When a littleneck clam is unearthed from its sandy abode and placed into a bucket of water that has been sprinkled with cornmeal, its vulnerable body will stretch to great lengths to reach the food. It's a touching sight, the way it strives to eat what will ultimately speed its demise.
Such is the way with the steamers served at Santa Monica's new seafood restaurant, Blue Plate Oysterette. They feed and purge themselves of grit before they are served in a large bowl with a smooth, buttered broth and thick slices of grilled bread, perfect for sopping up that delicious juice. (Apologies to tender, poetically tragic mollusks everywhere.)
BP, as the restaurant is called for short, is owner Jenny Morton's second restaurant (she also owns Blue Plate on Montana Avenue). She says her inspiration for BP was twofold: First, she doesn't eat meat but loves shellfish; and second, she found herself wondering why there isn't a "place in Santa Monica to get informal, small plates of seafood at reasonable prices?"
From the look of the 50-seat restaurant on Ocean Avenue, just a few blocks from the pier, lots of people have been wondering the same thing. BP has been open less than two weeks, but it is already reeling in plenty of customers. On a recent Thursday night, the shotgun shack-shaped room was packed with diners seated side by side at a long row of horizontal tables, much like gourmet sardines in an attractive, beachy tin.
They sipped on white wine, the droplets from the exterior of their glasses mixing with juice from the fresh oysters they plucked from icy trays. These they swallowed with dabs of tangy cocktail sauce and vinegary mignonette.
Also on display at many tables: mild and creamy New England clam chowder; souped-up lobster rolls touched with tarragon and lemon zest; barbecued oysters rolled in butter, bread crumbs and herbs; crispy calamari; meaty mussels in garlic broth and classic fish and chips fried to golden perfection.
The wait staff, decked out in classic white aprons and blue-and-white striped shirts, is as breezy and easygoing as the decor. BP was designed by Morton's friend Tim Clarke of Tim Clarke Interior Design, who specializes in the "coastal modern" look. The restaurant features exposed brick walls with bold blue stripes here and there, blue overhead lamps made of old sea glass and a small raw bar facing the bright, bustling open kitchen.
The only thing missing is sand, but there is plenty of that just across PCH, where the mighty mollusks burrow.
Blue Plate Oysterette Where: 1355 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica. When: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily. Price: Small plates, $9 to $14; large plates, $14 to $22; raw bar, $14 to market price; beer and wine, $6 to $13. Contact: (310) 576-3474; www.blueplatesantamonica..