As Europe’s largest oyster-producing country, France has a long history with the tasty bivalves. Busy brasseries boast display cases with servers who expertly shuck them for seafood platters and passing shoppers.
The year-end provides the perfect excuse to indulge in the festive combination of oysters and champagne. And, while they’ve always been part of the country’s culinary fabric, some of the city’s new chefs have been bringing them back to the forefront of the food scene by infusing a bit more energy and creativity into their service.
With seafood and shellfish playing a starring role in so many of the city’s new and popular restaurants, the team behind Septime finally unveil their own take on the trend with their third venture, Clamato.
Septime achieved immediate success upon opening three years ago, and since earned a spot on the World’s 50 Best restaurants list, so it’s become increasingly harder to reserve a table there. Fortunately, Clamato – like Septime’s small wine bar annex Septime Cave – doesn’t take reservations, so if you’re willing to go outside of prime times it’s possible to taste chef Bertrand Grébaut’s award-winning offerings without a long wait.
Given that the food speaks for itself at this team’s establishments, they don’t need to over-design their spaces. This oyster bar is a tasteful take on a seafood shack with dim lighting, blond wood, and simple tin dishware. Glasses filled with silverware line the bar and are grouped on green tabletops. A rockin’ soundtrack plays (not too loudly) in the background. Clamato’s laid back atmosphere makes it easy to slide up to the bar solo or fill one of the seven tables with a group of friends.
Of course, I couldn’t resist slipping in as soon as I could to sample a plate of 6 fresh and fatty Maldon oysters (at 18 Euros), which are served with two mignonettes (one classic, one spicier) and fresh brown bread and butter. Also on the menu at the moment is a plate of six meatier Utah Beach oysters at 17 Euros.
While the spotlight falls on the oysters, there are plenty of other choices. I also tried the octopus, zucchini and shitake salad, which showcases the chef’s ability to balance a dish in a way that brings out the best in each individual ingredient. The selection of twenty or so plates, ranging from 4 to 18 Euros, features mainly seafood selections like mackerel rillettes, sea urchin, or scallops in herb butter. The current desserts are an apple/pear crumble with woodruff ice cream or a maple syrup tart with Chantilly cream.
Wine options by the bottle and glass are well thought out and feature some favorites that have made an appearance at their wine bar as well – like the Berlioz Jaja I ordered with my oysters. Naturally, they have a couple of beers on tap and a nice selection of ciders. For something a little stronger, they offer a Monkey 47 G&T with cucumber and rosemary or a simple mezcal.
And, considering that the restaurant’s name is also a well-known brand of tomato juice flavored with clam broth, it’s no surprise that they are considering adding Bloody Marys and the like to their drinks menu soon.
Thanks to their reputation for remaining at the forefront of French cuisine, the buzz abounds around this team. But that’s not what keeps them on the top of international dining lists. This group consistently nails the hat trick of product, service & space necessary to keep diners happy. And while Paris may already have plenty of places for freshly shucked shellfish, there’s always room for one more of Clamato’s stature.
80 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris
Tel: +33 (0)1 43 72 74 53
Written by Forest Collins for the HiP Paris Blog. All photos by Didier Gauducheau. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.