Le Petit Zinc - SELECTING OYSTERS IN PARIS
Unlike those in London, oyster restaurants in Paris encourage selling their oysters to "emporter." In other words, locals can make the experience more affordable by taking the oysters home. Outside the restaurant they can examine the restaurant menu as well as the "emporter" menu (see the menus in the slide show below). Ordering oysters at a restaurant instead of from a fish monger offers the advantage of knowing they are of the highest available quality. It is also possible to examine and select your oysters for consuming in the restaurant before you enter.
The building that houses LE PETIT ZINC has become a landmark in Paris. Originally a theater, it evolved into a bistro and restaurant in the late 20th Century called L'Assiette au Beurre. The name was borrowed from a French social protest magazine from the early 20th Century of the same name. My first contact with it was as "L'Assiette."
Le Petit Zinc restaurant was originally founded in 1964, but was located a few blocks away on Rue de Buci. It moved to its current location on Rue Saint Benoit in 1990.
The building emulates the Art Nouveau style buildings in Paris of the early 20th Century and is just a tad gorgeous inside and out. It is barely half a block away from Les Deux Magots - a renowned hangout for the likes of Jean Paul Sartre and Ernest Hemingway back in the day. It is down the street from Le Petit Saint-Benoit, one of the oldest (1912) restaurants still functional in Paris. The neighborhood is all tiny shops full of the tantalizingly exquisite. Great fun.
Like many oyster restaurants in Paris, the "Zinc" displays their current stock of oysters open to the street with a uniformed and knowledgeable shucker standing guard. When in Paris, I monitor the display at Zinc and discuss the qualities of the oysters on hand with the shucker on duty. When you visit at an off hour, the shuckers are very courteous and will explain the benefits of the available oysters and allow you to watch as they open and prepare them to serve.
The boxes of oysters are also in full view with their labels visible. The idea is to get a sneak peek at what is available in town and jot down a few good oyster possibilities. Click on the thumbnails to see the slides below. Belons were available at Zinc but not at peak taste.
The entry of the restaurant could not be more inviting. The facade is in immaculate condition. The glass canopy and bronze curves are reminiscent of the turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau work of Hector Guimard. Note: Thank you to Mssr. Debankar Barua, the shucker on duty in the photos below. He is holding a classic "Belon" oyster.