30 July 2011

How to Get Crabs in Paris

Ok, calm down.  This isn't that kind of a post.

While I from time to time claim the Southern USA as my home, I was actually born in Yankee territory.  Maryland to be more precise (and for those of you from above the Mason-Dixon line, yes, I know...not really Yankees in your head. However, for Southerners, we were part of the Union in that War of Northern Aggression.)  Anyhow, besides the hunky boys at the U.S. Naval Academy and the Baltimore Orioles, Maryland is known for crabs.  We are like the Bubba Gump of crab.  Cream of Crab Soup, Maryland Crab Soup, Crab Imperial, Crab Cakes, Soft Shell Crabs...the crab deliciousness doesn't stop.  Some of my fondest memories revolve around picnic tables covered in newspaper, and bushels of steamed crabs, red with Old Bay, being poured out on the table.  I reveled in taking a hammer to those shells and sucking the succulent crab meat out of the claws.  When I took Fab to Maryland last year, I insisted we do a crab boil, just so he would know what he was getting in to.  In short, happy times in life generally involve Maryland's crabby cuisine.

So when I heard that there was a place in Paris where you could roll up your Kooples sleeves and crack open a crab, I maybe got a wee bit excited.  And by wee, I mean I asked around for people to go with me until someone said "yes."  The lucky subject was Fab.  He is usually the victim of my dining whims.

Le Crabe Marteau is a two-story restaurant tucked away behind the Arc de Triomphe and the busy Avenue de Charles de Gaulle.  While the smell of Old Bay does not in any way seep out into the streets, the Breton decor and the freshness of today's catch written on the chalk board definitely tell you that you are in for a good time.  On their website, they even tell you what you will have during each season.  Quality, my friends, quality.

Everything on the menu revolves around crab, so if you are not a fan, then you'd best leave this spot off your list.  For an entrée, I had avocado and crab and Fabien took the croustillant de crabe.  Simple but just delicious.  The avocado half was filled with sweet, delicious crab meat and a ramekin of fresh mayo sat on the side.  I love it when you can control just how much mayo you want.  On the side, there was also another heap of crab meat and slices of avocado.  It was quite copious, and I was beginning to doubt my ability to handle the crab that would follow.  I blame the drunk French lady next to me commenting on how we were too "gourmand..."

Avocado and crab...like peanut butter and chocolate.
Then came the beasts.  The beautiful red tourteaux crabs came forth on a wooden board, with the accompanying hammer.  A pot of boiled potatoes also came with, including two amazing types of mayo: basil and plain.  We were a bit apprehensive...these crabs were a lot bigger than the blue crabs of Maryland.  Plus, there's something about being in a restaurant in the 17th arrodissement of Paris that makes you feel guilty for getting messy.  But we started cracking away at our crabs, loving the delicious, sweet meat while laughing at each other when crab shells would fly across the room.

Before: Beautiful, red crab
After: The carcass
The only thing that was a major bummer was that all through the meal, we saw these ah-mazing Paris-Brest coming out of the kitchen.  We definitely wanted to get our hands on some of that.  However, because we made our reservation for the 2nd seating (around 9:45 PM), they ran out.  So friends, if you want your world to be rocked by an individual Paris-Brest, then get there early.  Same thing for the langoustines.  None were to be had because the diners from the 1st seating ate them all.

This was probably the restaurant in Paris where I had the most fun.  I got to relive my childhood, eat with my hands, and laugh about awkward crab cracking methods.  Sometimes you just gotta get away from Parisian cafés and get a little crabby.


  1. De-freakin-licious. Crab & Avocado is nommy. Need a squirt of lemon and boom.

    Also, "How to get crabs in Paris" = lulz.

  2. Very fun! I hadn't heard of this restaurant. What are the prices like? I took a quick peak at the website, bit didn't see a menu.

    It's kind of odd on the entree that they do one avocado half with crab in it and then just a pile and some slices next to it. Not that I would complain because it looks like a lot of yummy crab and av, but what's the difference in serving them those two ways on the plate.

    I always think of cracking crabs a meal with lots of fun and lots of people. How's the place for larger groups?

    I will have to add this to my list of restaus to check!

  3. That sounds delicious! I love crab and it's been a long time since I've had any in copious quantities. My question is the same as Forest's... what are the prices like?

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. @Forest I would say for larger groups, as long as you reserve ahead, it will do. There is an upstairs area which could definitely hold close to 20 people.

    Prices...I think it varies according to the market price of the seafood. When we went, the entrée and plat came out to about 30 Euros. They had different combinations: crab + langoustines, just the crab, just the langoustines, crab + oysters on the half shell. They shake it up depending on the catch.