May 17, 2010


Plate of Oysters at Aquagrill

Hee Hee

Truffle-Crusted Cod

Warm Octopus Salad from Aquagrill

After the LUCKYRICE Talk & Taste cooking demonstrations, I met up with CT at The Cupping Room and we made a not-so-straightforward walk over to Aquagrill. After waiting for about 15 minutes, we scored a table outside on the elevated dining porch. I ordered six appellations that I haven't tried before and a cherrystone clam just for fun. CT also tried two oysters and had the truffle-crusted cod, which was absolutely amazing. The oyster tasting experience was more pedestrian than what I expected it to be from a place heralded as an "oyster heaven." While Aquagrill proved to be a great destination for seafood, I wish that they put a bit more care into their oyster presentation. More pics and oyster reviews on the next page!

One of the reasons why I love oysters is because no two are exactly alike. Take these two Hunter Points from the South Puget Sound in Washington for example. The shape of the shells and chewiness were slightly different from each other, despite other similarities in salinity and color. This oyster had quite a bit of depth in flavor; hints of sweet soy sauce and salty sunflower seeds showed up after chewing. My theory is that this punch of sweet flavor comes from the raised white flesh, which suggests that it's storing a good bit of glycogen. 

Hunter Point Oyster from South Puget Sound, Washington

Hunter Point Oyster from South Puget Sound, Washington

The Gold Creek oyster from Puget Sound in Washington (below) was the quintessential West Coast oyster; it was mildly salty, subtle in brininess, and had a crisp metallic flavor to it.

Gold Creek Oyster from Puget Sound, Washington

Little Creek was another oyster from Washington that was more languid and mellow. The black mantle tasted like salty smoked ham and the bodies were jelly-like.

Little Creek Oyster from Hood Canal, Washington

These little Potters Moon oysters packed a surprisingly big punch of salt. (Oysters can be deceptive like that!) They were incredibly briny like the ocean and the overall experience was slightly jolting. While I didn't have a taste for it raw, it might have taken on a completely different taste with a drop of lemon. I can also imagine this oyster being good at flavoring up otherwise bland food, such as unsalted crackers or rice.

Potters Moon Oyster from Rhode Island

Now here's an oyster mystery for you... the menu noted that they had Hog Island oysters from California. The name was clearly familiar to me, but it struck me odd that they didn't mention whether or not it was a Sweetwater oyster. I asked the waiter for clarification and he tried to obtain the information from the kitchen, but returned empty handed. No one seemed to know anything about these Hog Island oysters, which was pretty suspicious.

I asked to see the bag tag and he politely replied that the kitchen was quite busy. I let it go, but became even more puzzled when the oysters arrived. The appearance and flavors weren't at all like the Hog Island Sweetwaters that I had in San Francisco. They were large and abrasively salty. Later on, while writing this entry, I did a bit more research and discovered that Aquagrill listed the Hog Island oysters under Rhode Island on their website [screengrab] for $2.30, not California. Very curious, indeed. I'm still not sure what is correct, since I can't seem to find out anything else about Rhode Island Hog Island oysters.

Hog Island Oyster from Rhode Island

Lastly, I selected the Umami oyster purely by its name. Sadly, there was nothing "umami" about this little guy. The flavor was very flat and one note (salty), the meat was thin and sat shallowly in its nondescript shell. I felt quite disappointed that this was one of just two oysters that I had CT try. It could've been a much better experience. Through later research, I learned that these "Umami" oysters were second rate Quonset Point oysters and are typically used for cooking.

Umami Oyster from Rhode Island

At the end of the tasting, I concluded that the Hunter Point oysters were the best of the bunch. The Gold Creeks weren't bad either. The rest were all a bit underwhelming, which might be due to the season or stock.

Lastly, I'd like to take a little time to vent about an oyster eating pet peeve of mine.

I never use any condiments on my oysters when I try them for the first time. When I'm more familiar with the type, a little lemon and some well designed mignonette sauce is sufficient. Cocktail sauce is the worst. Nothing turns me off faster than an over-sized vat of cocktail sauce presented with the platter of delicate oysters in a half shell. It's completely unnecessary and implies that the oysters on hand can't speak for themselves. Or it suggests that the restaurant doesn't cater to serious oyster eaters. I can't decide which one is worse. Unfortunately, I've encountered a ton of restaurants that do this. Aquagrill wasn't an exception (notice the unclean edge of the cocktail sauce bowl in the middle... unappetizing at best). It might seem like a trivial detail to most people, but it's like having gunk on the bottom of your spoon for me.

I do appreciate the huge variety of oysters that they have to offer, but it's is almost meaningless if the server has little knowledge or passion for them. In conclusion, Aquagrill is first and foremost a seafood restaurant, and not an oyster bar. Go for the truffle-crusted cod and bring an oyster navigator with you.

Click for more pics!


Post a Comment