Down a tiny side street one block off the bustling Boulevard Saint-Germain – so small even we, who were looking for it, almost missed it – sits the illustrious Huitrerie Regis, the foremost oyster bar in Paris. The storefront is narrow, taking up a postage stamp-sized space of sidewalk. There’s a glowing sign and a tell-tale glass case, displaying the evening’s oyster selection.
The interior is a chic study in shades of white – white walls, white table cloths, and an elegant, all-white bar. The restaurant can seat maybe twenty patrons, stacked elbow to elbow. The close quarters combined with friendly, relaxed service and the bar’s open kitchen keep things casual. When we arrived, there were no tables available, so we stood at the bar. There’s no place to wait, although we’ve heard that people waiting for a table typically just have a drink at the wine bar across the street.
For us though, interested in a quick dozen oysters and a glass of wine, rather than an elaborate dinner, the bar is where the action was. It looks right into the kitchen, or rather, oyster preparation area. There’s a sink, a dishwasher, a stack of plates, buckets of oysters, and a towering wall of wine. And, last but not least, there’s the oyster expert. He stands at one end of the bar, efficiently shucking oyster after oyster, settling them on beds of seaweed and ice, and sending them out into the dining room. He’s fast and focused, no doubt used to working with an audience, an artist and a butcher.
One glass of sauvignon blanc later, our dozen oysters arrive, accompanied by bread, butter, lemon, and mignonette sauce – a traditional mixture of vinegar, shallots, and pepper. We ordered twelve of the large speciales de claires. According to the menu this oyster variety best balances the oyster’s natural sweetness with the saltiness of the brine, and we were not disappointed. Meaty, fresh, and flavorful, the Huitrerie Regis oyster experience put the “edible” in “incredible.”
There is other seafood on the menu – shrimp, clams, and sea urchins. But if we go back – and I hope we do – we’ll be sticking with the oysters. Like the name suggests, at Huitrerie Regis, oysters are king.