A typical Asian thinks of “fishmonger” as a wet, stinky, scary, next-best alternative to hell. Some modern Brits reckon it’s where Gordon Ramsay goes at 6 a.m. to snuff out the competition. Americans hope for a Seattle Pike Place Market type of thing, fish-flinging and all that fanfare.
Well, at the local Bankastraat fishmonger (Zee Op Tafel or “ZoT”/“Sea on the Table”), it’s nothing like any of the above descriptions. This place doubles as a fishmonger and a casual-chic restaurant. You get to select your fish, have it cooked on the spot, and served to you with numerous glasses of wine. Almost like in Chinese restaurants with all the fish swimming back and forth in skinny aquariums, fervently seeking a way out. I used to knock on the glass walls to scare them as a kid, but have now repented.
At ZoT, the seafood wares are beautifully displayed on beds of ice. No stink whatsoever. The sashimi appetizer was fresh, the tuna was happily seared to perfection, not blasted into oblivion. (After a couple of unhappy incidents of cooked-to-the-max tuna steaks in other countries, I now go through a lengthy explanation of the searing concept to all who are willing to hear me out, starting with the wait staff.) Just doing my due diligence.
Given the freshness of ZoT’s products, I’d like to know what happens to the fish when the day is done. I suspect the staff and their families end up eating paella every night.