A few years ago my wife was celebrating her birthday on a Sunday. Armed with a list of 10 restaurants I wanted to take her to, I discovered to my dismay that they were all closed on Sunday. This was Brussels but Paris, just one hour and 20 minutes away by train is no different.
The reason for Sunday closure is understandable though frustrating for visitors who do not have a choice. Many restaurants want to give their staff a well deserved weekend break.
Beggars cannot be choosers so finding yourself in certain cities on a Sunday or Monday (depending on where you are) requires careful planning.
Luckily in Paris, there are places that are open if you know where to look or who to ask. Clamato was one of the options for seven like-minded people from all corners of the world who happened to meet for the workshop of the World Restaurant Awards that was officially launched earlier this week.
This fish restaurant/wine bar does not take any bookings and the wait promised to be long at this restaurant which owes its name to a tomato-clam juice mix. The team behind the Michelin starred restaurant Septime by chef Bertrand Grébaut and Théo Pourriat have opened this no-reservations seafood house which serves people non-stop on weekends from noon till 11pm. The concept of this cool place is simple. It serves dishes that are meant to be shared based on the daily deliveries that are received in the restaurant from St Jean de Luz, Concarneau and l’Ile d’Yeu and these determine what goes on the menu. Here there is an emphasis on produce that is sustainable and uses traditional techniques. The oysters are wild or come from a natural habitat.
The seven of us managed to squeeze into a table for four warning the staff there would be no complaints and no disruption to the restaurant despite the likelihood that we would be crammed liked the sardines that might have been delivered to the restaurant earlier that morning. It took a few moments of convincing but once we were at table we were ready to go.
The decor at Clamato is understated but warm with A wood-planked ceiling, a brick bar with high stools, reclaimed-wood tables while the sharing menu which changes daily is mouthwatering.
The word about Clamato is out. It used to be one of the best kept secrets in Paris but today it attracts a more international crowd wanting one of the ‘must-have’ experiences in the French capital. We leave the choice to the restaurant as to the dishes we want to share but suggest we want to start with oysters. They get two different types of Oysters with the better one being the oysters from Utah Beach in Normandy.
We are served a Boquerones beignet with a black olive mayonnaise which is to die for. These are for sharing this was one of those dishes where you would be happy to grab the dish in your hands and tell the rest of the crowd to order their own beignets.
The raw ikejime sea bream with ponzu and fermented grated turnip is another refined dish where the freshness of the ingredients shines and a bite of the fish puts a smile on your face
The bitter greens with vermouth vinaigrette and katsoubushi was a match made in heaven (and that was not just my opinion) but also the opinion of a Japanese journalist sitting at table with us.
The chef, knowing that we were a group of food writers from around the globe served us with a warm oyster served with celeriac and a herb juice. The oyster was succulent, the juice of celeriac amazing.
This was followed by a simple yet excellent dish that paired young leeks with anchovies, fried garlic and a sabayon. It might not have been the most pleasing dish on the eye but on the palate it clearly hit all the right notes and turned out to be one of the favourite dishes of the night.
We ended with a skate wing from Finistiere with a sauce Grenobloise and then the dessert, an example of how simple can sometimes provide you with something exceptionally rewarding. The maple syrup tart with fresh cream was to die for.
Clamato is in Rue de Charonne, 80, Paris. It is open for dinner from Wednesday to Friday from 7pm to 11pm and is open non stop on Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 11pm. It is not possible to book but if you are in Paris next time give it a try. You will definitely not be disappointed.