot has a lot of potential if properly managed. It is obvious that the marketing around Old Boy was great and it's location smartly chosen but it's only an accessory if the kitchen and service don't follow... After this visit, I feel that the concept is just façade and that there is room for improvement on many levels...