Elliotts Oyster House - mini review
When I lived in Paris several years ago, we had a tradition of spending a lot of time at a local oyster bar in St Germain. I thought I knew oysters and felt fairly undaunted in my abandon when consuming massive amounts of raw mollusks. But that was until the day that I saw the OysterMister. The OysterMister was a beastly bearded German (or at least presumably since we never heard him speak) who devoured oysters like a frenzied expert. We gaped in awe while he slurped the briny critters down by the dozen, only pausing to eat some buttered rye bread and swig a Heineken. It is not hyperbole when I say that I saw him eat at least 4 dozen and I am confident that was just the beginning.
So, it has been with the those images burned into my mind that I have set out to one day do the OysterMister proud. I have gone after slimy bivalves with a fervor. I have thrown caution to the wind, ignoring the infamous "R" rule, eating oysters year round. I have weathered a fairly serious bout of food poisoning (including a brief spell of jaundice) during my pursuit. I've eaten Rock Oysters in Sidney, Galway Bays in Ireland, Belons in France, Malpaques, Eagle Points, Chesapeakes, Half Moon Bay, Gigamotos, Kumamotoa and many many more. I once put back a nice round 63 Prince Edward Island oysters in one afternoon. In short, I like oysters.
Tonight, in an unusually quiet oyster bar on the water in Seattle, I think I may have finally paid proper tribute to the OysterMister. Elliott's Oyster House (pier 54 Seattle Washington) is an oyster lovers mecca. Their staff, particularly Tara and Neils, are both seasoned experts in all things briny, plump and encased in a shell. In fact, Tara is the current blind oyster tasting and identification champion from the Seattle Oyster Olympics! Tonight I put back close to 4 dozen of some of the best oysters I have ever had. Beautifully shucked glistening oysters made their way in front of me on plates of ice as well as directly from the hands of the skilled experts pulling them from Elliott's perfectly selected stock. While many were familiar, there were a few standouts.
The Trotten Inlets, which are Virginica oyster (naturally from the East Coast) are grown from seedlings in the cool waters of the Pacific Northwest. The result is something very different from a Chesapeake Bay oyster. They were firm and creamy with a nice mild flavor. I had to order seconds on the Kusshis - very similar to the deep cup Japanese Kumamoto in shape and size, these were slightly more briny and deeper in flavor with the same creamy texture of their Japanese cousins. Then came the Cortes Islands, from B.C. Canada - "zinc bombs" full of umami. I was whisked back to Paris by the Belon-like flats from Washington state. Unlike any other oyster on Earth, Belon-like veritials are strong and pungent and not unlike sucking on pennies - a very acquired taste. The cream of the crop were the Sabavi oysters from Sammish Bay, WA. These were small (about the size of a 50 cent coin) bites of perfection came i a smooth green shell. They tasted instantly of the sea but the magic was in the second after the first taste. Sabavis deliver a flash of intense salt and sea essence, not unlike the famous green flash seen during sunset at sea - perhaps there's something owed to the color of their shells.
If you are ever in Seattle, please take a trip to Elliott's Oyster House. Check out more here: http://www.elliottsoysterhouse.com . One word of caution, forgo Elliott's avant garde take on mignonette (a frozen version made with champagne) - the icy combo does not play well and only gets in the way of naturally beautiful flavors.