In Praise of the Oyster Bar

I took my son to the Grand Central Oyster Bar a couple months back. It is as New York as anything could be. It crackles with traffic, characters and noise. Sitting at the counter makes you feel cut loose from time.  We had a delicious cold beer or two and got to try oysters from both coasts.

The menu had exactly 30 different varieties, which is typical for the Oyster Bar, though the choices change daily. Everything is cold water sourced.  I only eat fried oysters in New Orleans  because a.) hepatitis and b.) Drago’s, whose oyster are among my favorite things to eat in the whole world. Cold water oysters are safe – the whole, ‘only months with an ‘r’ in them’ thing refers to warm water sources.

There a 5 varieties of edible oysters There is a variety from Florida called Apalachicolas which was not on the menu. I am not sure I have ever had it. West Coast oysters are all the Olympia varietal.  The three from the Northeast are Wellfleets,  found in Massachusetts, Maine and north,  Blue Points around Long Island and Chincoteagues from Virginia.

I guess because the West Coast are all the same varietal they don’t vary as much. The West Coast ones are smoother, sweeter, and subtler.  I can see how some claim they are more accessible. Hama Hama and Kunamoto were our favorites.

Better represented were the East Coast varieties. These are larger, saltier, meatier and have more varied flavors. We really enjoyed the Malpeque from PEI , the Pemaquid from Maine and the Katama from Massachusetts.

We got exposed to a much wider spectrum of flavors than seemed possible. Savory of course but some woodsy and nutty, then some citric or buttery and one with a note of melon!  He liked his with a touch of mignonette but I don;t put anything on mine. I preferred the East Coast varieties and he agreed, but they were almost all great.

It had been a long time since I had been there and had new appreciation for its beautiful constancy.  It was my son’s first time and there is little in life sweeter than showing these things you love to your kids and having them get the enjoyment of the thing too.

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