Its full name is Le Charlot “roi des coquillages“. The Art Deco decor serves to highlight the restaurants speciality: shellfish. Everywhere you look, everywhere your gaze stops there is a shell, a coquille, a little reminder that you are in a seafood restaurant.
And it was by sheer luck that D and I stopped at Le Charlot for dinner.
As we were planning on being in Paris before and after our 24-hour trip to London, we had booked a stay at a hotel not too far from Gare du Nord. Our plans for dinner had fallen through so we decided to head out to see what Place de Clichy had to offer. We passed a few bistros but weren’t tempted enough to go in. We had spotted a Léon de Bruxelles across the street and headed in that direction. It was on our way that we spotted the oysters and other shellfish outside Le Charlot.
D and I paused outside to read the menu and thought ‘why not?’
No one was in sight when we entered the restaurant but that didn’t mean that our arrival went unnoticed. The maître d’ greeted us and took our coats after which we were led upstairs by one of the restaurant’s hostesses.
After a quick look through the menu D and I both decided on the Menu Gourmand. For 49€ the menu included a selection of 3 different oysters, salmon tartare with salad, provençal fish soup, poached cod with vegetables, all followed by a dessert selection. But first, a drink. D was feeling festive and remember I mentioned having caprices? It was my birthday month after all. D ordered a bottle of Vranken‘s Diamant brut champagne. You all know how much I love my champagne and this one did not disappoint. The Diamant is a blanc des blancs — a champagne made exclusively with ‘white’ grapes (Chardonnay). It was crisp and cold and a delight to drink.
And while the champagne was very good, the food and the service at Le Charlot were, as the French would say, top. The service was like a tag team affair in that our dining experience was aided by more than one server. Plates were cleared and errant crumbs brushed aside deftly. We moved from course to course easily, all the while chatting with our neighbours at the next table. I wasn’t always a big fan of oysters but this changed about 4 years ago after having a wonderful oyster experience at a restaurant in Toronto. Our oysters on this night were absolutely lovely and tasted like the sea. The following course, the salmon tartare, satiated my hankering for sushi. In contrast to the oysters, the tartare was fresh, revealing the pleasing fattiness of the salmon. The salad was the perfect counterpoint to the tartare and not overly dressed. After all, you should taste the salad and not just the dressing.
To warm up the palate the next course featured the fish soup. This had me dreaming of Nice and being at home. The only thing missing from the soup was the crouton with some rouille. After the fish soup we moved to the poached cod. Cod is not my favourite fish and I generally don’t have high hopes for any plate featuring it. That said, this plat was better than okay. The addition of the bulot — something I’ve only had cold and didn’t enjoy — was a surprise but not altogether unpleasant.
The restaurant was humming and I love being in a restaurant where the excited, happy chatter creates a buzz in the room. More often than not, as my gaze wanders around the room, I’ll make up stories about what each diner/each couple/each group is celebrating. The couple next to us were celebrating an anniversary and there was another couple celebrating a birthday, ending their meal with a selection of cakes and other sweet things. Such was our dining experience at Le Charlot.
I would have loved to have ended our night out with the Grand Marnier soufflé. It was a big hit judging by the number of people who ordered it and the smiles after the first bite. I was happy, however, with the dessert selection: fondant au chocolat served with a pistachio-laden tuile with vanilla ice cream. It was a wonderful way to cap off my birthday month celebration. Yes, a month of celebrating. And why not?
Happy Friday mes amis and be sure to celebrate something this weekend!