The world, as they say, is your oyster. But when it comes to slippery shellfish, Edmonton is fast becoming a real pearl. Oysters may be tough to get open, but the efforts on the parts of some local restaurants are definitely worth the rewards.
If you’re not a fan of raw oysters, don’t fret – plenty of Edmonton restaurants dish them up fully cooked, in different ways with different accoutrements. But there are many others who stick by tradition, serving their oysters on ice, with squeezes of lemon and dashes of Tabasco sauce, for hungry diners to slurp up with abandon. Down the hatch!
at Louisiana Purchase
If you’ve always wanted to try oysters, but find yourself squeamish at the idea of slurping a sea critter fresh and raw from its shell, fear not. An option exists – you just need to look down south to New Orleans. Oysters Bienville is a classic Creole dish that originated at New Orleans restaurant Arnaud’s, and Louisiana Purchase brings the dish to Edmonton diners. In addition to being one of the restaurant’s most popular appetizers, Oysters Bienville is possibly the most decadentway to start off a meal.
One order consists of six fresh oysters mixed in a rich sauce with finely diced pieces of shrimp, bacon and mushroom, topped with parmesan cheese and then baked until bubbly. They’re served on top of heated rocks in a skillet fresh from the oven and, despite the server’s warning, you’ll likely end up toasting your fingertips on the hot shells as your impatience wins out – they’re just too good to resist. –Adrianna Szenthe
10320 111 St., 780-420-6779, louisianapurchase.ca
at Vons Steak House and Oyster Bar
The old-school steakhouse’s “Buck A Shuck” special – which runs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, after 10 p.m. on Friday and all night Sunday in the lounge – is the stuff of legend. In fact, the Sunday evening my wife and I went, there were only a few empty tables, but our server lamented that it was rather slow for a Sunday – normally it’s packed to the gills.
Vons’ oysters come from British Columbia, New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island. Each one is shucked to order; you can watch it all happen at the bar. We opted for two B.C. varieties: Royal Miyagi and Kusshi. The former were crisp and clean, while the latter had a fuller flavour and a creamier texture, and were clearly our favourites.
If you’re not into the raw ones, Vons also serves classic Oysters Rockefeller or its signature Crabshack Oysters, baked with crabmeat, asiago cheese, bacon and a garlic cream sauce. –Glenn Cook
10309 81 Ave., 780-439-0041, vonssteakhouse.com
Fresh and Baked Oysters
at Black Pearl Seafood Bar
Thanks to the vintage fishing nets and reclaimed wood, the word “grotto” definitely applies to the feel of the Black Pearl. The Crudo family, who also own Caf Amore, have gambled big that Edmontonians will embrace a seafood menu and are willing to pay market prices for fresh ocean fare.
The server tells us that the Beausoleil oysters are the favourites on the menu; we order a batch, served on ice with a variety of sauces. The Beausoleil is delicate and not at all fishy.
Two sauce options stand out. The Pearl sauce – hoisin with sriracha – is maybe a tad sweeter than you’d expect for an oyster shot, but it works. But my favourite is the red wine vinegar with shallots and Dijon mustard. It’s tart with a bit of a kick, and really creates a tingling tang in the mouth.
The restaurant also does modern takes on the classic baked Oysters Rockefeller. We had an order of
Denman Island oysters with melted Grana Padano cheese, arugula, scallions and a Sambuca cream. The licorice taste of the Sambuca is unlike any oyster accompaniment you’ve had. It hits very sweet, but is immediately backed off by the saltiness of the cheese and the strong ocean smell and taste of the Denman Island oyster. -Steven Sandor
10132 104 St., 780-705-7887, blackpearlseafood.ca
at Izakaya Tomo
At a restaurant that serves small plates like Izakaya Tomo, real estate on the table is sometimes at a premium, especially when you want to try all the items on the menu. But the Oyster Ponzu is one dish you should definitely save some room to enjoy.
The oysters in this dish are handled very delicately. They’re breaded and fried, but only lightly, just until the breading turns golden brown. This way, the oysters themselves don’t get overcooked and turn rubbery, and retain a lot of the briny flavour that you look for in shellfish. But the breading is nice and crispy, offering up a wonderful textural contrast to the oyster itself.
Meanwhile, the ponzu is a combination of soy sauce and citrus, lending umami and sour flavours to the salty oyster. All in all, it’s a fantastic combination, made all the better when paired with a selection from Izakaya Tomo’s wide array of sakes. Particularly complementary was the Yoshi Junmai Ginjo, which is sharp enough to cut through the richness of the oyster. –G.C.
3739 99 St., 780-440-9152, izakayatomo.net
Fried Oyster Po’ Boy
at DaDeO New Orleans Diner & Bar
Sure, oysters can be a glamorous and refined food served at parties, galas and special events, but, sometimes, simplicity is the key to enjoying this seafood staple.
That’s where the fried oyster po’ boy at DaDeO steps in to save the day. Forget iced and briny tradition; this beast of a sandwich features two to four sizable (more like “gargantuan”) oysters, each deep-fried with a golden, crispy breading, packed on to a soft French loaf.
With each bite, the oyster’s ocean-flavoured juices mix with a healthy smattering of herb mayo and tomato topping to supply a sandwich experience unique to this Cajun creation.
The crunch of batter and the softness of the oyster play well together, as does the sandwich with the accompanying sides. Your options are coleslaw and either potato hash, jambalaya rice or sweet potato fries; the latter, for which DaDeO is famous, adds some sweetness to an otherwise savoury dish. –Cory Haller
10548A Whyte Ave., 780-433-0930, dadeo.ca