La Marée (Brussels, Belgium)

After a pleasant day trip to Bruges, we took the evening train back to Brussels, where Sophie took us to one of her favorite seafood joints, La Marée. Is located a few blocks to the west of Place Ste Catherine, which used to be the big open air fish market of Brussels. It isn’t anymore, but that area (especially the restaurants lining the West side of Place Ste Catherine) is still the epicenter of seafood dining in Brussels, and La Marée, while not being one of the big places right on the Place, is still a good go-to place for good seafood.

Run by a Portuguese couple (Mario and Teresa), La Marée follows the same basic brasserie style as, well, most of Brussels, but one step inside the door, and you can pick up the distinct nautical decor, with ropes, ship’s wheels, a few fake portholes, and even some tacky fisherman statues. But don’t let the mild tackiness throw you, La Marée is all serious when it comes to the menu, which is pretty much seafood only, ranging from fileted fish dishes to the classic Belgian seafood dish, les moules (mussels).

We started off simple, with an order of herring. While I avoided these (stupid fish sensitivities), these were, according to Carol, nicely done. The herring was still fresh enough to have a nice texture, and the pickling and onion light enough to not overwhelm the herring. But the main course was where the real action was, with several different varieties of mussels on the menu, ranging from a simple moules marinières, a slightly fancier moules a vin blanc, the classic moules a la Provençale, or the fancy moules a la Maison (served up in a cream sauce).

After looking at the options, I went for les moules à la Provençale, served up in a really rich tomato broth heavy with garlic, herbs, and vegetables (onions, zucchini, and eggplant, mostly). And these were perfectly done mussels: each was nicely cleaned, no non-openers, and each was tender and flavorful with a nice amount of the rich broth. Being Brussels, this was also served up with frites, but they served primarily as a condiment for sopping up more of the broth. While I’ve had quite a few good mussels in recent history (AMP 150 and Sandrine’s as two good examples), these were excellent mussels, and I was glad to see that Brussels’ reputation is well earned.

Overall, if you are looking for a simple seafood restaurant with good food and great service, La Marée delivers.

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