Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Paris -- Oyster Lovers' "Club"

Last night, my first back in Paris in four months, I went to the little oyster bar at Garnier, near the Gare Saint-Lazare. I don’t love Garnier, but there is this intimate room just past the oyster shuckers outside, before you actually enter the restaurant, that is a jewel.

There are 12 seats arrayed in circular fashion (about 300 degrees of the circle) around the barman, who takes your order out to the oyster shuckers and makes up plates of fairly undistinguished brown bread with two kinds of butter: ordinary and with algae (the latter having a wonderful redolence of the sea). Upon entering, every customer nods at the ones already there, thus forming an ad hoc club of oyster devotees. Last night I encountered a late-middle-aged French couple, a young man with two older women, one of whom was probably his aunt (really!), a young couple with a woman who certainly was the mother of one of them, a heavy-set Italian tourist with an enormous appetite.

As usual, I order the plateau ostréicole (mixed oyster plate), which consists of two oysters of each of six kinds, and crevettes roses, served with simple mayonnaise. My favorite oysters were the Utah Beach (from Normandy, obviously) and the perles blanches but all were delicious – fresh and briny. What could be a more simple, or more delicious, meal?

Bobby Jay