Food

Critic's Choice: Forget caviar — it's time to indulge in raw oysters

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Maybe it's the nip in the air. Maybe it's the proximity to the holidays, but this time of year I'm craving oysters. And I don't mean a measly half-dozen but a giant iced platter of glistening raw mollusks ready to be slurped down with Champagne or a minerally white wine.

For a long time, Water Grill was the place to go for oysters. It's still a good choice, along with any of Joachim Splichal's restaurants. But happily we now have more places that are featuring oysters on their menus on a regular basis, and often at very good prices, which means you can eat lots. It's a splurge, yes, but less expensive than many other indulgences. This year, forget about the caviar and concentrate on oysters.

Cliff's Edge

On Thursdays, oysters are one dollar apiece from 6 to 7 p.m., which I'd call a very happy hour. Served from a marble-topped bar in the garden, there are usually two types, often Kumiai from Baja California and Phantom Creek from British Columbia. After 7 p.m., that half-dozen goes for $12 and a dozen for $20, still a bargain when some restaurants charge up to $3 apiece. Owner-manager Pierre Casanova picks the wines by the glass, but there's always a special cocktail from the bar too, at preferential prices. Oyster shooters too. There will be buckets of Champagne, piles of lemon and big platters heaped with oysters on crushed ice. And you can enjoy them in Cliff's Edge's secret garden with tables set in tiers around a giant 100-year-old ficus tree. Raining? No problem. Tables are sheltered under a raffish galvanized tin roof.

3626 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A. (323) 666-6116, http://www.cliffsedgecafe.com. Thursday nights only, oysters, $1 each from 6 to 7 p.m.; after 7 p.m., half-dozen, $12; dozen, $20.

L&E Oyster Bar

Finally! A dedicated oyster bar with oysters brought in fresh daily from both coasts. At this charming Silver Lake oyster bar, shuckers are fast and accurate. The bargain is the "daily dozen," a mix of three or four varieties at $28. Order your own mix and the total can be much more, but you then get to choose from 10 to 12 varieties on any given night. There's a great little wine list from partner Matt Kaner of Covell Wine Bar in Los Feliz. Plus, here, oysters come not only raw but also fried with an excellent sauce gribiche or folded into a "knife 'n' fork" fried oyster po'boy. To find out the daily offerings, follow L&E on Twitter @LEOysterBar. The tiny place with a minuscule sidewalk terrace in front can get crowded. Be prepared to wait (with a bottle of Egly-Ouriet Champagne or a glass of Picpoul from the Languedoc, of course.)

1637 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 660-2255, http://www.leoysterbar.com. Oysters, market price, about $2 to $4.50 each; the daily dozen, $28. No reservations.

Church & State

For months now, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 10 p.m., maître écailler (shellfish master) Christophe Happillon (remember him from Alain Giraud's late Santa Monica bistro?) brings oysters to the downtown French bistro Church & State. Not only two or three varieties of oysters, which he often picks up himself so they're very, very fresh, but also his own specially designed little oyster bar. He's a classicist and believes in simple traditional accompaniments, such as mignonette and lemon wedges. It's always interesting to see which types of oysters he brings each evening. Come every week and it's an oyster education. On other nights, the bistro still serves oysters but usually just one or two varieties, maybe Evening Cove or Coromandel. Of course, the wine list offers Champagne and crisp white wines to accompany your dozen or two.

1850 Industrial St., downtown Los Angeles, (213) 405-1434, http://www.churchandstatebistro.com. Oysters, half-dozen, $19; dozen, $36.

irene.virbila@latimes.com

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