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Belgian beer, mussels and billiards

FRESH mussels, fine main course and various kinds of beer - if a typical Belgian dinner is appealing, then a bistro on a quiet street near Huahai Road M. has just the menu.

Chambar Belgium Bistro is located in an old-style three-story house on Xing'an Road, a small lane that intersects Yandang pedestrian street near Fuxing Park.

In the entry is a Chinese lattice-work screen. Behind it is a small dining room and bar, in Belgian style.

"I designed everything in the restaurant myself, from the pictures on the wall to the tablecloths," said bistro owner Fissal Oubida.

"I want it to be a family-like cozy place where people can enjoy not only the food but the warm atmosphere."

Red is the dominant color - an auspicious color in China as well as one of the three colors of the Belgian flag.

The ground floor is the bistro with a few tables.

"A bistro may be unfamiliar to Chinese but it's quite common in Belgium," said Oubida. "In China people tend to have dinner in a restaurant and have drinks separately in a bar, but in Belgium you can have drinks with your friends first and then order a meal."

The tables can be pushed together so large parties can eat together.

The second floor, reached by wooden stairs, is a small dining room. A balcony contains two tables, overlooking the small street filled with people wandering around at night, buying fruit, noodles or snacks and shopping.

The next level (floor two and a half, so to speak), with a winery and candle decor, features small tables for couples (and others) and a large selection of wine.

The top floor contains a billiard room so customers can play after dinner.

"It's a real gentlemen's billiard room," said Oubida. "Guests won't be bothered by constant noise of most billiard halls."

Chambar Belgium Bistro provides typical Belgian-French cuisine. Mussels feature prominently in various antipasto courses, including creamed mussels and mussels cooked with white wine, which are the most popular.

All the mussels are fresh, sweet and wild shellfish from Australia.

Main courses include steak, codfish and lobster.

Beer is popular with meals in Belgium and the restaurant offers 18 beers, including traditional beers and fruit-flavored beers to appeal to young women.

Each is described on the menu to help guests make their selection: Oubida and the staff will advise on the best pairing.

For example, peach-flavored beer goes best with pie, salad, egg rolls and chicken.

The per-capita consumption for a dinner at the restaurant is about 150 yuan (US$22.06). The best-selling mussel as antipasto costs about 98 yuan for average, which can be shared by at least two people. The most costly course is the veal rack costing 248 yuan.

The cost for beers ranges from 50-78 yuan.

Desert includes a variety of famous Belgian waffles, chocolate dishes and cheese, among other treats.

Only one supper is served from Monday to Saturday. But starting on September 15, it will offer a set lunch and open on Sundays.

Due to limited seating, reservations are suggested.

Address: 139 Xing'an Rd

Hours: 5:30pm to 11:30pm from Monday to Saturday

Opening September 15 for Sunday dinner and daily set lunch.

Tel: 5306-2551


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