Who cares what Bugs and Daffy say about whether it's rabbit season or duck season? It’s officially oyster season in the Gulf Coast region.
You may be wondering what the big deal is with eating oysters in season. I had a chance to sit down at Reef recently with chef Bryan Caswell to talk all things mollusks. Here is what he had to say:
• January, February and March are the best months to eat oysters because they mature, grow and fatten-up as the water gets colder.
• Interesting fact: Oysters will taste different from week to week because of the ebb and flow of the water they are in.
• Fresh water makes oysters grow and salt water makes them taste good (gives them the salinity).
Need more of an oyster eating primer? Try these pointers on for size:
• Don’t know what to order? Describe to your server what flavors and/or textures you think you’d like.
• Flavor descriptors might include salty, sweet, briny, metallic and buttery. Texture descriptors might include chewy, tender, firm, or soft.
• East Coast oysters tend to be milder, saltier and brinier than their West Coast counterparts that lean more towards creaminess and sweetness.
• There’s technically no right way to eat an oyster, but one easy way to do it is to take your tiny fork and make sure the oyster is detached from the shell. You can then either use the fork to place the oyster in your mouth and then sip the oyster liquor from the shell or just (delicately) slurp the whole thing at once. Be sure to tip the oyster shell into your mouth from the wider end of the shell.
Now that we’ve gotten the "who" and "what" out of the way, let’s get to "where." While I love oysters I don’t always love what they do to my pocket book, so I have taken to hunting down oyster specials as if I were a big game hunter in the wilds of the jungle. It’s not just about price though — quality matters too. There’s not much that's more disappointing than a bland, not-at-the-peak-of-freshness oyster.
The result of all that hunting and research, my friends, is a bevy of resources that will enable you to get your oyster fix in whatever fashion suits you best. With that said, here are my best briny bivalve picks:
Cheap and In the Raw
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen on Kirby (and other locations): For a limited time Pappadeaux is offering a dozen Gulf Coast oysters for $5.95 Monday through Thursday. They serve this special all day so there’s no need to wait for any special hours. You can also enjoy them anywhere in the restaurant and not just at the bar.
Goode Co. Seafood (Katy Freeway): On Thursday nights the Katy Freeway location of Goode Co. is hopping, because that’s when patrons can get a dozen fresh Gulf oysters for $6.95 (which can include the delectable Appalachian oysters when they can get their hands on them).
Danton’s Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen: The “Oyster Bar Happy Hour” serves up one dozen raw oysters for 90 cents each, Tuesday-Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. If you happen to get your oyster craving on a Monday though, you’re in luck, because from 4 to 8 p.m. the same dozen go for $6.50.
Ragin Cajun LA Bar: LA Bar is a new Ragin Cajun offshoot. Here, a half-dozen oysters on the half shell are $8 and $12 for a dozen. Although not raw, it’s worth mentioning the bar’s two unique oyster dishes. One is the “Mardi Gras Oysters,” which are fried oysters topped with pico de gallo; and the other is the Grilled Oysters that are basted with a savory, homemade buffalo wing sauce and served with ranch or blue cheese. Both are oyster flavor bombs.
Oyster Eating at All Costs
If price is not a concern and variety in terms of type and preparation are what matters more, these hot spots are just the ticket:
Triniti: Known for its inventive style of food preparation, Triniti serves seasonal oysters on the half shell with a twist with accompaniments of radish mignonette and a smoked tomato cocktail sauce. A half-dozen/dozen is $18/$28, respectively. In addition, during happy hour at the bar only, grilled oysters are three for $4.
Brasserie 19: Oysters on the Half Shell are a daily selection at Brasserie 19, so you could potentially titillate your palate every day of the week with a new varietal. Gulf Oysters are $9/$18 and East Coast Oysters are $14/$28 for half-dozen and dozen, respectively.
An exciting side note: If you’re in search of an oyster adventure, one of the rarest oysters in the world is the Belon, a European oyster bred in Maine, and Brasserie 19 has them. The oyster's flavor is said to be “redolent of fish and zinc and umami.” Only 5,000 are harvested per year, so if you have the opportunity to try one, go for it!
Oceanaire: Known for its Oyster Bar, Oceanaire sells oysters individually, with prices hovering around $2.90-$3 each. The restaurant boasts 15 varietals hailing from Nova Scotia, Massachusetts and Prince Edward Island. One particularly intriguing variety is called the “Shoregasm.”
Sounds like a mollusk making promises to me.
By the way, if you happen to be at the bar during happy hour, a freshly-shucked trio of house selected oysters and the Oysters Rockefeller go for $6.
Reef: Oysters are currently offered at $12 for a half-dozen and $24 for a dozen. Caswell tries to select at least two Texas varietals to include in the week's offerings, which rotate according to quality, salinity and size. I tried the Creole Bay oysters from Texas and they were well worth it.
Eddie V’s: Market Oysters are going for $16 for a half-dozen. During its nightly happy hour 4 to 7 p.m., the “V” Lounge is currently offering $1 Louisiana Oysters, as well as batter-fried oysters in a Vietnamese curry sauce for $9.
Still haven't got your fill of oysters?
Then head down to Louisiana for the annual New Orleans Oyster Fest held June 1 and 2. If oysters are supposed to be an aphrodisiac then I can’t imagine any oysters that would incite more l’amour than those in NOLA. See you there!