That old adage about not eating oysters in R-less months pretty much went out the window with the arrival of FedEx, which means oysters from cold climes can be overnighted to warmer ones and
arrive alive. The best place to savor the cool, briny, ultra-fresh and, let’s not forget, sexy delicacy?
An oyster bar where you can not only watch them being shucked but also enjoy the elbow-to-elbow
camaraderie of your fellow slurpers.
Ocean Ave. Seafood
Instead of the spectacular display of raw shellfish over ice that you find at sister restaurant Water Grill in downtown L.A., the marble-topped bar at this sleek dining room is set up more like a sushi bar, with oysters tucked behind glass windows. On any given day, you’ll find nine to 13 oyster offerings. Most fun of all? The Oyster Wine Sampler, half a dozen oysters on the half shell served with three 2-ounce tastes of well-chilled white wine, perhaps Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, an oyster’s best friend.
1401 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 394-5669
Brophy Bros. Restaurant & Clam Bar
This certified joint on the second floor of a modest building overlooking the harbor in Santa Barbara serves just one kind of oyster: Long Island Blue Points. (The owner is from Long Island.) Locals tumble in from neighboring West Beach and Ledbetter Beach and snag a seat at what is officially known as “the clam bar.” Here, a lone employee steams clams and mussels, watches over beer-boiled shrimp and furiously shucks the pleasantly salty Blue Points, many of which go straight into shot glasses for the eatery’s signature shooters made with Tabasco, horseradish, cocktail sauce, Parmesan cheese, lemon and parsley. Long day? Add a floater of vodka or tequila.
119 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, (805) 966-4418
You won’t find the selection of oysters at this casual New England-esque classic that you do at some other spots. Typically there are just two or three varieties: often Hammersleys, Fanny Bays and Kumamotos, the last an especially beginner-friendly oyster because of its petite size. But you can’t beat the location right on the bay. (We swear a water view makes the oysters taste better.)
630 Lido Park Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 675-3474
This handsome boite at the base of the Music Center does most of its oyster business in the late evening, when the post-opera and theater crowd pours in for a light repast. The leather-rimmed walnut bar fills up, and master shucker Bernie Garcia gets to work. The oyster presentation, straight outta Paris, is especially dramatic: an ice-filled metal tray set atop a metal stand. Expect about half a dozen varieties at any one time, Blue Points and Kumamotos typically among them. The beloved Belon, a sweet, small oyster native to the coast of France, is coming soon.
135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 972-7322
King’s Fish House
Inspired by the Acme Oyster House in New Orleans, the King Crab Lounge at this seafood specialist promises a kickback vibe and a swell selection of oysters. The day’s oyster offerings, usually numbering nine, are listed on a wood board hanging over the bar. Try half a dozen Sunset Beach oysters from Hood Canal in Washington state or perhaps Watch Hills from Winnapaug Pond in Rhode Island. Or order a sampler. They are served on ice with a side of fresh grated horseradish, lemon wedges and mignonette, what Matt Stein, King Seafood’s chief seafood officer, calls “the three schools of thought for serving oysters.” Wanna try something different? The Miyagi shooter is made with your choice of oyster, along with rice-wine vinegar, lime juice, cucumber, wasabi and wasabi tobiko, those tiny, neon green, sinus-clearing fish eggs.
100 W. Broadway Ave., Long Beach, (562) 432-7463