A personal coquillage

Where to eat after three hours wandering around the most inspiring art collection in the world, the La Musée d’Orsay? Monet, Cézanne, Degas, Van Gogh, Caillebotte, Renoir, Manet, and their pals were flashing through my mind.

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Paris was bone-chilling cold and I was dog-tired. I decided I would eat no more than a block from my hotel, the Crowne Plaza Paris-République (another story: don’t stay there). La Taverne Republique filled the bill. No frou-frou stuff here: basic Alsatian fare with an accent on fresh seafood. I decided to pig out on mollusks and crustaceans.

Many restaurants in Paris serve a coquillage, an elaborate platter of shellfish and shrimp on ice. Not able to face a full lobster-crab-oyster-clam-mussel-shrimp plate, I decided to assemble my own coquillage and ordered fines-claire oysters, half a dozen escargots, gray shrimp, and a pile of whelks, accompanied by a half-bottle of Alsatian riesling.

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Crevettes grises (gray shrimp) are wonderful little guys — about the size of a caterpillar. You pop the crunchy little devils in your mouth whole. A heap of gray shrimp (100 of them?) goes for about $6.

Coquillage

Whelks (bulots) are terribly unappreciated in America. Aside from eating conch, a sort of monster whelk common in Florida and the Caribbean, I’ve only found whelks on one menu in the States. The shell are about 1 1/2″.

Coquillage

Whelks don’t have a strong taste. At La Taverne, I dipped them in raspberry vinegar or the leftover garlic butter from my escargots.

My crevettes came with a bonus, a couple of tiny crabs that hitchhiked along:

Coquillage

The sultry girls at the next table were having as good a time as I, digging into the fresh-tasting creepy-crawlies.

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All-in-all, a wonderful repast at a no-name restaurant. The tab was $85.

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