Seafood Perfection at La Cagouille

La Cagouille scallops.JPG

As a fish and shellfish lover, few things make me happier than a meal than includes a platter of briny, chilled oysters, perfectly seared sweet scallops, paired with a stony white Sancerre wine. Well, that’s what makes me happy at La Cagouille, a longtime favorite fish restaurant in the 14th. In many ways, this casual, unpretentious spot is one of a kind. Ever since Gérard Allemandou opened his first La Cagouille on rue Daguerrre in the early 1980s, the place has been a starring example of freshness and quality in its products.

On my last visit, I devoured the rarely seen miniature oysters, boudeuses, so called since they boud, or pout, because they can’t seem to grow any bigger. To my palate, they are the perfect little oyster, a tiny mouthful of pleasure. Alongside a thickly buttered slice of bread from baker Dominique Saibron, I’m in heaven.

It was Gérard Allemandou himself who taught me how to cook scallops and his words were “Cook scallops like meat, sear them well!” And that’s just the way they arrive at the table here, burnished brown on the outside, sweet, almost sugary on the inside. A touch of butter sauce and a shower of parsley is all they need to reach perfection. The accompanying, mile-high potato gratin – paper-thin slices of potato oozing with butter – could stand in as dessert. Irresistible.

To my left and to my right diners were feasting on the restaurant’s famous couteaux, or razor clams drowning in lemon butter, as well as La Cagouille’s moules brûles doigts, mussels so called because you almost burn your fingers eating them out of hand, off of a giant platter.

The tiny seared céteaux, or whole baby sole, are a lot of work to eat – separating out all those bones – but patience pays off in their clean, ocean-fresh flavor. I was less enthralled by the monkfish cheeks, which I found to be bland and uninspiring.

With the meal, enjoy a few sips of Henri Bourgeois’s 2017 La Vigne Blanche, a wine made from his younger vines in Sancerre. The soil there is limestone-rich, and the wine’s citrusy edge makes it a perfect match for La Cagouille’s special fare.

Allemandou’s partner, the outgoing André Robert directs the dining room and personifies the restaurant’s friendly atmosphere. A diner could hardly ask for more, with La Cagouille open every day of the year, a generous three-course meal for 39€, and a large terrace for dining in warm weather.

LA CAGOUILLE | 10 place Constantin Brancusi | Paris 14 | +33 1 01 43 22 09 01 | Métro: Gaîté | Open daily | la-cagouille@wanadoo.f | 29 and 35€ menus at lunch and dinner, 38 to 112€ à la carte | Reservations recommended | Atmosphere casual.

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