If there’s one place I keep coming back to in Paris, it’s Le Duc. Opened in 1967 by Jean Minchelli, this seafood restaurant was one of a pioneering generation of “Nouvelle Cuisine” establishments that broke with tradition by doing away with heavy sauces and long cooking times to let ingredients shine. The result: Le Duc was the first in Paris to serve raw fish, causing quite a stir at the time! The restaurant is celebrating its 50th birthday this year, proof that you don’t need esoteric techniques or celebrity chefs to make a lasting impression.
What I love about Le Duc, besides the fresh fish delivered daily, is its simplicity and reliability. While ministers, magnates and models have been coming here since it opened five decades ago, Le Duc has always maintained a low-key elegance underscored by service and quality. The wood-paneled interior with its myriad fish portraits and soft leather banquettes feels like a portal into another era. If you become a regular—dishes like salt-cured salmon with delicate mayonnaise, apples and boiled potatoes are reason enough to return—you’ll quickly feel like part of a family.
The key to Le Duc’s success lies in the freshness of its seafood and the light hand of chef Pascal Hélard. The fish comes almost exclusively from Brittany, the oysters from Normandy and the salmon and langoustine from Scotland. The simple techniques and absence of artifice—foams, droppers and emulsions are no where to be seen here—leave no room for error. Jean Minchelli introduced raw fish to Paris with dishes like bar tartare and raw scallops. Other preparations like clams with thyme, Madras mussels and fresh crab salad haven’t changed a bit since Minchelli developed them fifty years ago. But he was a visionary in his time and his creations are as compelling today as they were back then. And that’s what keeps me coming back: perfectly prepared dishes like the lobster with a light orange sauce and crisp onions.
Go to Le Duc for the fish, but leave room for dessert—Le Duc follows through to the end, with standard-setting baba au rhum and millefeuille. And take it from a regular—the best seat in the house is at the bar.