It didn't occur to me that France was known for oysters until a reader of t:e, who travels to France an awful lot, suggested that I visit Huîtrerie Régis, a tiny restaurant in the left bank, right off of Boulevard Saint-Germain.
We showed up for lunch, 15 minutes before they were open of course, as Americans do, and waited in the rain for the doors to open. Another couple was waiting as well. Between the 4 of us we took up a quarter of the restaurant. Yup, it's tiny. Did I mention it was raining in Paris? Every day?
I was looking forward to trying Belons, and some of the other premium oysters that you'll see on the short and sweet menu at Huitrerie Regis. From what I read in preparation for this meal, the price of oysters goes up (and the flavor profile changes) based on how crowded the oysters are and how long they spend in the cleansing pond. However, only a few were available that day, none of which were the most expensive, so I was SOL. This doesn't mean that this wasn't an exceptional meal. No it doesn't mean that at all. This turned out to be one of the if not the top oyster experiences of my life. And that's a life that has had many oyster experiences. It was also one of our favorite meals (probably top 1 or 2...Deux Fois Plus de Piment is a formidable competitor) during our trip.
We are generally fans of smallish, briny oysters. I'm not one for creamy, fleshy oysters, so I was a bit disappointed when the two selections included one which was described as fleshy and "balanced in sweetness and salt." These were the Spéciale de Claires. But, one taste and I was chalking up my prejudice to ignorance: these were very special oysters indeed.
Here's the thing about oysters, which I've said before, and I'll say again: it's mostly about the liquor. Too many places lose that liquor when shucking, leaving you with a dry, sad oyster in a shell. Huitrerie Regis does not have this problem, at, all. Every oyster was filled, and I mean filled, with beautiful, oystery, salty water, that tasted as pure as the driven salty snow. So much so that it at times took two slurps to get it all down. This was no doubt in part to the deep, cavernous shell, but most importantly, due to the careful and considerate handling of the oyster by the fella shucking them. The polar opposite of a place like NOLA's Acme Oyster Bar, where they seem to dump the liquor out on purpose. No thank you.
Back to these here oysters. Yup, the fleshy "balanced" oysters turned out to be our favorite over the Fines de Claires. The Fines de Claires were excellent, it should be noted, with mind numbing brinyness, clean, minerally flavors. Why we didn't order another dozen of each is beyond me, especially now, as I sit 4,000 miles away.
The oysters, which are from Marennes-Oléron, according to their website, are served with mignonette, the vinegar condiment, and lemon halves, which you may want to use. But by all means try these oysters unadorned. Oh, and you get a bit of bread as well, which happens to be fantastic. Did those sesame seeds actually taste of sesame rather than wood shavings? Yup.
The wine list leans toward oyster-appropriate wines, and it was a no-brainer to select a Sancerre. I don't recall the price, but I'm pretty sure it was very reasonable, and a perfect compliment to the oysters.
Huîtrerie Régis also has shrimp, clams, and sea urchin, which can't possibly be as exciting as the oysters.
Huîtrerie Régis : 3 Rue de Montfaucon, 75006 : Paris, France : 01 44 41 10 07