So I accidentally went to yet another Michenlin star restaurant. Accidentally.
Planning for my weekend trip to Lille, some friends who had been before suggested I check out this restaurant called L’Huitriere, which is French for The Oyster. They said this so casually that they could’ve been telling me to go grab a croissant there, you know like just pop in, and grab a croissant for the road. No one, not once, mentioned it had a Michelin star and might set me back the cost of oh, my week’s rent. I’m not cranky about it, it’s just, isn’t that something you’d mention? So anyway, I booked the dinner, and this is how I inadvertently ended up fine dining last Saturday night.
I told you it was an accident.
Fine dining in disguise.
So the excitement gradually started to brew about the prospect of fine dining in France, and I was looking forward to the grandeur of L’Huitriere. But as we approached the location marked on my printed scrap of Google map (damn tourist), I started to worry that (a) L’Huitriere was not fine dining after all and (b) my new top and in fact all of me was going to smell like fish because L’Huitriere‘s shop front looks like this:
It’s a fish shop. And if you can’t quite get the authenticness of being there, let me help you out. Dude. It. Smells. Like. Fish. Dried fish, fresh fish, preserved fish, shell fish, smelly fish, and even smellier fish.
I hold my breath and peek into the shop, convinced we’re at the wrong place. We consult the map, the diary, the address, and of all places, it’s trusty Toptable that explains the restaurant is at the rear of this “still thriving fishmonger”. And in fact there is a small door towards the back with the word Restaurant badly painted above its entry. It’s like a secret gateway to an underground club, where you walk up to the monstrosity that is a bouncer (in this case, a rather sweet girl), and do a secret handshake that is something like two winks, a shrug, a quick shake of your right leg and a crotch grab, MJ style. In this case, we said bonsoir.
And we’re guided through to a grandiose room like I had expected ~ plush, elegant, chandeliers, so very French.
Deciphering the menu. Or not.
The menu is in French. We didn’t even try to decipher it and dove head long into the degustation. These are life’s easy decisions. The hard decision was to add a serve of oysters to our order because uh, this restaurant is called The Oyster and there’s no trace of oysters on the degustation menu? Go figure. It was more a walletary debate, but you know, I’m already selling half my internal organs to fund this meal, what’s another pinky gonna change?
And finally, the eating!
I’m really sorry (actually I’m not) if you’ve had to read all of my ramblings to get to this point. But I think you knew I would eventually get to the point food.
Moments after we’re seated, we’re served a small tray of three little bowls, one containing salmon with poppy seeds, another a tuna salad and lastly, a small bowl of cucumber cream. It’s a good thing I didn’t have to peruse the menu because that cucumber cream completely side-swiped my attention. I’ve no idea what it actually was, or how it was made, but goddamn it was tasty. And too small.
As I finished the last drops of my cucumber cream, a half dozen oysters arrived at our table. L’Huitriere serves oysters in large or small, and I’m hoping they’d misheard my order for small, because these oysters were monsters, and if these are small, well, frankly I think the large ones would happily flip the table and have me for starters instead. Taste-wise, the oysters were pretty darn good ~ fresh, soft, not over-powering, and quite honestly, each one I slurped was better than the last.
Finally, onto the first course. It was an interesting shrimp broth with herbs which actually looked like Kermit got blended again, and tasted suspiciously like dried shrimp from Chinatown. It wasn’t bad, but if it was shrimp from Chinatown in a broth, I’d have been just as happy. The shrimp was followed by a crab and artichoke dish, again in a light broth. This I liked, and having grown up on fresh-from-the-mangroves crab almost on a daily basis, I know fresh crab, and this was fresh crab.
The mains for the evening were probably my favourite dishes (besides the completely unexpected cucumber cream). Up first were big juicy pieces of lobster, cooked to perfection, served on a bed of mango chutney-style salad in a pool of mango infused tomato-ey sauce. Tangy and spicy and just the right amount of salty. And we all know how much I love mango. Divine.
This was followed by prawns, battered and fried, which were actually tasty, once I got through the batter. Why batter and fry something so good? I’m sure they had their reasons, but I was far more impressed by the side of sauteed onions and olives, topped with asparagus.
Though the meals didn’t seem enormous, as with all degustations, I was two clicks away from unbuttoning my jeans right there in a Michelin star restaurant. But wait, there’s more. Dessert was a raspberry mousse, and they ever so kindly allowed us to swap one out for a chocolate fondant so that we could expand our culinary experience (and waist lines) that little bit more. The chocolate fondant, served with pistachio ice cream, was pretty good, but the raspberry mousse came with a cone of citron ice cream that was so yummy my tastesbuds did a little dance.
All in all, dinner (and the 4.5 hours we spent there) was very good. The best I’ve had? Probably not. Would I recommend it? Sure I would, if you have the budget. Afterall, the passage to L’Huitriere is lined with such shops as Louis Vuitton, so if you can make it to dinner with your credit card unscathed, you should probably do it some damage, just to celebrate.
3 Rue des chats bossus