If you love seafood, right now is the ideal season to visit Paris and feast on the bounty of oysters, crabs and other kinds of shellfish available. Almost every brasserie touts an oyster stand this time of the year, and even the poissoneries seem to stock much more shellfish to cater to the December diet of oysters, foie gras and champagne.
We ate our first oysters of the season in the company of friends, the sketchyeconomist and his friends, the artist and the ad-man on the former’s last night in Paris. We met our fellow food lovers at L’Ecailler du Bistrot, a cozy seafood restaurant with a nautical decoration theme and an open New England clam-shack like feel. While the restaurant listed a number of cooked entrees and plats on the chalkboard menus, Mr ad-man assured us that the seafood platter, at 38E per person was the way to go. Before the main event, we whetted our appetites with good sourdough bread and 2 types of butter (one plain, one studded with algae) and a platter of supposedly rare shrimp, flash-fried and peppered so that even the skins and heads could be munched on.
A while later came part one of our two part shellfish series, a formidable plate of crevettes grises (little, salted grey shrimp), bulots (whelk) and bigorneaux (mini sea-snails), as delicious to eat plain or with a generous swab of mayonnaise as it was trying to pry the meat out of the shells.
We were barely done with our first batch of seafood when our server changed our plates and unloaded another heaping tray of oysters, clams, shrimp, 2 types of crab, and other assorted unknown shellfish species on our table. By then, we had stopped all idle chatter and were deeply focused on the task at hand, cracking, peeling, prying, slurping, demolishing the sinful, cholesterol laden platter in front of us. The crustaceans were really pretty to look at (we thought the rosette design for the crevettes roses were hilarious), and had firm and delicious meat to boot. The raw clams were a revelation, super-sweet with a saline bass-note, with a tough texture that eventually softens to a gooey state after giving one’s molars a good exercise. The oysters were relatively flat and quite large, salty and with an assertive mineral tang. The ad-man reassured us that the green rim is not scum but evidence that the greener oysters had in fact absorbed more nutrients than others. There was so much food that as gluttonous as we were, we had to concede defeat and leave a few oysters uneaten.
But of course, we aren’t people to skip dessert, so when the server came by our table again, we gamely ordered 2 portions of Paris-Brest to share. The oversized choux pastry was phenomenal, piped with heavy praline cream guaranteed to stick to the walls of your stomach, dusted with powder sugar and finished with a scatter of crushed roasted peanuts. Despite our heaving stomachs, we polished it off.
I highly recommend L’Ecailler du Bistrot for a group of seafood loving friends. There’s nothing more convivial than fresh seafood, good wine and lots of hand-to-mouth action, and the fact that the atmosphere is fun and the space larger than your usual 25 seater is Paris does not hurt!
L’Ecailler du Bistrot
22 Rue Paul Bert, 75011, Paris