Marie Back and her brother Jerome have found the recipe to success in the often unforgiving restaurant trade – adaptability.
In their case, it’s all about spice – specifically, how much you use.
They found, when relocating their restaurant Bois Savanes to Saint Job that their new customers were not quite as keen on as much spice in their food as those at Rhode-Saint-Genese, where the eatery had been based for many years.
The solution – using less spice in the dishes – has clearly gone down a treat because business is booming for Marie and Jerome.
Being a Thai restaurant meant that there was a fine dividing line to be trod. The whole raison d’etre of Thai cuisine is that it is, well, spicy. So Marie and Jerome had to ensure this fundamental characteristic was not lost.
But, as Chatchai, a long time member of the Bois Savanes team, explains it is all about fine margins.
“We noticed customers here didn’t like quite as much spices in the food as those at our old Rhode-Saint-Genese restaurant. We had to respond because it’s all about adapting to the needs of your clients,” he says.
It’s a policy that others, clearly, might do well to follow.
Another “secret” of the Savanes success is pricing, in other words, not over charging.
One customer commented that the price for some dishes here were about four times less than those at a similar-style restaurant nearby (and with bigger portions served at Bois Savanes!).
It’s one reason why the place still does a very brisk trade on a Sunday evening in the run up to Christmas, normally a quieter period for many restaurants.
One other obvious reason is, of course, the food which is wonderful.
Now overseen by a new male head chef, the kitchen produces authentic and terribly tasty Thai food.
There is a suggestions card, the current one will run until the end of this month, plus a la carte. Both feature a great choice of dishes including starters such as crispy shrimps with a massaman curry and grilled chicken brochettes.
A lovely selection of mains include duck fillet with Thai basilica, green curry chicken, diced lamb with southern curry, sliced pork, beer with onions and Thai vegetables.
One current customer favourite is the pan fried rice with king crab meat.
Another to look out for is called “Thaigliatta” which consists of sliced beef (with a spicy sauce) and whose name is a play on the perhaps more famous Italian tagliatelle.
Some delicious new deserts are now available, including crispy spring roll filled with chocolate.
The much-travelled Marie and Jerome are keen on finding “new” and different wines for their clients and they have managed to source a very good red from Uruguay which is highly recommended.
Kids are also well catered for with a very good value for money €10 pp menu (choice of four dishes) and the lunch menu is a real snip at just €13.50.There is also a fixed menu, at just €30 pp (min. two people).
An illustration of how this place has adapted to meet the needs of its customers is the traditional Thai soup, Tom Yam Khung.
A shrimp soup with citronella, some customers said they found it a bit too spicy. But, rather than just removing it from the menu, the owners simply made it a bit less hot. In any case, the hot dishes, such as this one, are all indicated on the card with a couple of stars, so everyone knows exactly what to expect.
The restaurant is located in a lovely Brussels suburb which is very easily accessible by train (there are no less than 2 stations within walking distance) from Brussels.
It can seat about 55 inside with a nice terrace seating another 45 people. The owners also work with delivery services and do a thriving takeaway service.
One of the best things about this place (apart from its affordability and very lovely food) is the very friendly welcome offered by people like ChatChai (better known as Chai), who comes from the north of Thailand but has – amazingly in this trade – worked at Bois Savanes for three decades.
You will enjoy genuine Thai cuisine, at very reasonable prices and benefit from top notch service from Chai and his colleagues.
Having opened at Rhode back in the early 1980s – it was one of the first Thai restaurants in Brussels – this is an old favourite that has merely moved a few kilometres.
But, having opened at Saint Job a year ago, it is still either relatively new or a yet-to-be-discovered dining experience.
Whichever group you belong too (and irrespective of your capacity for spicy food!) you won’t be disappointed.