Tag Archives: oysters

raw oysters in Paris

Oysters in Paris

In a half shell, here’s everything you need to know about buying, ordering, and eating oysters in Paris.

Oyster Season:

Oysters are in season (i.e. available and excellent) during any month that has an R in it (September-April), but you’re not likely to see the best on menus until October. Oysters naturally spawn in April and will spend the summer fattening up their plump little selves, plus you’re less likely to have bacterial issues with oysters in the chilly winter months. They feature  prominently in celebrations for Christmas and New Year’s – roughly half of all oysters eaten in France will be slurped up between these two holidays.

Key Vocab:

  • huître-  an oyster. pronounced wee-tra (without the h).
  • coquille d’huître-  oyster shell
  • écailleur-  a pro oyster shucker
  • ostréicole-  oyster farming
  • ostréiculteur-  oyster farmer
  • demi-douzaine-  a half dozen
  • douzaine-  a dozen
  • plats- European oysters with flat shells. They are rare (only 2% of oysters) due to overfishing and blights so be prepared to shell out the big bucks for these guys.
  • creuses- Pacific oysters with cupped shells (the most common). Sometimes still referred to as Japonaise.
  • mignonette- a traditional sauce to accompany oysters made of chopped shallots and red wine vinegar
  • claires- essentially these are oyster vineyards. They’re salt water basins that oysters spend time in that lend a particular terroir to each bivalve. They are used to cleanse and purify the oyster, and protect the delicate mollusks from extreme temperature changes. Time spent in the claires will change their flavor and texture and can even extend the shelf-life.

Size Matters 

Oysters are ranked according to size. When purchasing, you’ll see a number on the sign ranging from 00-5 for cupped oysters and 00-6 for flat ones. The smaller the number, the larger the oyster, so 00’s are the heavyweights while 6’s will be tiny.

  • fines- small-medium sized oysters (it’s been calibrated).
  • spéciales- slightly larger and fleshier oysters than the fines (also, calibrated).
  • fines de Claires- fines oysters that have spent two months in the Marennes-Oléron claires filtering the the estuary water in and out of their fatty bodies.  They are a higher density oyster that grow 20 per square meter.
  • Spéciales de Claires- oysters that ripen for two months in the Marennes-Oléron claires but with more space so that they plump up more than fines de Claires.
  • Pousse en Claires- considered a low density oyster (only 5 can be grown per sq meter), these oyster heavyweights that are grown in the above mentioned claires for four months. They’ll be very sweet and fleshy.
  • Papillons- very small oysters (usually 30 grams).
Pousses en Claires Oysters for sale at L’Ecume Saint-Honoré (photo Meg Zimbeck)

Oyster Growing Regions

As with wine, the flavor and texture of an oyster are deeply dependent on where the oyster has been harvested. Each body of water has different trace minerals, tidal patterns, temperatures, and salinity that will change the flavor of oysters as it filters through their fattening bodies. The flavors will change from season to season and year to year in any given location depending on rainfall, algae and other natural factors.

  • Aquitaine: Arcachon is a celebrated Southwestern bay near Bordeaux where oysters start off in the wild. Small babies then suction themselves to terracotta tiles that farmers deliberately place in the water. They are then placed in sacks (beds) and left to slowly grow and fatten up in the deep sea. They can occasionally acquire a greenish tint due to the algae.
  • Normandy: The Northwest has deep sea oysters from Cotenin Peninsula, Isigny oysters, and nutty Saint-Vaast. Utah Beach is another well-known spot for sweet oysters.
  • Brittany: The small amount of flat oysters produced tend to be farmed along Brittany’s coast. Cancale (firm and salty), Paimpol (juicy and plump from deep-sea farms), Bélon (oyster celebrities from the famed estuary in Southern Brittany that mature in brackish water), Quiberon (well-balanced flavor), Saint-Brieuc, Morlaix and the Bay of Brest are the regions most famous places for great mollusks.
  • The Central West Coat: Ile de Ré, Noirmoutier, Baie de Bourgneuf, Pornic, and Beauvoir-sur-Mer are all areas for fine oysters.
  • Languedoc:  Bouzigue is noted for the extremely pure lagoon water (grade A) so that its oysters can be consumed immediately after being caught.
  • Marennes-Oléron: You’ll find oysters from the Ile d’Oléron which are farmed, and Charente oysters that are fattened up in claires. It’s the claire-ripened oysters that are particularly noted from this region. Sometimes the bluey-green algae from the brackish waters will tint the oysters a special hue.

How to Eat Them:

Oysters are almost never rinsed (to preserve the flavor), often shucked in front of you, and always served over ice. In France, they will typically still have the adductor muscle attached (i.e. they will stick to the shell) as that is thought to keep them fresher longer. You’ll want to take a tiny fork and gently pry it loose, if necessary. Squeeze a little lemon on top, pour some mignonette sauce in the shell, or forgo all condiments and slurp it back in one gulp.

Photo by Meg Zimbeck
Oysters at Le Mary Celeste (photo Meg Zimbeck)

Our Favorite Places to Eat them: 

We first asked our panel of Contributing Editors three years ago to name Five Great Oyster Places for indulging in some half-shell love. Their overall favorite: Huîtrerie Régis.

  1. Huîtrerie Régis- Régis’ superb oysters come from the famous claires of the the Marenne-Oléron.  They’re  available for take out or to eat on the spot in the cheerful little dining room.
  2. L’Ecailler du Bistrot- The “bistrot” in question is carnivore-heaven Paul Bert, just next door.  But at L’Ecailler the focus is on seafood, including a gorgeous array of Belon, Utah Beach, and Spéciales.
  3. Garnier- Get your Gillardeaux to go like Lobrano does or take a seat in this classic brasserie for some of the city’s best bivalves.
  4. L’Ecume Saint-Honoré- This charming poissonnerie has several tables for dégustation on the spot.
  5. L’Huîtrier- Claires and Belons are on the menu at this sleek address in the 17th.

To that list, we now add some new favorites:

  • Le Baron Rouge- The bar brings in an oysterman from Brittany who shucks to order on the street corner. Shop at the Aligre market then scrunch among the trashcans and use a car as your tabletop for a uniquely Parisian oyster experience.
  • Le Mary Celeste- Good cocktails, nice wine, and wild oysters served with a wonderful slightly spicy Asian-influenced sauce. In season, the bar does oyster happy hour with oysters for 1€ each.
  • Bones- Utah oysters raw on the half-shell or occasionally BBQ’d.
  • La Cabane à Huitres- Francis Dubourg grows his oysters in the Arcachon basin and brings them direct to Paris for tasting in this adorable room outfitted to feel like a seaside shack (cabane).
Atao by John Talbott


Oysters and a wide array of fruits de mer, in an airy blue and white room that will take you from Batignolles to the Brittany coast.

Practical information

Address: 86 rue Lemercier, 75017
Nearest transport: Brochant (13)
Hours: Closed Sunday dinner, closed Monday
Reservations: Last minute booking usually OK
Telephone: 01 46 27 81 12
Average price for lunch: 40-59€
Average price for dinner: 40-59€
Style of cuisine: French, Breton, Seafood

Reviews of interest

John Talbott (2012) “…the ideal place for a Sunday lunch…”

John Talbott (2011) “…oysters which reminded me of those salty assertive ones from 1950, palourdes which were spot-on…the crepe with butter and sugar was about the best ever.”

Emmanuel Rubin (2011) “…un charme de cambuse qui verse sa douce illusion balnéaire dans le dos des Batignolles. Salle limpide comme parfois les retours de plage et cuisine nature soufflant l’iode et le frais.”

François-Régis Gaudry (2011) “Une vraie huître plate à l’ancienne, de tradition belon, estampillée Slow Food…C’est la mascotte de la maison…Pour une croisière de charme à mi-sillage entre Armor et archipel, tournez-vous vers les petits plats…bouillon dashi au bar et aux huîtres pochées…honnêtes palourdes sautées au saké, belles saint-jacques snackées aux légumes…”

Gilles Pudlowski (2011) “Si le besoin de mer se fait sentir, pas d’hésitation, cet Atao est pour vous…Les petites plates sont fines, exquises, les grosses noisetées, vives, iodées, les creuses charnues laissant happer et mordre le goût de la mer.”

Bruno Verjus (2011) “Des produits sincères et justes…crevettes bio, carpaccio de St-jacques, de bar, pommes Rattes au beurre, palourdes au saké (la chef est japonaise), huîtres plates La Gavrinis de 3 ans, dodues comme des nourrissons. Tout est simple et de bon goût…”



Claires and Belons are on the menu at this sleek address in the 17th, included in our list of Five Great Places for Oysters.

Practical information

Address: 16 rue Saussier-Leroy, 75017
Nearest transport: Ternes (2)
Hours: Closed Monday
Reservations: Last minute booking usually OK
Telephone: 01 40 54 83 44
Average price for lunch: 35-49€
Average price for dinner: 35-49€
Style of cuisine: Classic French

Reviews of interest

François Simon (2013) “Les poissons sont un peu plus en retrait comme si les fruits de mer avaient raflé la mise. Le turbot avait un bel aspect, mais la cuisson était allée un peu trop loin ; quant aux saint-jacques, elles étaient juste en petite tenue, satisfaites de leur retour mais sans grande danse du ventre, sans joie communicative. Pour le dessert, tarte aux pommes, elle aussi désenchantée, ne jouant pas le jeu, tournicotant dans un réchauffage hasardeux. Parfait en rôle de faire-valoir.”

François Simon (2010) “…parfait pour les fruits de mer et poissons.”

John Talbott (2008) “We ordered a dozen #3 speciales and they were plump and good, along with an order of fried anchovies…”

Le Dôme

Le Dôme

Le Dôme, with its sparkling platters of fruits de mer, remains an address for power lunches and tourists looking to rub shoulders with Hemingway’s ghost while getting their fill of zinc and iodine.

Practical information

Address: 108 boulevard du Montparnasse, 75014
Nearest transport: Vavin (4)
Hours: Open every day
Reservations: Last minute booking usually OK
Telephone: 01 43 35 25 81
Average price for lunch: 50-99€
Average price for dinner: 50-99€
Style of cuisine: Classic French, Brasserie

Reviews of interest

Patricia Wells (2010) “For more than 30 years, we made Le Dome our Sunday lunch restaurant , always loving the ambience of the terrace, the friendly maitre d, Jacques and Stephane. Folllowing the oysters, I had a most intriguing spicy octopus salad (too many red peppercorns) laced with an avalanche of fresh herbs.”

Dorie Greenspan (2008) “Whenever I see a big metal platter with a mound of crushed ice and a pile of oysters, clams, shrimp, langoustines and other precious shellfish, I imagine that I’m in Paris in the 1920s…my favorite place to enjoy this luxury – and is it ever a luxury (especially now with the dollar so weak) – is at Le Dome…”

Cabane a Huitres by Barbra Austin

La Cabane à Huitres

Francis Dubourg grows his oysters in the Arcachon basin and brings them direct to Paris for tasting in this adorable room outfitted to feel like a seaside shack (cabane).

Practical information

Address: 4 rue Antoine-Bourdelle, 75015
Nearest transport: Montparnasse-Bienvenuë (4, 6, 12, 13)
Hours: Closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday
Reservations: Last minute booking usually OK
Telephone: 01 45 49 47 27
Average price for lunch: 20-34€
Average price for dinner: 20-34€
Style of cuisine: Classic French

Reviews of interest

Le Fooding (2013) “…une vraie cabane, en vrai pin de Landes, avec du vrai carrelage de cabane à huîtres…Francis est un des derniers producteurs du bassin d’Arcachon à élever encore ses huîtres à l’ancienne, sur le sable… En tout cas elles sont extra, creuses ou plates…”

Barbra Austin (2009) “All oysters have a brinyness to them but these had a real salty streak and a kind of minerality not found in all of the spéciales from the Oleron I had been eating…”

L’Ecailler du Bistrot

The “bistrot” in question is carnivore-heaven Paul Bert, just next door. But at L’Ecailler the focus is on seafood, including a gorgeous array of Belon, Utah Beach, and Spéciales. Included in our editors’ list of Five Great places for oysters.

Practical information

Address: 22 rue Paul Bert, 75011
Nearest transport: Faidherbe-Chaligny (8)
Hours: Closed Sunday and Monday
Reservations: Book a few days in advance
Telephone: 01 43 72 76 77
Average price for lunch: 20-34€
Average price for dinner: 35-49€
Style of cuisine: Classic French

Reviews of interest

John Talbott (2014) “Their Utah Beach oysters are exceptional but their fish dishes are not always on target… at 19€ [for lunch] it’s quite a bargain.”

Aaron Ayscough (2012) “…despite the eyebrow-raising prices I still had – and continue to have – a great deal of confidence in owner Bertrand Aboyneau’s supremely savvy restateurism. It was a lovely meal…”

François Simon (2010) “…calme, apaisé avec son ardoise de poissons du jour.”

Thierry Richard (2009) ” Des Spéciales du Belon n°3 (quasiment introuvables à Paris, avec un parfum de noisette ultra-percutant), des Utah Beach n°3 (iodées, charnues et tendres comme je les adore)…”

François Simon (2008) “Dans le genre, difficile de trouver mieux…”

John Talbott (2008) “Go? Yes for the oysters and white wine.”



This seafood restaurant Rech, around since 1925, is now part of the Alain Ducasse bistro collection.

Practical information

Address: 62 avenue des Ternes, 75017
Nearest transport: Ternes (2)
Hours: Closed Sunday and Monday
Reservations: Book a few days in advance
Telephone: 01 45 17 29 47
Average price for lunch: 50-99€
Average price for dinner: 50-99€
Style of cuisine: Classic French, Oysters & Shellfish, Seafood

Reviews of interest

John Talbott (2010) “…has not gotten better (well maybe a bit) since the arrival of Jacques Maximin, just different.”

John Talbott (2009) “The amuse bouche was a typical Ducasse type Ball jar filled with fish cheeks and eggs – a good start. Then I had the tuna mi-cuit-cru that F. Simon found too cold, mine was perfect; my friend had the lobster soup with tiny grey shrimp in the bottom that was divine…”

Alexander Lobrano (2009) “It’s likely to become one of the best seafood restaurants in the world now that Jacques Maximin has been recruited to oversee the menu…steamed sole with the most magnificent aioli I’ve ever eaten. Next, perfectly cooked salmon with a sauce vierge…then a magnificent hunk of camembert, and a drop-dead good pain perdu…”

La Rotonde

La Rotonde

A classic Montparnasse café and brasserie, serving standards like onion soup and steak tartare all day, along with oysters and other seafood in season.

Practical information

Address: 105 boulevard du Montparnasse, 75006
Nearest transport: Vavin (4)
Hours: Open every day
Reservations: Reservations not necessary
Telephone: 01 43 26 48 26
Average price for lunch: 35-49€
Average price for dinner: 35-49€
Style of cuisine: Classic French
Special attributes: standout seafood, outdoor dining, continuous all-day service, open Sunday, open Monday

Reviews of interest

Alexander Lobrano (2013) “La Rotonde, a 1911 vintage brasserie in Montparnasse, accommodates both the real and imagined realities of the city, all without sacrificing good food…the politely wisecracking service is brisk in the brasserie tradition. More important, the traditional comfort cooking is not only well executed but often made with pedigreed ingredients.”

François Simon (2012) “Assurément, la Rotonde Montparnasse appartient à ces restaurants qui ne défraient pas la chronique… En fait, la Rotonde c’est le genre de restaurant dont on doit rêver lorsqu’on s’est longuement absenté de France. Tous les plats du répertoire sont là, fidèles,au garde à vous, pas bégueule, bon enfant et de bonne facture.”




L'Ecume Saint-Honore restaurant in Paris | parisbymouth.com

L’Ecume Saint-Honoré

The sight and smell of this sparkling poissonnerie will transport you from Paris to the seashore. Take something home or eat sûr place. Open from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Included in our list of Five Great Places for Oysters.

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Le Mary Celeste in Paris - Chinese crepes with beef knuckle, peanuts, sesame, celery

First Look: Le Mary Celeste

Le Mary Celeste in Paris - oysters

Le Mary Celeste is a new restaurant from the people behind Candelaria and Glass. Accordingly, there’s a solid cocktail program and two Brooklyn beers on tap. Another creative and beautiful (now nautical) interior from David Rager, Cheri Messerli and Gilles Tombeur. These will get a lot of attention, as will the rotating cast of mostly wild oysters sold by the piece for 2-5€. But the real story here is Haan Palcu-Chang.

Haan is a Canadian of Romanian and Chinese descent whose most recent professional gigs were in Michelin-starred restaurants in Copenhagen. However skilled he may now be in the art of making foams and gels, he’s equally passionate about time spent learning how to cook from “real Asians” in New Zealand and about the ethnic food scene in his native Toronto. He’s a food nerd, and this is the first time that he’s been given control over a kitchen.

When you mix together the technique, the respect for ingredient and the ethos of everything-from-scratch, the result is a small plates menu that’s so much better than it needs to be. In the same spirit as Paris’ Au Passage or Copenhagen’s Fiskebar – this is a place where serious Food is being transmitted through a small plates medium to unshaven people in skinny jeans.


Le Mary Celeste in Paris - pickled topinambour

Le Mary Celeste in Paris - beef jerky

Le Mary Celeste in Paris - kimchi

Bar snacks of (all housemade) pickled topimambour, beef jerky, kimchi

Le Mary Celeste in Paris - Chinese crepes with beef knuckle, peanuts, sesame, celery

Crêpes Chinoises: beef shin, celery, sesame, peanuts

 There’s also a respect for vegetables here that one doesn’t often find in Paris. While we were tempted by the poitrine de veau (veal breast) with coconut milk or the pintade (guineau hen) with tare sauce, we surrendered instead to a vegetarian dish with two kinds of cabbage, black beans and a roasted carrot that was so deeply savory it could have been meat. The two dishes I’ll return for are also meat-free: steamed oysters with chili, black vinegar, and crispy shallots, plus endives with tamarind and mint. Tamarind also flavors a chocolate creme dessert with Maldon salt. When’s the last time anyone saw tamarind in Paris?

Le Mary Celeste cocktails - Judy Blue Eyes and Rain Dog

I opted instead for a dessert cocktail (or two). My favorite was the Rain Dog, made with small batch bourbon, bitters, mint, lemon and sirop de capillaire. That last ingredient is a house-made infusion of simple syrup, orange flower water, and dried maidenhair fern. It’s what makes the drink more than a mint julep, and it’s what makes the drink 12 euros.

Practical Advice

It’s possible to reserve (only by email at reservations@lemaryceleste.com), and I would recommend doing so. The dining room was absolutely packed at 8pm on a Thursday with no place to sit besides our two reserved seats.


It’s also possible to order sequentially, another something I would recommend. Nearly all of the five dishes we ordered arrived at one time, along with a giant oyster platter, and these didn’t fit on the tiny little table. My friend and I took turns holding plates in the air above the platter to let the other person take a few bites. The result: a stream of fatty jus dribbling from the crêpe chinois onto an unsuspecting kumamoto oyster below. Delicious, actually. We then had to stack the demolished plates under my chair to free up our hands for oyster play. It made the waitress giggle, and we thought it was fun. However, other eaters may have different standards, and they should order sequentially.

The best move would be to arrive early for a first round during the 5-7 pm Happy Hour when oysters (one special per day) are sold at only 1€ a piece. Wash them down with a good bottle of Muscadet from Marc Olivier for 22€ or an even better Muscadet from Guy Bossard for 34€.  Then order everything on Haan’s food menu, and as many drinks  as you can stand from Carlos (ex-L’Hotel) Madriz’ cocktail menu. You will float out very full and, like the namesake sea vessel, on your way to wandering lost.

For more details, including address and hours, see the page for Le Mary Celeste in Our Guide to Paris Restaurants.

Goumard Paris


This historic spot is known for oysters and grand platters of fruits de mer, as well as its classified, Louis Majorelle – designed art deco toilettes.

Practical information

Address: 9 rue Duphot, 75001
Nearest transport: Madeleine (8, 12, 14)
Hours: Open every day
Reservations: Last minute booking usually OK
Telephone: 01 42 60 36 07
[cetsEmbedGmap src=http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=202475318786031781734.0004a33aa88a3b22c4546&ll=48.868122,2.32565&spn=0.003465,0.009645&z=17 width=500 height=325 marginwidth=0 marginheight=0 frameborder=0 scrolling=no]View a map of all of our restaurants here.
Average price for lunch: 35-49€
Average price for dinner: 50-99€
Style of cuisine: Classic French, brasserie, seafood
Special attributes: standout seafood, late night bites, continuous all-day service, open Sunday, open Monday, valet parking
Type of crowd: suits, foodies, neighborhood locals
Interior: elegant & luxe
Atmosphere: formal

Reviews of interest

  • Figaroscope (2009) “Goumard a aménagé au rez-de-chaussée un petit comptoir de ­dégustation d’huîtres (29,10 € les 12 huîtres dont 3 belons n° 3) ouvert en continu de midi à ­minuit… Au menu ? De très belles huîtres plates ou creuses, spéciales ou fines de claire dont les ­remarquables huîtres d’Yvon Madec à Prat-ar-Coum.”
  • Alexander Lobrano (2009) “Gourmard has slimmed down a lot for this new century, and I’d certainly be willing to give it another go for the good value menu, but I couldn’t help but regretting what it once had been…”
  • John Talbott (2009) “I went today with a trusted palated friend and he and I were thoroughly pleased with the all inclusive menu (3 courses, 1/2 btle wine, 1/4 btle water and coffee) for 49 Euros.”

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Huitrerie Regis by Barbra Austin

Huitrerie Régis

Régis’ fantastic oysters come from the Marenne-Oleron and are available for dégustation on the spot in the pale blue and white dining room, or to take home. Included in our list of Five Great Places for Oysters.

Practical information

Address: 3 rue Montfaucon, 75006
Nearest transport: Mabillon (10)
Hours: Closed Monday; there’s also a lengthy annual summer closing
Reservations: Not accepted
Telephone: 01 44 41 10 07
Average price for lunch: 20-34€
Average price for dinner: 20-34€
Style of cuisine: Classic French
Special attributes: prix-fixe, prestige ingredients, standout seafood, outdoor dining, good for solo dining, open Sunday, takeaway available

Reviews of interest

John Talbott (2014) “Has but one-trick, but what a trick… had a platter of slightly spicy and exceptionally good slices of sausage which taken with superb bread and butter set just the right tone.”

Patricia Wells (2011) “From the moment you approach this spotless, all white postage-stamp sized oyster bar, you know that you are in for a treat. Clean, briny, top-of-the line oysters are what you will find here…”

Alexander Lobrano (2009) “…We were happily settled in this vest pocket dining room with whitewashd walls, waiting for the amiable oyster shucker to prepare our feast, two dozen Speciales de Claire Garnier No. 3…Served with good bread and Echire butter, these plump bivalves had a sublime taste of the sea…”

Barbra Austin (2009) “…stepping off the shopping streets of the 6th into Régis feels like entering a pristine little seaside cottage with white wood, shades of blue, and a fishing net draped across the ceiling.

Dorie Greenspan (2008) “…if you’re not up for a whole plateau, have oysters and a glass of Sancerre at my favorite oyster bar, Huitrerie Régis…”

The New York Times (2007) “To specialize, Huîtrerie Régis really must sell the best oysters possible and charge whatever makes sense, assuming people will bear the cost. And they do. The place is often packed…”