I don’t know any better fish restaurant in Paris than Gwen Cadoret’s l’Ecailler du Bistrot. Fish restaurants everywhere are a mystery: They all fall into a banal trap of greatest hits, and all too often fail to deliver on flavor as well as freshness. L’Ecailler –- run by this Brittany native with family ties to some of the best oysters around – gets out of that rut, offering fish and shellfish dishes that are original, creative, imaginative, and full of flavor and energy. Try their couteaux (razor clams, which all too often are as gastronomically appealing as giant rubberbands) which arrive artfully arranged in their shells, lightly flashed with a torch, and beautifully seasoned with an herbal mayonnaise and a stack of verdant baby fennel.
Likewise, the pétoncles (baby scallops) are roasted in their shells (a bit too long admittedly) and flavored with a salty, smokey shrimp butter. Few restaurants can compete with L’Ecailler’s picture- perfect, moist and tender sole meunière, one of the world’s greatest dishes when prepared with expertise and the freshest of sole. How can you not love France when it delivers us this prize?
A daily special – a giant bowl of warming risotto laced with moist and tender coques (baby clams), cooked in a flavorful shellfish broth, and topped with fragrant shavings of Italian white truffles – was a dream dish I would love to make again and again. I would have preferred that the rice be a bit more al dente, but then this is France, not Italy. Don’t miss their ever-changing litany of shellfish platters, including all manner of fresh, briny oysters and clams, not to mention their steamed lobster (often devoured with a giant bowl of crispy French fries.) The wine list is extensive, and includes Vincent Gaudry’s understated yet totally pleasing Sancerre, the biodynamic offering Le Tournebride.
Their citron vert tart (made with organic limes) is a fine close to a truly rewarding meal. If you have not been, go. If you have been, go again. The diner seated next to us at lunch announced his meal “époustouflant!” meaning breathtaking, mind-blowing. I’ll ditto that! (Meat lovers here may also indulge in beautifully seared meat from the bistro next door, Bistrot Paul Bert, run by Cadoret’s outgoing bistrotier husband Bertrand Auboyneau.)
L’ÉCAILLER DU BISTROT | 22 rue Paul Bert | Paris 11 | Tel: +33 1 43 72 76 77 | Metro: Faidherbe-Chaligny or Rue des Boulets | Open Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday, Monday and August | 19.90€ weekday lunch menu, à la carte 50-65€