If you are a Brussels's native or have lived in the capital for a few monthes, you might know that Ixelles is the den for Asian restaurants! Wander around the ULB or Place de la petite Suisse and you'll see what I mean. The restaurants concentration is nuts: Chinese, Thai, Lao, Vietnamese, Japanese, you name it Ixelles has it!
I've already tried a bunch of these addresses, I loved some and hated others but the one I will share today is going into my favorites! The story starts in the office (it's becoming a habit now!) when one of my colleagues said she was going to have lunch in Ixelles. As you can image, I was curious and questioned her when she was back. She spoke of super good food, cute place and cheap prices...By then, Pho Diem Xuan went on my "To Try" list.
It took me 2 weeks to actually visit Pho Diem Xuan and I am glad I did. That evening, I was house hunting with Mr. Boyfriend in Braine and I had guests coming over around 8:30 PM and I didn't feel like cooking... In that kind of situation, there is only one solution: eating out! I drove to Ixelles and found a parking spot very easily (surprising!) and walked to Pho Diem Xuan. The restaurant is located on a street corner and still looks brand new, it actually opened in January. My first thought was: damn this is cute!
We got in and went to the counter to see if we could sit at one of the tables outside to enjoy some sunlight. That's when we learned that Pho Diem Xuan was a bit special: it's a "snack system" which means that you order at the counter, pay and then you get your food to eat-in/take out. I could already see a bunch of small bites that looked appetizing as well as Vietnamese colorful desserts that I usually only find at Kam Yuen. Since no table was booked, we took the menus, some drinks from the fridge and sat outside, ready to launch the decision process on what we would eat.
We started to read the menu and were pleased to see that the prices were reasonable, the choice was not too extensive and the dishes were very Vietnamese. We had a hard time deciding, honestly we wanted to try a lot of things but ultimately, we ordered 3 starters and 2 main dishes. I made my way back to the counter, ordered our food and paid 42€ (plus our drinks > a beer and a green tea/lemon/honey bottle).
This second look inside comforted me in my first opinion, the restaurant is extra cute and I really like how everything is simple: need cutlery or sauces? take them from the shelves, seasoning and coffee supplies are available too...I mean there is no "chi-chi" like we'd say in French! After ordering and taking what we needed from the shelves, I went back to my table to chat with Mr. Boyfriend...In the end, I don't think we'll buy the house we visited, volumes were kind of small and the order of the rooms is weird... There was a bathroom (full shower room) in the entrance space...So strange!
Anyway, after some more chatting our starters arrived looking awesome! I ordered some chicken and pork spring rolls, a plate of Vietnamese sausage and chicken wings stuffed with pork. I know it seems like a lot of food but I had to try these, they're my typical pass or fail dishes. The first bite told me it was a really good start and I couldn't wait to try the other starters. The spring rolls were crunchy and tasty, the filling was not dense but it didn't bother more, the quantity was enough I think (when a spring roll is too dense => it has too much filling so you easily loose appetite, plus it usually explodes and doesn't look good). The sausage had a wonderful lemongrass flavor and the texture was super smooth, just the way I like it. As for the wings, they were perfect too and the stuffed pork wasn't too dense either.
I was so happy with my dinner so far and I couldn't wait to get my main course. Additionally, the staff is quite nice, I believe Pho Diem Xuan is a family run business from the looks of it. The main courses that we ordered were a Pho (for Mr.) and a lemongrass shrimps on a vermicelli bed (for me). Again I liked what arrived at our table, nicely dressed bowls smelling delicious. The Pho was served with an additional plate filled with aromatics to personalize the soup, the bowl itself looked generous (meat balls, beef, vermicelli, soy sprout and so much more!). My bowl was interesting too, I could already smell the lemongrass and couldn't wait to dig in. Since this is a vermicelli dish (a derived version of the bo bun), expect a huge amount of it and don't forget to mix everything together: topping, veggies, the sauce at the bottom and vermicelli, you'll get a ton a flavor this way!
I obviously couldn't finish all the vermicelli considering I ate a lot of the starters but I really enjoyed the food experience at Pho Diem Xuan. This restaurant stands out from the competition in the neighborhood thanks to its simple menu, modern vibe, lovely staff and the price/quality ratio.
I definitely like the fact that the staff isn't trying to make you order more, they leave you be and if you need something, then you ask for it. I could probably write a lot more about this place but here are the essential aspects I loved:
The place is cute from every angle, you really feel at ease;
The staff is nice;
The menu isn't too long;
There is a terrace, improvised yes but it's there;
The menu is mainly Vietnamese;
The snack system is perfect;
I like to be able to just take a stuffed bread as a take-away (if I am in a hurry) or to have a portion of Vietnamese dessert. I usually only see more "European desserts" on menus and Pho Diem Xuan offers the colorful traditional kind! Thumbs up!!
The food was good and affordable. I mean look at the lunch menu on Facebook, it starts around 6.4€! (or look below ;) )
To summarize, I like the concept and I had a lovely dinner! I will definitely come back for lunch with my girls to try some more dishes on the menu and of course, have some Vietnamese dessert and coffee!