Fish Club, Paris | A Good Catch in Les Halles, B

May 19, 2016

Fish Club - diningroom with girl @ Alexander Lobrano

When the Fish Club, the seafood oriented cousin of the Beef Club next door, first set sail several months ago with a vaguely Peruvian themed menu that spun on carpaccio and ceviche, it never really caught on. Now this address in a former butcher’s shop on the edge of Les Halles with a stylish decor by the parent Experimental Cocktail Club group’s favorite interior designer, Dorothée Meilichzon, has been rebooted with a really appealing menu by chef Julien Burlap. What makes it so attractive is that it’s unpretentious in a city where brand-name food–bread by, carrots grown by, chickens hatched by, etc.–is becoming an alarming new gourmet meme.

What irks me is the accelerating brand-naming of gastronomy, since the wheels of big money have now spotted it as another perfect target for ‘affordable everyday luxury,’ the new motor of consumption in major western cities. So whether it’s deliberate or not, the menu at the Fish Club sort of ignores these rules in favor of a time-tested fail-safe old-fashioned marketing method: quality, which never needs a bold-faced name dangling from it.

Fish Club - Diningroom @ Alexander Lobrano

Here, names are named when they’re useful, rather than to diddle you with aspirant gastronomic shorthand, i.e, butter by Bordier, meat by Hugo Desnoyer (such a shame about what’s going on with him since he was bought by Alain Mikli, the eye-wear designer, etc.). Oh to be sure, a half Saint Marcellin cheese is ID’d on the menu as coming from La Mere Richard, a formerly famous Lyon cheesemonger that was also scooped up not long ago by a big industrial dairy, but at least the staff here–almost unnervingly charming, helpful and informative–remain on the side of the diner; when I asked if the Saint Marcellin, one of my favorite cheeses, was ‘coulant‘ (runny, the way I like it, the way it should be), the waiter said, “No, if that’s the way you like–and you should!–what we have won’t make you happy.”

Instead, the idea of this place, as the well-briefed waitress explained before we ordered is “to offer good quality seafood at a price point that’s in between the insane prices of haute cuisine and the quality compromised ones of brasseries and chain restaurants.”

This sounded promising, so we decided to splurge on absurdly expensive flutes of Champagne and an order of croquettes des crevettes grise, a Belgian comfort food that makes me ecstatically happy. These amber-colored crispy beignets came to the table with deep-fried parsley, as they should, and lemon halves, and they were so good it didn’t even occur to me to photograph them, such was my haste for this pleasure of crunchy cartridges filled with runny pink gently marine tasting béchamel filled with tiny gray shrimp caught off the Belgian coastline. What explained their presence here is the fact that consulting chef Julien Burlat, who’s from the north of France, has worked in Antwerp for several years at an excellent seafood brasserie there called Le Dôme sur Mer.

Fish Club - Baby Squid with arugula @ Alexander Lobrano

Fish Club - Shrimp carpaccio @ Alexander Lobrano

Though there was a nice selection of oysters and other shellfish on offer, we decided to order slightly more elaborate starters out of a desire to understand this place. So I went for the grilled baby squid with arugula and Bruno chose the red shrimp carpaccio with citrus segments and lamb’s ear lettuce.

I liked the quiet fire of piment d’Espelette that enlivened my generous tangle of tender milky squid, and Bruno’s shrimp was impeccably fresh, iodine bright, and very pretty on the plate. So we became hopeful, because more and more what we really love eating these days is good seafood, and as we know, our ardor is projected upon the screen of the harrowing reality that wild seafood becomes scarcer by the day, which is what explains its eye-watering prices in Paris.

The Fish Club - Sea Bass w/lobster sauce @Alexander Lobrano

The Fish Club - Turbot with carrots @ Alexander Lobrano

Burlat’s very appealing fish-cookery style, which runs to a clever edit of traditional French seafood recipes, like a l’amoricaine, stayed the course beautifully when our mains arrived, too. The lobster sauce that anointed my generous piece of sea bass had a ruddy redolence of the crustacean and its tamale but was brightened by the acidity of a light fresh tomato sauce tempered by olive oil and herbs, including a judicious pinch of fresh thyme. Bruno’s turbot was a fine chunk of perfectly cooked juicy pearled alabaster fish, too, with a quiet but percussive garnish of cumin-brightened carrot puree. And the Domaine de la Taille aux Loups ‘Remus’ Montlouis by Jacky Blot that we ordered, one of my favorite Loire Valley wines, paired exceptionally with both fish preparations.

The Fish Club - Waffles with chocolate sauce and whipped cream @Alexander Lobrano

Knowing that Julien Burlat is from Le Nord (department 59) like Bruno, dessert, which we shared, was a no-brainer after Bruno had queried the waiter on the restaurant’s waffle style. Would it be a yeasty possibly beer-leavened Brussels style waffle or a flat crispy cookie-like one, which is what Bruno had grown up with? The Bruxellois version was promised, which is a good thing, too, since its fair-ground frivolity, born of confectioner’s sugar dusting and the crispy crust contrasting with a soft eggy yeasty interior, was exactly what this very good meal warranted to end well. So the takeaway on this one is that good quality seafood is expensive in Paris, like it’s expensive in most major cities, which is why the Fish Club is a welcome address. It allows you to opt for the quality of a really good seafood meal without a bill that requires a life jacket.

Fish Club, 58 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1st Arrondissement, Paris, Tel. (33)
01-40-26-68-75, Metro: Les Halles, Etienne Marcel. Open Tuesday-Saturday for dinner only. Closed Sunday and Monday. Average a la carte 65 Euros.

  • Nina Forlani

    We love and follow all your recommendations.
    And our travelers too 😉
    Merci Monsieur Lobrano!
    Nina – cofounder of http://www.insidr.pari

    • AlecLobrano55

      Many thanks, Nina! Hope you enjoy the Fish Club. Best, Alec