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Oyster Gourmet finally opening at Grand Central Market, in a shell of its own

Russ Parsons
The California Cook
A set from a '50s science fiction movie? A cross between a rocket ship and a tiki bar? It's Oyster Gourmet.

The next time you visit Grand Central Market, do not be surprised by what looks something like a lost set from a 1950s science fiction movie. Or is it a rocket ship/tiki bar? Whatever, Christophe Happillon’s Oyster Gourmet kiosk has finally landed on the upper deck by Hill Street, and it is something to see.

It’s taken 18 months, but Oyster Gourmet will officially begin serving oysters, clams, shrimp and assorted seafood-inspired salads at the market Thursday morning.

As cool as that might be, it’s likely the structure in which he’ll be doing it will generate almost as much conversation. It’s essentially a round stall with wood and canvas wings that can be cranked up and down. When they’re up, they create a sense of space and openness; lowered, they completely cover whatever is going on inside.

If you think that sounds kind of like what an oyster shell does, you’re right on track.

“It’s kind of like we’ve created this oyster, and Christophe is the pearl in the shell,” says Claus Benjamin Freyinger, the principal at the Los Angeles Design Group who oversaw the project. “We’re not just selling food here. We’re selling process; we’re selling performance.”

Fittingly, the stand will get its first full debut tonight at a private event for the American Institute of Architecture Los Angeles design awards and party.

“It’s small but cozy,” says Happillon. “It’ll be like a stage for the people who are working. We want people to be all around it. And I’ll be at the center opening the oysters and talking about them.”

Happillon is already familiar to Southern California shellfish fans through his pop-up appearances at restaurants such as Perch, Joe’s Restaurant and Maison Giraud. He also does private catering and has been shucking and selling at local farmers markets.

The menu at Oyster Gourmet will be fairly simple, at least at the start. There’ll be five types of oysters every day, reflecting Happillon’s obsession with what he calls meroir – the idea that specific locations create different flavors in oysters, just as specific vineyards do with grapes.

He’ll also have clams and shrimp, as well as a few prepared dishes such as Hawaiian poke and seafood and seaweed salads and ceviche.

The Oyster Gourmet will also be serving wines and beer that Happillon believes pair especially well with oysters. Perhaps controversially, he says all of the wines will be French. “Those are the wines that I know best and I know will pair exactly well with these oysters.”

Oysters will sell for 3 for $9, 6 for $16 and a dozen for $32 and glasses of wine will be mostly $9 to $11, with some special choices a little higher. Oyster Gourmet will be serving from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Oyster Gourmet at the Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles.

Are you a food geek? Follow me on Twitter @russ_parsons1

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