My Favorite Restaurant in France (This Week)
This place has it all: location, fresh seafood, and best of all, beaucoup de frites. After visiting the fantastic market in La Tremblade, we drove out to the where the boats bring in the oysters, and settled in to our table at La Bonne Renommée.
Since my friends were regulars, they knew exactly what they wanted and barely glanced at the menus. But I was intrigued by the fireplace that we walked past on the way in, which was filled with dried seaweed and set ablaze to cook each order of fire-roasted Eclade de moules.
Finger-sized mussels are arranged on a plank, then set atop the fire made of dried seaweed to cook them just for a few moments after the blaze dies down, which also give them a woody, smoked flavor. And when I saw a plank on almost every table around us, and the diners lips (and fingers) flecked with bits of singed seaweed, what I was going to order was a no-brainer.
Ever-curious Romain asked a neighboring table how they tasted, since that’s not the kind of thing one sees in Paris too often, and they invited him over to share a few. He brought one back for me and I knew I’d made the right decision.
But it would be impossible to come to La Tremblade and not start any meal with a big plate of oysters, since the oysters are harvested practically across the street from the restaurant. Eight huge numéro trois oysters were set before each of us, and although I usually have a pretty big appetite (especially when it comes to oysters), I almost couldn’t finish them.
Quite salty, a squirt of lemon balanced them nicely. I’m a fan of shallot-and-vinegar sauce, but all my French friends prefer them as close to nature as possible. And seeing as no one else had sauce mignonette on their tables, I didn’t think I’d better ask. (I didn’t want to feel like l’américain asking for ketchup, and getting a reprimand, even though the servers were incredibly nice.)
Shortly after wiping the last of the oyster juices off our chins, out came the mussels…and bottle numéro deux of locally-produced Sauvignon Blanc.
On a sidenote, for anyone who doesn’t think the French match their American counterparts in girth, I should note that it was evident that the patrons who were here loved to eat. And when the food is this good, it’s equally evident that if I lived nearby, I’d frequent the restaurant as much as they obviously did.
Speaking of girth, please note that this heap of fries is for two people. I tried to shovel in as many as I could, since they were crisp and well-salted, although no one seemed to share my affection for them. And since I hate to see good food go to waste, well, there you have it.
My dining companions were distracted by the giant bowl of moules à la marinière, mussels steamed in white wine, parsley, and shallots, which are eaten by using your first empty mussel shell like a pincher and extracting mussels from the rest of them in the bowl. Even though I was overwhelmed by the amount of mussels on the charred board in front of me, I couldn’t resist snatching a few from the mound in the bowl in the center of the table.
When they took the last of the plates away from the table, and I’d come back from my second trip to the men’s room to wash up, they asked if I wanted to try the “dessert of the house.” I hated to be impolite, but I didn’t even ask what it was. But if you go, please let me know what I missed.
La Bonne Renommée
Boulevard Roger Letélié
Tél: 05 46 36 12 02