Chez Roellinger: Seafood and the Sea

When we ran up the stairs, we found apples from the garden on our desk

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and a tin of Olivier Roellinger’s salted-butter sables (shortbread cookies) on our bed

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I had wanted to come to Cancale and eat at Roellinger’s for several years, but it never worked out – I always called to reserve just a little too late.  Then Mr. Roellinger earned his third Michelin star and it became even more difficult to nab a reservation … but I got lucky this year. 

The night we arrived in Cancale, we ate at Le Coquillage, Roellinger’s seafood bistro in the Chateau Richeux.  (His Michelin-starred restaurant is in the Maison de Bricourt in Cancale proper.) Sitting by the fire and having a glass of champagne and a few nibbles, like this foie gras over spiced fig jam (the red flower was plucked from the pineapple sage plants in the garden)

Roellinger_foie_gras

we decided on a meal that would give us the chance to taste just about all the seafood the team had in the kitchen that night.  It was called the Menu Grignotage, or snacking menu, and it turned out to be a great choice for us.

Chef Roellinger later told me that the inspiration for this meal was the classic plateau fruits de mer, the large round platters that are piled high with shellfish and are both the specialty and mainstay of seafood restaurants all over France.  In fact, his Menu Grignotage included a plateau, two actually, but the plateaux, or trays, were rectangular and they carried a surprising mix of fish, seafood and vegetables. 

The first plateau held the appetizers and included (in the order in which it was suggested we taste everything)

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  • Warm Jerusalem artichoke soup with parsley puree
  • Warm curried vegetable samosas (The Kid liked these so much that the waiter brought him extras)
  • Cancale oysters
  • Bouquet (sweet shrimp)
  • Bigornaux (like baby whelks), which we pulled out of their shells with pins
  • Snapper tartar
  • Scallops marinated in soy, sesame, lemon and ginger (a favorite)
  • Smoked mackerel and lime
  • Potato and lightly smoked cod salad tossed in a mustard vinaigrette (a great combination)

Then came the “main course” tray with

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  • Calamari with a tomato chutney/jam
  • Crabs and clams, almost “casino”
  • Scallop brochettes
  • Brill (like a turbot) over bulgur with a tarragon mousseline sauce
  • Sea bass cooked on a hot stone and seasoned with herbs, flowers and oils, a quiet tour-de-force and the kind of dish you remember forever

Then there was the dessert cart, wheeled around by a pastry cook who looked as though he wasn’t old enough to be up so late, but whose eyes sparkled when he talked about the millefeuille.  As much as I would have loved the millefeuille or the tarte Tatin or the cream-filled savarin, I just couldn’t.  Michael, Joshua and I shared some profiteroles (the chocolate sauce was wonderful) and tip-toed up the stairs. 

I hated to miss the Tatin, but it was funny that, in being a grown-up and saying no, I had the memory of being a child.  When I was little, I never wanted to go to bed.  There was always one more thing I wanted to do and I was always begging for more time, but my mother’s answer was unfailingly the same:  “Tomorrow is another day.”  And so, taking one last look at the moonlit bay, I thought “Tomorrow is another day … and tomorrow I’ll be having dinner chez Roellinger again.”  It made it so much easier to give up the tart.

Dorie Greenspan

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