Everything on the heaping seafood platter is fresh from the brine.
If you have a craving for fresh seafood, L’Ecailler du Bistrot is a sure bet. Everything they serve comes straight from the French coast. Gwenaelle Cadoret, who runs the restaurant, comes from a family that produces top quality oysters in Britanny. Her husband, Bertrand Auboyneau, owner of the next-door Bistrot Paul Bert, a Parisian favorite, often pops in to say hello.
My favorite experience is to compose my own seafood platter, picking and choosing from the current offerings on the blackboard. If you are unsure about oyster varieties, the menu describes them for you.
Everything arrives on a bed of seaweed (forget the ice!) with mustardy homemade mayo, lemon, incredible butter – salty and seaweed-flavored – and tasty country bread. Don’t start with the bread and butter before your food arrives, or you’ll never get through your meal.
I always order a half crab as part of my selection. It allows me to express my sadistic tendencies by cracking its skull and slowly dismembering it.
The readymade plateaux de fruits de mer start at €34 for one person.
If you’re not in the mood for “raw” and fighting for your food, the menu also offers a wide selection of other dishes, all from the sea, among them unusual offerings like couteaux aux épices (spicy razor clams) or more classic ones like sole de petit bateau, pommes rattes à l’estragon (sole with ratte potatoes and tarragon). The simple preparations bring out the best in the fish and seafood.
For dessert you can succumb to a perfectly made Breton Paris-Brest, a generous macaron à la châtaigne (chestnut macaroon) or a Fontainebleau.
A surefire way to happiness is to order the “lobster” menu, not cheap (€55) but definitely good value. It comes with 12 scrumptious little no. 5 Belon oysters and a large half-lobster in a delicate curry sauce with thick-cut French fries, plus a rosace of cooked apple slices with caramel au beurre salé and vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Wines come from all regions of France and range in price from €18 to €94. For good value, try the crisp Beaujolais Blanc at 28€. If you’re celebrating with friends order a magnum of Viré Clissé 2002 from Thévenet at €94 for a taste of heaven.
The decor is warm and cosy, with several small wood-paneled rooms and a few nautical artifacts. The service is friendly and professional.
At lunchtime, the €16.50 menu offers a choice of starter du jour or oysters, the plat du jour, and coffee or dessert.
Do make a reservation as the places fills up fast, especially on weekends.
L’Ecailler du Bistrot: 22, rue Paul Bert, 75011 Paris. Métro: Charonne or Faidherbe-Chaligny. Vélib stations : Faidherbe Chaligny, Bibliothèque Faidherbe. Tel: 01 43 72 76 77. Open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner.
Reader Harriet Welty Rochefort writes: “Thanks for your review of L’Ecailler du Bistro, which is one of my favorite restaurants. The owners let the fresh seafood speak for itself, the welcome is warm and professional, and there’s nothing complicated or phony about the place. It’s a bit expensive, yes, but when I think of all the bad meals I’ve had in certain ‘in’ restaurants with complicated and mediocre show-off food catering to clients who care more about the decoration of the place and who’s eating there, I’ll take a good, honest, welcoming place like L’Ecailler any day.”
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