A Taste of Seaside In a Paris Bistro

PARIS - In a constant effort to reinvent itself, the Paris food scene brings us yet another welcoming fish restaurant, this time with the name of Le Bistrot Cote Mer, the site of one of Michel Rostang's satellite bistros.

Rostang has put his daughter, Caroline, in charge, and if a very successful recent visit is proof, she is off to a flying start as a restaurateur. The small, narrow bistro - painted in brilliant seaside tones of yellow and blue - has everything going for it: a lovely fish menu that offers food that is unusual but far from wacky, and a young, cheerful and well-informed staff. The decor has just enough history for nostalgia buffs, with warm and colorful tile floors, newly upholstered 1930s bistro chairs and marble-top tables that shine with the patina of age.

I can't tell you the number of times I examine a menu and have a hard time finding something I really want to eat at that moment. Not the case with Cote Mer's selections. You want it all. From the fresh, briny plump Belon oysters, served with a thick slice of toasted sourdough bread and a pat of salted butter set on a bed of seaweed, to the marvelous pasta salad and a well-conceived tartare.

The famed ravioles de Royans - tiny herb and cheese-filled pasta from the Rhone-Alps region- have become a favorite Paris bistro ingredient. They are crowd-pleasers and lend themselves to endless variations. Here the tender pasta is turned into a salad, tossed warm with a tangle of well- dressed greens and generous chunks of warm, tender lobster, well priced at 75 francs ($11) a portion. It was so good, we thought of reordering the salad for dessert.

Equally appealing is the hache of sea bream and salmon, sparkling fresh cubes of raw fish tossed with a vinaigrette and herbs and teamed up with paper-thin toasted crackers.

But the best was the daily special of whole grilled sea bass, presented to diners both before and after cooking, then carefully filleted tableside. The huge sea bass easily serves two hearty eaters, with its superbly moist, chewy fresh sea flavor. A side order of sizzling hot molded tian - a Mediterranean mix of eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini - makes you want to head straight for the sun and the sea.

Scallop lovers should go for the coquilles Saint-Jacques roasted in their shells with a melange of cubed vegetables and served with an intriguing preparation of rice. Half the rice was fried to a fragrant, golden crispness, then tossed with steamed rice, making for a crackling combination and providing the palate with a welcome crunch.

The pure sauvignon blanc Quincy from Jacques Siret was a fine accompaniment, and well priced at 140 francs.

The only disappointment of the evening was the bland, almost watery pots de chocolat, redeemed by a thin rectangle of tarte feuilletee.

Le Bistro Cote Mer
16 Boulevard Saint-Germain
Paris 75005.
Tel: 01-43-54-59-10.
Fax: 01-43-29-02-08.

Open daily. Most major credit cards accepted. About 250 francs a person, including service but not wine.