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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
A PERSONAL REVIEW OF RESTAURANTS AROUND THE WORLD

LA BELLE MARAICHERE
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

Even before leaving the United States we had read about an area of Brussels famous for fresh fish.  The area is called Marche Aux Poissons or in English, the Old Fish Market.  Many years ago the water actually came up to this area and it's where fishermen unloaded their catch.  Naturally fresh fish establishments popped up and even though the water is long gone, some of the restaurants are still there.

When we asked our hotel concierge to recommend the best fresh fish restaurant in Marche Aux Poissons he immediately rattled off the name La Belle Maraichere.  We made a reservation for that night and had a very enjoyable meal.

The restaurant was quite near our hotel but somehow we got lost on the way there and wound up arriving later than expected.  But we were seated immediately.

This restaurant was absolutely jam packed with tables.  Our server had to pull our table out from the wall so that my wife could be seated.  Literally there was less than an inch and a half space separating each table so you were right on top of your fellow diners and trying to carry on a private conversation was impossible.

Upon being seated we ordered a cocktail and the waiter immediately brought a little bowl of cold, seasoned, boiled snails for us to enjoy.  They provided little pin like pickers to dig the little guys out.  Believe it or not, they were quite tasty.  Size-wise, these snails were about one third the size of escargots you're used to dining on.  And each one had just a nubbin' of meat about the size of your baby toenail.  Next came wonderfully fresh baked French bread.  Out of this world.  And somehow butter in Europe always tastes better than the stuff we get in the U.S.

The Old Fish Market area is known for quality seafood but at sky high prices.  We checked the menu carefully and opted for a set price, five course dinner.  It looked so good we each got the same thing.

Our feast started off with a creamy seafood bisque. It was incredible and served in the French way with a large buttered crouton floating in the center of the bowl and a rich, garlicky sauce rouille on it. Our main course consisted of sole meuniere which is fish sautéed in butter.  The meal ended with a lusciously rich and sinful chocolate mousse.

The tab including cocktails came to $150 U.S. without the tip.

Like in France and Germany, the Belgians love their dogs.  And while we were dining a couple came into the restaurant with a little schnauzer dog.  The woman was seated with her pooch against the wall and from time to time the little dog nibbled bites right off her plate.  And this restaurant is an extremely classy place.

We've seen dogs in restaurants in France and Germany before and it always amazes me how well behaved they are.  Our pooch would get us thrown out in less than thirty seconds.

We really enjoyed our leisurely and expensive dinner at La Belle Maraichere.  If you love fish and would like to make this meal your "big night out" in Brussels, it would be a good choice in our opinion.

Important suggestion.  Have your hotel concierge make a reservation.  By the time we left the restaurant, there wasn't an empty table.

They now have a website here.  Slow download, however.

ADDITIONAL RESTAURANT REVIEW FROM BRUSSELS:

L'Auberge des Chapeliers

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