I was given a GC to this oyster joint at Christmas and finally managed to get myself here this past weekend. Nothing like a little Christmas in July! I wanted to be sure to get there during their weekend happy hour (on Saturday from 11am-1pm). My friend and I arrived just after noon and settled in to the beautiful U-shaped bar. The French, antique theme is just wonderful - and the outside patio was packed. Actually, all the other tables in the house were packed, so that says something!
We dove into oyster ordering to be sure to cash in on their really good deal ($1 oysters - east coast - and cheaper west coast - during happy hour). After ordering two bloody marys (these are not your typical bottomless pitcher version - expertly crafted and extravagantly garnished) we settled in to perusing the rest of the menu. What started out as just a stop to try oysters became a raw bar and cocktail sampling afternoon (we were there at least 3 hours). Michael, who was the bartender taking care of us, was exceptional - both in personality and in his skill behind the bar - making suggestions and allowing us to taste some things we were less familiar with.
From the plethora of oysters...both east coast and west....we tried about 2 dozen varieties - all well shucked and accompanied with fresh grated horseradish, a mignonette and a house-made cocktail sauce. (I am an oyster purist for the most part, so though I tasted the sauces for fun, I ate the oysters as is...slurping every last bit of liquor out of their opalescent shells).
We also sampled something called "blood clams" - which look like they sound. I have never seen these on a menu, so I just had to try them. We ordered 2 which ended up being 4 halves - deep cupped and dark in color, they were surrounded by a thick red liquid. Apparently we were supposed to have them with a sauce placed nearby on the raw bar tower - but we missed that and had them plain. Would I recommending going bare and bold like we did? Maybe...I'm glad I tried them...but I likely won't have them again. We tried their raw scallop served slightly cut up in its shell and topped with some mystery ingredients (perhaps a cheese and maybe some butter sauce and shallots?) that was delightful and rich. We also had a few of their shrimp cocktail - something I tend to avoid. My friend prompted us ordering that, so I only had one piece, but I was pleasantly surprised at how perfectly cooked the shrimp were (not overly so as tends to be the case with this dish) and how not-freezing cold they were too, making their texture wonderful (something every restaurant serving shrimp cocktail should learn). The house-made cocktail sauce was a treat alongside the shrimp. Lastly...we sampled their uni - from the west coast and served in its shell (with the beautiful urchin spikes) with cilantro, lime and avocado. This was AMAZING. A must order for any uni fan.
For hot foods - we only ended up ordering their bread served with seaweed butter and their "breakfast meats" - a little pot with thick slab bacon and sausages. Both great to share.
After the bloody mary, we enjoyed the evergreen (absinthe) cocktail, dan patch (a julep), maison sherry cobbler, mai thai (recommended to me from the bartender who claims it to be his favorite....it is a drink I would NEVER customarily order...but I was happy to have done so here)....then we moved to beer and tried both the Evil Twin "cowboy" smoked pilsner (you have to try it to understand it) and their own Maison oyster stout - tremendously smooth and all too easy to drink.
I highly recommend this restaurant for anyone willing to sample a new drink, munch on oysters and to enjoy such a long lost art as a leisurely, old world afternoon chatting. I read someone else's review starting with "Do people still go out on dates? If they do....they should go here." and that is absolutely perfectly summed up. It doesn't need to be a date-only place (good, because I went with a friend of mine and we were definitely NOT on a date) but it is a great place for a date or an intimate evening.
** Also...something I should point out is a first....and it was unprompted! I had my cell phone on the bar in order to look up information about each oyster we were tasting. The bartender - Michael - noticed this and in his concern to be sure that it didn't get wet from the oyster tray's ice causing condensation and dripping onto the bar - he gave me a mint julep cup with a napkin inside and put my phone in it! Talk about a classy way to keep your phone out and water-free! **
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