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It’s a seldom yet pleasant surprise to find a good oyster where it’s least expected. Having dined at Hotel Griffou over a year ago, the experience was flat. The design and décor of this underground townhouse turned restaurant found a way to blend trendy and forbidden, creating a most desirable atmosphere. However, the meal left much to be desired. Besides sipping a strong cocktail in their seductive lounge bar, there was no reason to return. Until now.

We recently heard about the Griffou Oyster Cellar Club conceived and executed by the newly hired Chef David Santos. It was time to give this restaurant a second chance.

Chef David Santos has completely taken charge, redoing the menu with a focus on local and seasonal produce where the robust natural flavors of his personally chosen ingredients shine. Besides the daily additions, which are based off of the fresh (and sometimes rare) delivery of the day, Santos has created a Tuesday dinner dedicated to our favorite bivalve. The full menu is available, but it would be a misstep not to try some of these special creations if dining there on a Tuesday evening. Besides, the ambiance of the space still screams for a bite of the little aphrodisiac.

First up-the raw oysters.  There were three varieties ranging from $1-$3 a piece. The $1 Flower Oysters from Long Island, NY although slightly more delicate, were in close resemblance to the more common Blue Point oyster from the same region. They were clean, crisp and meaty. The $2 Little Creeks from Hood Canal in Washington were more metallic with a strong taste of the sea. And the $3 Baby Wellfleets from Cape Cod were briny, quite salty, but nonetheless incredibly fresh. All of the oysters were well selected, perfectly shucked, and if not for the rest of the meal to come, a repeat dozen would have been in order.

The cooked oyster dishes consisted of the Roasted Oyster Florentine, served in a ceramic baking dish rather then the shell, and the Oyster Fritter Po Boy in a brioche bun.  Both dishes were big on flavor, but with the oyster’s identity still intact. To complement our oyster dishes we shared a bottle of Riesling from Finger Lakes, NY. Another selection of the Chef, it was a beautifully crisp and sweet pairing to the oyster dishes.

Craving a taste of the regular menu, we decided to try a couple other starters. The first was a cumin cured steelhead bay trout belly. The spicy flavoring and the slight touch of cilantro subdued the natural fattiness of the fish. We also enjoyed the homemade cazzaregli pastas with rabbit sausage, big on flavor but incredibly light.

Second time’s a charm for Hotel Griffou. So if dining there before was less then jaw dropping, its time for a revisit. A meal at the hands of Chef Santos will not disappoint. And if you can make it out there on a Tuesday, those oysters and special oyster dishes will leave you craving more.

Hotel Griffou
21 West 9th Street
New York, NY 10011-8939
(212) 358-0228

In a time when cuisine categorization is the first source in defining a restaurant, comes a new addition, who’s self chosen identify is purposely ambiguous and obscure. The new restaurant is The Dutch, and the cuisine of choice is American Food, whatever that may be. In considering the foods typically served to commemorate a national holiday, the first things that pop into mind are burgers, bbq, and pretty much anything you can throw on a grill and serve along side a corn on the cob. But for Andrew Carmellini it is an undefinable opportunity to cook anything and everything, which is exactly what he does, and does it well. Of course as soon as we heard there was an Oyster Room, we were there to check it out.

The Oyster Room is one of three rooms in the grand space that encompasses what looks like an all American bistro, if there were such a thing. The other two are The Prince room and The Sullivan room, named for their geographic location in relation to the corner on which the restaurant is located. Although the full menu is offered throughout the entire restaurant, each space is unique in its dining mood. With a more laid back aura, the Prince and Oyster rooms, separated by the oyster and liquor bars, are louder and more lounge type, where as the Sullivan room is slightly more on the formal side, with larger banquet style booths near a working fireplace and open kitchen. With lower lights, and louder music, the high energy ambiance is only enhanced by a menu which offers everything across the board, from fried chicken to peel and eat prawns and rabbit pot pie. Everything we tasted left our palates doing a happy dance and eagerly anticipating the next dish to come.

Situating ourselves at the Oyster bar in the Oyster Room, we began with a half dozen bivalves. Surprised to see only four varieties on the menu, Chef Carmellini later explained that he preferred to open his new baby with quality over quantity. Perhaps in the future there may be more, but for now, he’s sticking to the four. Not our type of ratio, there were three east coast and one west. From the west, the Welfleets from Massachusetts were sweet and refreshing, and slightly smaller than the meaty and delightfully light Blue Points from Long Island. The Malpeques from Prince Edward Island, were surprisingly not too briny, but nonetheless quite salty. And saving the best for last, the beautifully white-shelled Kusshi from British Columbia were deep cupped, plump, with a sweet start and an oceany finish.

As for the rest of the menu, it was a quite the challenge narrowing down our choices. But after some consultation, with several members of the very knowledgeable staff, our decision was solidified. Obviously, we had to start with the little oyster sandwich, typically known as an oyster po boy. Perfectly fried, the warm Blue Point oyster took center stage without being overpowered by the light and crispy cornmeal breading. The ultimate small bite to kick start the meal. Next up, we had the Peel N’ Eat Prawns. Served a long side a sweet red remoulade, the spiciness of the seasoning combined beautifully with the natural sweetness of the crustacean. Whats better than breaking off the head and taking a plunge into that delicacies inside. Our starters commenced with the Dressed Crab served atop of an avocado puree and a bloody mary sauce. It was delicate, light but with a kick, just like a good bloody mary cocktail.

For our entrees, we did a little surf and turf combo, ordering the Scallops and Pork chop. The Scallops seared with texture and flavor intact, were served along side robustly green spring peas and our favorite flavor of the night, the in house-pickled ramps. A very seasonal item, the vegetable in this dish brought out the naturally sweet flavors of the protein it so beautifully garnished. Although we found the pork chop to be a little tough, the smokiness, combined with the spicy glaze and swiss chard did the job in balancing it out.

No American meal would be complete without pie. And so our already gastronomically entertained palates were shocked once more with the sweet and tart flavors of the perfectly executed rhubart pie.

Oh, and the best part is they’re open late night. If you’ve been reading, its no surprise that past a certain hour, the oysterblog tends to gravitate towards a shucking station. You’ll now know where to find us!

The Dutch
131 Sullivan St.
New York, NY 10012
212-677-6200

With the array of diverse online dating sites available these days, NYC has become a mecca of first dates, which sadly at times are also the last. The problem of attaining a date solved, the next step is enticing that girl to secure a second encounter. So much is riding on this first impression, adequate execution can be quite challenging, and more often than not, the dude just doesn’t get it right. Although an aphrodisiac, just eating oysters wont do. To the rescue comes a site ready to answer his questions and impress her. www.socialsharknyc.com.

The site is multi functional offering date ideas, venues and even straight from the source dos and don’ts, the “She Said” page. It’s interactive, interesting, and educational. So boys-sign up now. These essentials are free with the option of one-on-one consulting for a personalized social/dating life makeover.

At the launch party last night, held at the trendy RdV in the Meatpacking district of New York City, we celebrated with cake and Shark-Tails, courtesy of Kettle One Vodka. Like the site, the drinks were amusing in presentation and abundant in substance. But of course no celebration would be complete without a few oysters. And so after many many Shark Tinis, our night continued at Pastis, where we toasted with Rose bubbly and indulged in a few Blue Points from the East and Plump Kumamotos from the West.

Social Shark NYC!! Register now

www.socialsharknyc.com

Nothing smells more of summer’s approach than some freshly shucked oysters and a cold draft beer outside. Although it wasn’t the warmest of spring days this past Saturday, the sound of the cracking shells, and brew filling an abundance of plastic cups, was enough to mask the brisk air outside. It was the South Street Seaport Oyster Saloon at the New Amsterdam Market, and the energy was overflowing with oyster lovers.

Arriving just before the call time of 5pm, my friend and I were lucky to snag a good spot at one of the high top tables. It was hard to believe that this small patch of pavement under the bustling FDR drive was transformed into an oyster paradise. At one end were multiple kegs of beer, courtesy of Brooklyn Brewery, Six Point Brewery and Barrier Brewing Company. We began with the Six Points Harbinger, a great accompaniment to the many many oysters we were about to consume. The space divided in half, with cooked oyster dishes on one side and an array of shucking stations on other, we decided to work backwards and start with the cooked ones. It was quite cold outside, and what better way to warm up than with April Bloomfield’s Pan Roast. The delicate creamy broth with two poached oysters and crispy toast was just as good prepared outdoors as we’ve tasted from her John Dory Oyster Bar kitchen. Now it was onto the fried stuff, the Oyster Po Boys from Neuman’s Catering and Fried Oysters from Bobo. We liked the condiments of the Po Boy Sandwich, but were fonder of Bobo’s frying job. The Oyster Omelete courtesy of Kumma Inn, an old time favorite of mine, was not as good as their Chinese Sausage (I dream about this dish sometimes), but definitely an interesting take on the egg/bivalve combo. Luke’s Lobster Charcoal Grilled Oysters were warm and cuddly, with enough flavor to bring out the oyster and Great Performances offered a rather different than typical approach to the Oyster Rockefeller. We cleansed our palates with the buttered bread courtesy of Sullivan Street Bakery, grabbed another beer, and were ready to take on the fourteen varieties of Oysters on the other side.

Having heard so much about the Effingham Oysters, there was no question that we would be starting on that end of the line (which we soon realized was the wrong side-oops). A fantastic refreshing oyster, I hope it makes more appearances at my favorite seafood joints in the city.  The eight types from the Chesapeake region were largest in size, all similar in taste and refreshing. The Cape May Salts from Delaware Bay were a favorite of the night, and we used our last two tickets for a second helping. Unfortunately with the lines quite long, and the air getting only colder, we didn’t have a chance to visit the Rhode Island stands, and taste the Quonset Points. I guess they and us will have to make a reappearance next year!

Sad to leave all the shucking behind, we shivered out with a cup of freshly brewed coffee and ginger cake from Blue Bottle Coffee. What a great way to kick off the Oyster Festival Season!

http://www.newamsterdammarket.org/events.html

Second time’s a charm for The Mussel Pot. I was thrilled with the news that a seafood restaurant would be joining the eclectic scene on Bleeker Street in the West Village, and that I would be one of the few lucky patrons to sample the restaurant’s fair before it opened to the public. On this grand opening night, the aromatic house Malbec was flowing, the energy was high, but unfortunately, the food was not on pare with my expectations. Something told me that this detour could only be attributed to opening night jitters, and that this restaurant deserved a second chance. I’m glad I went with my gut.

The Mussel Pot had fully redeemed itself on our returned visit this past week. The restaurant sets itself apart from the otherwise tourist-driven neighbors. It’s approachable, offering the ideal atmosphere for a casual dinner, while at the same time allowing for a more quaint and romantic experience, at the diner’s choosing.  There are breathtaking photos on the wall, which are all available for purchase. And the jewel of the restaurant, a small waterfall garden in the back with just enough space for two small tables. The menu offers an array of ocean inhabitant goodies, with an obvious focus on a diverse variety of mussel preparations.

Dining with two friends, we decided to share everything, beginning with a half dozen oyster of course. On this particular evening, they were offering the Shinne Cook from the East Coast, a very mild and delicate buttery oyster. As well as the Peep Bay from the West, which was deeper in character with a robust sea finish. Overall, the oysters were well shucked and appetizing in taste and presentation.

For appetizers, we opted to try the tuna tar tar and the seafood ceviche. In contrast to opening night, the tar tar/guacamole ration was perfect, with the tuna adhering to its natural flavor while being enhanced by the silkiness of the avocados. The seafood ceviche was refreshing, well portioned and a great way to start a meal.

For our main courses, we had a difficult time narrowing down our choices. With over twenty types of mussel preparations, as well as other various entrées, we took to our server for assistance. He immediately steered us towards the Chef’s Best and the Bouillabaisse for our mussels as well as the whole grilled fish. The Chef Special was full of bold flavors of pancetta, lobster and extravagantly shaved black truffles. The Bouillabaisse had a milder flavor, taking on the characteristics of the seafood ingredients. And the whole grilled branzino was perfection. Although the restaurant is clearly mussel focused, this was our favorite dish of the night. The fish was tender, juicy and flakey. If not for having to share it with my two friends, I would have eaten the entire thing, head to tail.

Our meal ended with the delicate drunk cheesecake.

With a variety of mussel dishes screaming to be tasted, we will certainly be back soon. And what can be better than a big bowl of steaming hot mussels accompanied by a delicious house wine.

The Mussel Pot
174 Bleecker St.
New York, NY 10012
(917) 312-6845

My aunt Rose and my mom are the sisters that neither one of them had. In fact, Aunt Rose is not technically my aunt, she’s my dad’s cousins wife, which I guess in accurate family tree hierarchy would make her my great aunt-in law. So boring, especially if you know anything about this amazing woman. Seldom caught without a string or pearls, she is an essence of warmth on the inside and out. Growing up, it was always the three of us ladies. And even though a generation their junior, I was invited to take part in their shopping sprees, cooking extravaganzas, or yenta style discourse. I learned early!

First college, and then just the typical life nuisances made our gatherings more and more sporadic. And so it was time to bring back the dynamic trio that we once were and start a new tradition. A monthly, boozy, foodie night on the town. Our March outing topped the charts, with an evening that I will soon not forget.

March 31st secured in our books, I learned of a City Harvest event hosted by New York Magazine and Saks Fifth Avenue. Great Combo! In Good Taste invited shoppers to drink, shop, and eat for a good cause.

Knowing that it was highly unlikely there would be a shucking station amid Armani, Escada or Calvin Klein, we decided to kick off the evening at The John Dory Oyster Bar for a quick oyster happy hour. Two dozen oysters, and three glasses of Cava later, we were ready to eat, shop and spend. It was for a good cause, after all.

Having attended a decent number of food focused events in NYC, I find that most take on the same theme. Well renowned restaurants and chefs, all gathered in a large space, cooking and sampling out their innovative small bites. Don’t get me wrong, I love and live for these, but something was different about this one. Perhaps it was the fashionable celebratory feeling, or an opportunity to share my passion with my two favorite gals, but we really took it all in and had a blast.

Each restaurant was stationed near their respectively paired designer. First bite-the Tuna Tar Tar from an oysterblog favorite-BLT and Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti. A simple, sophisticated, and delicate beginning. Next, an across the board favorite of the night, the Artichoke Chestnut Hummus on Tortilla Crisps from B.E.S. A dish that used the simplest ingredients, it was one of the tastiest and most memorable. The Fluke Ceviche from L’Artusi was clean and elegant just like its designer counter part-Donna Karen. The Olive Oil-poached Salmon, a creation by The London, melted in our mouths. The whimsical presentation of Peekytoe Crab Cones in a tree trunk was a playful treat from Park Avenue Café. And just like Michael Kors tends to shock with an out of character motif, so did the crispy delectable Crab Toast from ABC Kitchen.

We gave into the evening, enjoying all the small bites, the refreshing Proseco that so dangerously stayed replenished in our glasses, and a finale of a Chanel purchase and Macaroons from Bouchon Bakery.

Full and giddy, we didn’t even notice the rain outside as we made our way back home, purchases in hand. Drinking and shopping is a very risky combination.

Next outing-Cinco de Mayo. Stay Tuned.

http://www.cityharvest.org/saksfifthavenue

Kismet! On a previous visit to The Breslin, not to my liking we were seated at a table in the rear part of the restaurant. A small two top, nestled between two larger tables, and away from all the action of this vivacious restaurant, it was not the best of tables. And for anyone who knows me well, placement is a virtual part of a good dining experience for me. But as the saying goes, everything happens for a reason, and the initial disappointment quickly turned to appetent, mouth-watering anticipation.

Glancing up from my delectably satiating scotch egg (http://theoysterblog.com/2011/01/26/the-scotch-egg-and-oysters-at-the-breslin/), there it was! An entire hog carefully transported from the grand kitchen, and placed among a group of diners gathered around the cozy chef’s table anterior to the open kitchen. Perhaps barbaric on some level, it was a vision of scrumptious beauty. The following day a reservation was secured for the next available 8pm Saturday seating. And two months later, it was finally our turn.

Dining at a chef’s table is always a distinguishable, almost elite, experience within the culinary hierarchy. Usually in close proximity to an open kitchen, with a specifically designed menu, the dishes tend to sway from the regular menu for a memorable gastronomical affair. Adhering to these basics, The Breslin kicks some serious butt, offering an entire Suckling Pig for eight to twelve pork-loving guests.

Our meal nonchalantly began with their notoriously unparalleled cesear salad with anchovy croutons, followed by duck fat roasted potatoes, roasted fennel, and broccoli rabe. Then the main attraction made his appearance.  Having fun with the whole thing, my friends went so far as to name our little beast, Wilbur. It was mean, and cruel, but hilarious at the same time. So here we were, at Wilbur’s going away party! Our server was kind enough to carve the little guy for us. First bite of the crispy skin sent our palates into motion, followed by the tender, juicy meat on the inside and then the grand finale-the carving of the head, revealing the small delicacies inside. After we exhausted ourselves tasting as much of the piggy anatomy as our stomach’s would allow for, the carcass was removed and we tended to our sweet tooth with their bittersweet chocolate tart. It was quite the meal. Twelve friends, a whole pig, and a lot of laughter.

Of course, not even an entire suckling pig can appease my craving for oysters. Being only a few steps away from The John Dory Oyster bar, there was no leaving the Ace Hotel without a quick stop. A half dozen West Coast oysters later, I was ready to call it a night.

Oink Oink!

The Breslin
16 W 29th St
New York, NY 10001
(646) 214-5788