Archive for the ‘Seafood’ Category

Monday Night Feast

April 8, 2008

Monday is not a good day as you know. After a weekend full of fun and relaxation, you have to bring your mind to work-mode, which sucks. Annoying boss, stupid colleagues, toilet-paper-missing-toilets, too much construction noise, pressing reply-to-alls when you are bitching about the sender. Nothing works on Mondays.

Because of that, it is more important to have a delicious meal on Monday nights. Who cares about Monday night football (is this the season? Gay People don’t know anything about football). We should all cook a nice meal on Monday nights.

Last night, I was craving for mussels that I love at Markt, but didn’t feel like going to the restaurant. Also we are trying to eat healthier, hence no carb was the theme of last night. I am totally ballooning and need to cut food/booze intake in order to have a decent shape before bathing suit season starts… Alas… How can I lose weight while not cutting food or booze nor working out? Breaking up definitely is the way to go, but I am happily in a relationship…

Anyhow, my favorite mussels recipe at Markt is tomato and basil. I cooked up onion and garlic in olive oil, dump tomato and basil then added half a bottle of white wine.
I got these beautiful mussels at Lobster House in Chelsea Market, which is always a reliable fish monger. $3.25 a pound is also a sweet deal. Once I cooked up vegetables, the smell was so sweet and wonderful, I forgot to take pictures from here on. Hence all i have here is shells…. It’s kind of cute, and almost look like a dish, doesn’t it?

I was requested to make a scallop dish. My colleague Tomoko told me she had this wonderful scallop wrapped in seaweed in France. Japanese food ingredients’ power is so great that even french chefs use nori nowadays!
I didn’t have any recipe, other than the way Tomoko described how it was done. So I wrapped seaweed around a beautiful scallop, sprinkled with sea salt, put a dab of butter, then broiled it for 3 minutes.

I thought I needed some sauce, so I cooked down soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar and ginger and squeezed some lime juice at the end to make south asian style teriyaki sauce. Seaweed was crisp when it was done, and scallops were medium rare, almost melting in my mouth. Yum yum. It kind of looks like sushi, too.

After I saw Kayoko’s post on blood oranges, I was thinking about using it for something as well. So I made mesculin salad, with juice from blood orange, champagne vinegar, honey, salt, pepper and oilve oil, then arranged orange on top. It was very springy and good.

Healthy diet costs too much money, though. Not that I need to cook scallops and mussels everyday, carb is so much more filling and cheap… I already had a rebound, had donburi and udon for lunch at Seo today….

"It’s Fried!"

March 12, 2008

Went to Elias Corner for Fish the other night- a reputable Greek seafood joint in Queens that Aya wrote about a few months back. It was awesome!

Aside from the soft, char-grilled octopus, the gooey garlic musselfest, and the plethora of grilled fishes we ordered (red snapper, salmon, the kickass monkfish), my favorite part of the meal was a little something our gregarious server plopped down on the table after our meal was over.

“This is on the house,” she said. Big smiles all around here.
“What is it??” I asked.
“It’s Fried!!!!” she exclaimed.

Best answer EVER! This plate consisted of beignet-like fried dough pieces, coated with a pint of honey. One word: orgasmic. It was sad when it all had to end.

Vestiges of our meal:
Red snapper- the head is the best part! David ate the eyeball. Then swallowed it. Brian freaked out.

Garlicy oozy mussels- very original.

I accidentally dropped a mussel into our carafe of white wine. How does one do that?? I finished it off anyway. No shame- it was fine. You figure that there’s wine IN the mussel dish, so why not the other way around?

Hyoe- we’re devastated you’re leaving the city, but happy we got to send you off with a good meal. You’ll be back though!

Elias Corner for Fish
24-02 31st St.
Astoria, NY11102
T: 718.932.1510

Afterthought: Andy just informed me that these fried donut pieces are called Loukoumades. Here’s the recipe. Yamahomo, get on it, pronto! These are heavenly!

Mangiamo 2007: El Brillante

February 25, 2008

On my way back to NY, I had a stop over in Madrid for a few hours. Marta and Jose whisked me from the airport to take me to a dream lunch of my favorite MadrileƱo dish- Bocadillo de Calamares. Basically, a sandwich filled with fried calamari. GENIUS!!! It truly is a priceless invention- nothing could quite quantify how happy this makes me. El Brillante, above, is famous for this dish, although you can find it at any bar in Madrid, more or less. But El Brillante’s tagline is “Los mejores calamares de Madrid”- translation: the best calamari in Madrid. So you gotta go.

Fluffy bread filled with fried calamari, nothing else. It’s gorgeous.

Little squid, battered and fried. This wasn’t as good as I was hoping, but maybe that’s just cause I was in bocadillo heaven.

Can’t leave Madrid without having a proper tortilla!

A pint, a smoke, a Marta

And that’s it- my trip to Italy and Spain in a nutshell. All good things come to an end, I suppose. Thanks for indulging me, and letting me go on about a trip I took months ago (I lost all my pics when my computer broke, I’m tellin ya!). I’m in California now- I’ll try to deliver my eats in REAL TIME- I promise.

El Brillante (3 locations)
Atocha, 122
Tel. 91 468 05 48

Eloy Gonzalo, 12
Tel. 91 448 19 88

Eta. Carlos V, 8
Tel. 91. 528 69 66

Best Seafood in Queens

November 18, 2007

Friday was Astoria exploration day. After hitting P.S. 1 for a rooftop performance by Min Tanaka (which was more about the 4 or 5 photographers who were making so much noise throughout) Ryo guided us into her ‘hood. It was already nighttime dark at 6pm, and very chilly, so I was hugely relieved when we arrived at the unassuming restaurant Elias Corner.

I love how it says “for Fish.” I’d read up on the place on-line when Ryo mentioned this restaurant — she had wanted to go, because it smelled so good, and it was always packed, but always ended up at the Beer Garden down the block and never made it out.

When we arrived, we were the first ones in the dining area, but within 30 minutes the place was already packed. Upon entering, we passed by a huge glass case displaying the evening’s ingredients:

Fish, fish, shellfish and more fish. Dizzying!

There are no menus in the restaurant. You have to ask the waitress to tell you everything they’ve got for the day, or ask for something specific (and I assume they probably have it). We started out with the grilled octopus, fried calamari, small white fish fried, and chopped green salad.

The friendly waitress cut the octopus for us. SO moist and tender, absolutely delicious. There was an online review that complained that the octopus was rubbery, but not so! In fact it was so darned good we got another plate of it! Yummmmm

Both the calamari and the fish were beautifully fried. Light, crispy, not too greasy or batter-y. I am not the biggest calamari fan, but this was pretty nice. The little fish fried whole were AWESOME. We got our calcium for the day, for sure. Both dishes were nice and simple — served with a big lemon half. That was all you needed — a little lemony acid to cut through the oil.

The chopped green salad is worth mentioning as well. Dressed lightly, it also had dill, which added a lovely flavor to otherwise ordinary roughage.

For the main course, we decided to split two grilled fish — Mediterranean sea bass and red snapper. Again, there’s no mystery in the preparation here, just simple, straightforward, and beautifully done. Both fish were dressed in lemon halves and perfectly moist on the inside.

Mari preferred the sea bass, but by that point in the evening I was so content that I’d lost my faculty for discerning one great dish from another. It was all good. I didn’t take an “after” pic, but very little remained. Mari was sucking on the bass bones like a cat.

The only surprise was the bill. Since there is no menu, you don’t really know what you’re getting into. We got several carafes of white white, and maybe 6 Greek beers, and the total came out to $42 per person. A bit more expensive than we’d hoped for, but well worth the price and the trip out to Queens.

Elias Corner for Fish
24-02 31st St.
Astoria, NY11102
Phone (718) 932-1510

This Just Can’t Be Summer Love

August 28, 2007

Summer’s over for the both of us
That doesn’t mean we should give up on love
You’re the one I’ve been thinking of
And I knew the day I met you you’d be the ooooooone…
– Justin Timberlake

Ok, so it’s a bit premature to say that summer is over, but here’s a post to remind you that the end is near. Very very near. So quick, go to the beach in this final week of summer, at Justin’s yearning urgings, when we can still wear white, while we can still work on evening out that tan for our own vain pleasures, before our bodies are enveloped in bleh color tweeds and heavy, unflattering wool coats.

Go to Rockaway Beach, to see where I fell in love this summer.

Not with a boy, nor even a girl. But with this little seaside shack humbly called the Wharf, that is quietly nestled on the water behind a Duane Reade and a gas station–a place that has not been Yelped, Citysearched, nor has a website, hence it does not exist (right?).

I fell in love with their patio overlooking the bay, with views of the Verazzano Bridge to the left, and the Manhattan skyline in a distance, far, far away. Head over heels for their perfectly plump and juicy shrimps and steamed clams. In love with their low prices that would make any Manhattan seafood addict swoon with disbelief and then, delight.

I am in love, and the Wharf is THE ONE.

Aya took me here a month ago, who in turn had found out about it from a local a few years ago (sorry Aya, but I can’t not talk about this place- like I said, it’s L-O-V-E, and I’m shouting it from the rooftops). I took Alda there last week. And by golly, let me tell you that Alda, too, is in love. Just look at these pics for a glimpse into what I am blabbering about (please excuse that weird sci-fi looking dot in the pictures- something got into my lens I think, which is bad news):

Here it is– on the corner of Beach 116 Street and Rockaway Beach Blvd., is a Duane Reade and a Getty gas station. No sign of any restaurant right? There can’t possibly be a little seafood haven back there, could there??? Have a little faith my friends…

… Cause when you walk through the gas station, there it is! The Wharf! Uh, still no sign though.

Walk through to the back of the building et voila! It’s seriously paradise.

In the distance, the Verazzano Bridge…

… and there it is, the sticky hot wonderland we call home, but boy, are we ever delighted that we’re not there right now.

Alright, the food. Ah, look at these gorgeous, plump, fresh, perfectly boiled shrimp– they call it the “bar shrimp”.

You get a dozen– manically peel em with your paws, and dip them in their brilliant housemade cocktail sauce that packs the horseradish like fairy dust slicing through your nose.

The “grilled clams” are a must. These chewy little morsels are laid out in all their godly glory, and half the fun is dunking them into the conspicuous bowl of juice that they were just cooked in. It tastes of the sea, and nothing more. We asked the server what we should do with it, to which she replied, “anything you want”. Do as Aya does and drink up!

Mmmmm, the fried scallops. A wonderful dish. Look at how beautiful this is all laid out! This was Alda’s favorite. Here’s a play by play:

The scallops were super fresh, and plump, never greasy from the frying. They tasted a bit minerally, as scallops often do, but definitely very satisfying. The best part is that they are HUGE.

The onion rings were a highlight of the meal for me. Thick slabs of onion perfectly battered, fried to a crisp, but never burned. An ace in the hole.

The broccoli too, steamed to a crisp- never soggy grossness. The broccoli and onion rings may just be sides, but it’s these little fine-tuned details that really convinces me that this is indeed ONE. The real deal. For real.

And when it’s all over, after we’ve licked the cocktail and tarter sauces from their respective containers, the clam juice from the bowl, and the bread crumbs from the plate, we say OMMMMMMMMM. Three times.

I would also recommend the french onion soup. The fish and chips weren’t great. For all you raw clam junkies, they have clams on the half shell, which I haven’t tried. YET.

How exactly do you get to this place, you ask? It’s SO easy! Take a Far Rockaway bound A train to Broad Channel. Get off, and wait and transfer onto the Shuttle, and take it to the very last stop, which is Beach 116 Street. When you exit the station, the beach will be to your left, and the Wharf is to your right. The beach is really nice too, the waves are pretty rough, but the water is warm enough to dive in, and the beach goes on for miles and miles.

Seriously people, this can just be our secret- our Umami Mart secret, cause no one in the city knows about the Wharf, and it’s like that last sacred place there is in this god foresaken city where every place is bloggable (she says as she blogs) and all your secret haunts have been overtaken by annoying hipsters that have taken over all the 5 boroughs (she says as she blogs from the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Crown Heights) and are bringing their crying babies with them!!!

So shhhhh… hurry and go before summer is really finally over! You’ll see that you will fall in love with it too.

I can’t wait to fall in love with you
You can’t wait to fall in love with me
This just can’t be summer love, you’ll see
This just can’t be summer love (L-O-V-E)

PS- I’m also in love with Justin. But that’s not a secret either. Hey, speaking of Justin, has anyone been to his new bbq place, Southern Hospitality?

416 Beach 116th St
Far Rockaway, NY 11694
(718) 474-8807

Fear and Loathing in the Realm of Seafood-Lovers

July 13, 2007

WARNING: This post is not for the squeamish, overly sensitive, or the faint of heart. Skip this post if discussion of bodily functions offends you deeply. I’m serious!!!

I’ve mulled over in my mind, for almost a month, whether to blog about this or not. I wasn’t sure this was for Umamimart readers. Then TM forwarded me this link yesterday. Check out that fish.

It looks delicious right? And it’s being served at a fancy restaurant. But I was convinced: food-lovers need to be educated about the fish escolar!!!!

I have a deep appreciation for food. I am not super-picky nor super-gourmet, but I do get depressed if I am not eating good delicious food consistently. I am not an amazing cook, but I enjoy trying out new things, planning meals, and making food for friends and loved ones. It must have been a Wednesday night, in June. It was already hot in the city. I planned to make me and TM a fabulous fish dinner. I went to the market at Grand Central, and looked at their fish selection. I was hoping for sea bass, honestly, but it was so darned expensive. Then this caught my eye. Looks good, right?

The laminated article taped onto the display case is from New York Magazine, calling Escolar the “It” fish. I asked the guy how I should prepare escolar. “It is a very fatty fish, so you have to make sure you cook it all the way through,” he said, “I would broil it or bake it.” Sounded good to me, I bought two gorgeous fillets. When I got home, I got on the interwebs, to see if I could find a particularly appealing recipe. I googled escolar, and. to my great surprise, instead of pulling up a jillion recipes, I was faced with this, this and this:

“Escolar should not be offered on any restaurant menu. “Caution” is hardly the operative word. A friend and I each ate escolar at an upscale restaurant in New Jersey. The fish had been prepared superbly in modest portions and was delicious. Within twelve hours, my friend and I each experienced violent diarrhea. The unpleasantness was truly miserable. Following that initial experience, I explored various postings and other internet alerts. Trust me. This fish is vastly worse than ex-lax or castor oil. If you enjoy violent diarrhea, by all means, go out and order it.That was a comment posted by an anonymous person on a fish blog.”

OK so what to do? Here I was, planning to make a scrumptious dinner for my sweetheart, only to discover that the fish I’d purchased is known as the ex-lax diarrhea fish?! WTF?! What is a considerate person to do? I weighed my options. I could just toss this fish, and go out to get some pasta or something. But come on! How bad could this really be? I bought it at Grand Central Market, for crying out loud! And the chefs in the NY Mag article raved about it! And anyway, even if we did react to it, TM and I both have had diarrhea before — in fact we had both survived a pretty nasty bout of food poisoning together, and not that I’d want to relive that experience, but we are tough people, we could handle it! I ignored the warnings on the interweb and got to work.

It was a very simple preparation I settled on, finally — lots of lemon, salt/pepper and wrap the fish in foil, broil in the toaster oven for about 7 minutes per side. I forget what exactly I served with it — but when TM came home, we sat down for a DELICIOUS experience. The escolar was thick, moist, rich, so buttery. It tasted even better (fattier) than sea bass. It was cooked just right, and the lemon worked great. I tried to tell TM about what I’d read on-line, and my resulting trepidation about the fish, but he was so blown away by the wonderful flavor, I didn’t feel like ruining our lovely dinner with internet rumors.

The next day we got up and went to work. By the late morning, I was kind of in a panic. Along with my morning movement, there had a disturbing amount of ORANGE OIL (someone described it as pizza oil, which is exactly what it looks like) floating in the toilet bowl. I didn’t have any cramps, nor any diarrhea. But this oil was really frightening, and plus I noticed it was all over my underwear! Horrified, I got back to my cubicle and chatted TM, sending him this link:

10:20 AM me: have you had orange oil in your poo? TM:no, i had a perfectly fine poo thank you very much

3:42 PMme: this is crazy orange oil is coming out of my butt TM: for real??? oy that is not a selling point for that fish it tasted great though! me: i know! very richTM: OMG lemme go poop and see what comes out me: yeah take a close look3:43 PM seriously!3:46 PM TM: WHOA WHOA orange oil me: what TM: coming out of ass me: do you have it??? OMG OMG OMG TM: WTF LEAKAGE me: I KNOW TM: FUCK HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN GOING ON??? me: OMG TM: HEEEELP3:47 PM me: the blogs were right, dude! fucked up, man
3:49 PM TM: what/ thefuck.3:50 PM TM: they should put a sign up at the fish monger3:51 PM “WARNING: MAY CAUSE ORANGE OIL TO SHOOT OUT OF ASS” me: HAHAHA For these reasons, escolar has been banned from consumption in Japan since 1977, as the Japanese government considers it toxic.3:52 PM TM: but that’s not necessarily true me: that it’s toxic? TM: wait so it’s a laxitive? me: well TM: it has “purgative” qualities if taken in small quantities purgative as in “violent diarrhea will ensue”3:59 PM me: Keriorrhoea, as opposed to diarrhoea, does not cause loss of body fluid and is therefore not life threatening. Not all people are affected by the wax ester. However, if it does, it causes significant discomfort ranging from stomach cramps to rapid loose bowel movements, with onset 30 minutes to 36 hours after consumption. Recovery is expected within 24 to 48 hours. do you have diarrhea? TM: great no4:00 PM just orange oil leakage me: this is what scared me when i was looking up recipes at home last night yeah me too it’s pretty disturbing TM: freaky me:
must expel orange oil

25 minutes

4:27 PM TM: i’m leaking!!!4:28 PM me: oh geez use a butt plug4:29 PM i was leaking this morning TM: i’ve never needed one until now! i think it’s showing through my pants! me: oh no, really?
4:30 PM TM: embarassing!4:31 PM me: that’s terrible, I’m sorry!!!!!!!!! šŸ˜¦ (>_<)

16 minutes

5:46 PM TM:omg i just farted orange5:49 PM me: OH GOD5:50 PM i hope you have a tissue or something in your buttcrack

Escolar, the “IT” fish indeed. More like the “Sh*t” fish, if you ask me… anyways… You get the picture. Perhaps too vividly. TM was clear after a day, but I suffered through for another 2 days before I could relax about staining my underwear. And as much of a hedonist as I am, even the delectable flavor and texture of escolar are not reason enough for me to ever risk living through that experience again. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Killing a Lobster, or Myself

July 12, 2007

Lobster is hard. I am not talking about their hard shells. It’s such a bitch to cook, yet there’s never enough meat in each lobster. Think about it: you buy one for $12.99 a pound so each lobster is about $20, but you can only eat less than 40% of it, unless you are my mother (or many Japanese) who will happily eat the guts. Everything else is green guts and shells. No wonder lobster tails cost more than the whole thing, because the labor is so very intensive.

Having said that, it was a special occasion, and I decided to make lobster salad. I went to Lobster House in Chelsea Market, spent $75 for 3 live lobsters. There are three ways to cook (or kill) lobsters. 1. boil, 2. steam, and 3. cleaver it. By the way, boiling lobster is banned in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region according to an article on WSJ the other day. The article also mentioned that Chicago has banned serving foie gras. Some humane people are concerned about fish/meat health I guess… I am not going to get into this.

Since I don’t have a cleaver, nor steamer, I decided to take the old school way of boiling. Man it was scary. As you see below , the biggest pot I have is not big enough to even fit one lobster, let alone three of them. I first froze these guys so they are not as active. Once the water boiled, I took one out, tried to sink it in the boiling water. I made the huge mistake of putting the claws in first, which apparently has the most nerves in their body… Poor thing started to go nuts, and I started screaming at it, “Fuck you, get the fuck in there you motherfucker!” I think was the exact quote. My heart was pounding from adrenalin and it was a damn scary thing to do. I shoved the whole thing in, closed the lid tightly, and 8 minutes later, a nicely red faced boiled lobster was done.

I had to repeat the process, including the screaming twice more…

Once they are cooled, here comes the painstaking process of pulling the meat out of the shells. The tail is actually easy. You take the tail off of the head, press the shells, and you can take the tail meat easily out of the shell. The hard part is the claw. Again, I don’t have a meat pounder, nor a hammer (gay people don’t have DIY items at home). I used the back of a knife and tried to crack the damn thing, and tried yanking the meat out of claws. After a couple more screamings, almost chopping my finger off, and lobster juice flying all over the kitchen, I was done shelling the meat.

It was a pure disappointment. Out of more than 5 lb lobsters, all I had were three tail meats, and 6 claws, that’s about it. It was too painful to go into parts next to the claws after 20 minutes of agony.

My initial idea was to have a bed of green, and lobster and avocado, but needed to come up with more items in the salad so that it’s filling enough. So I boiled some fingering potatoes and green beans. I marinated potatoes in vinegar/mayo/mustard/olive oil mixture to give a little kick, and made enough extra to pour over lobsters. Nicely arranged it and it ended up being a very nice meal.

Lesson learned… Rather than buying lobsters, buy nice sized shrimp, and it’s a lot easier to cook, and i think it tastes better, and definitely cheaper too. Presentation wise, yes, the lobster head looks awesome, but I think lobster meat is a bit bland compare to shrimp.

Speaking of shrimp, I once made jumbo shrimp stuffed with lump crab meat, wrapped with bacon in cream pesto sauce for a Jewish girl.. I DIDN’T KNOW!!! -R

The Umami Reader, vol.001

May 21, 2007

Noteworthy readings, websites, blogs and eats:

  • Bittman goes to Istria with Lidia Bastianich (note asparagus frittata recipe)
  • TMonkey recommends the wine documentary, Mondovino
  • A community of wine lovers on Cork’d
  • Batali and Bourdain on Adam Platt and bloggers on Grub Street
  • Bruni Showdown: yet another NY restaurateur shamelessly crying over a bad review (boohoohoo). Already the second this year!
  • Excellent NYer profile on diva chef Gordon Ramsey (some really f*%#ed up shit!)

It’s soft shell crab season!!! I like mine at Great NY Noodle Town— when I went this week, they were big, juicy and perfectly crunchy. Delicious! Wherever you might be in the world, the season usually runs from May to September– don’t put it off! What are you waiting for??

Editor’s Note:
This is the first in a series of posts that will be dedicated to fantastic readings and random other mind-numbing references and links on food we find throughout the week (it doesn’t matter how outdated it is- Umami Mart is clearly not about late-breaking news). I’m hoping this will be a bi-weekly entry– please email me when you read anything food-worthy! We’re at

Grand Central Oyster Bar

April 15, 2007

I’m the worst and haven’t blogged in a week– my apologies. But to make up for it, I’m going to talk about my absolute favorite restaurant in the city, the Grand Central Oyster Bar.

I was introduced to this place by my dear family friends, the Hashimoto’s, when I first moved here over 4 years ago– we met at Grand Central and stopped off for a wee snack before getting on the 4 train for a Yankee game. It has been a long lustful love affair ever since.

To celebrate the end of my $100/2 Weeks— and actually making it– my wonderful, supportive friends came out to midtown for a raucous oyster fest. It was actually our very first NYC Umami Mart Convention, as W(h)ine-o, Troy Division and Aya came out, as well as a few other close friends.

The jam-packed menu is updated daily and is a seafood-lover’s wet dream. No joke. They always have at least 20 different kinds of oysters, from all over the US, as well as all kinds of fish and shellfish– fried, steamed, grilled, you name is, old school preparations abound.

But me? I pretty much always get the same thing: I order my Kumamotos and Totten Virginicas (both from the North West; Kumamotos are creamy and have a lot of depth and TVs are light and have a very subtle kelp flavor, which is really delightful), a few cherrystone clams (hard, sweet and juicy), a side of fries (they have the BEST fries–thin and crispy), and a beer from the tap. With this, I can eat on $20, if I’m lucky.

Everyone ordered different kinds of oysters. Aren’t they beautiful?

The service is always excellent– they always know what they are talking about when it comes to the oysters. I’ll let our server tell you the kinds of oysters we ordered (sorry it is so dark; also be forewarned that I get really obnoxious when I am excited):

I often also order their Oyster Pan Roast, which is an oyster stew with a tomato-cream based soup, which is really so so tasty and comforting. They add a piece of plain white, Wonder-style bread in the stew, which is the perfect addition to the dish.

The Oyster Bar has been around since 1913, inconspicuously tucked under Grand Central Station. The architecture is really unique, with beautiful pearly white tiles sweeping over the entire restaurant. Overall, the atmosphere is unpretentious and laid back, with a bustling crowd of tourists and locals.

I always sit in the front bar area or the Saloon in the back, just because the dining tables are for people who are there to drop serious cash. You can also dine at the cafeteria style bar, where eat while watching the chefs make lobster bisque and shuck Kumamotos by the dozens. The place is huge and evokes a nostalgic old New York feeling. It’s also a great place for people watching.

What can I say? In my eyes, the Oyster Bar is a truly special establishment, and I feel lucky to be so close to it. Can you feel the love?


Trivia: Troy informed us that the reason why oysters are considered aphrodisiacs is that the zinc in the oyster is said to heighten male testosterone. I just think they are truly sexy creatures.

Brooklyn Fish Camp

March 28, 2007

I’ve walked by Brooklyn Fish Camp many a time, and the few times I’d tried to just “drop in” I’d been turned away either by the charming hostess or the long lines (or the hours of operation). Last night, I stumbled there, weak from low blood sugar (lunch sushi from Sunrise Mart never seems to pack enough bang for the buck), to meet Aya, who informed me that there would be a 45 minute wait.

These little things can contribute to one’s overall impression of a place, but I would not be deterred. I’m gullible (yes, I know they removed that word from the Wikipedia) and I am often (too) willing to forgive if I know the intentions are not malicious (this morning I got a Twitter update from my friend Kev that read: “becoming unclear on the distinctions between negligence and malice” to which Aya replied: “negligence is a passive form of malice” though now I would revise that to say that malice implies ill will. Negligence is just laziness, which may or may not have any intention behind it).

The place looked not that crowded — I spotted two two-tops in the back corner. Don’t you hate it when the hostess tells you it’ll be an hour wait and you are staring right at two empty two-tops? In this case, the assessment may have been correct, but not due to lack of seating but rather to under-staffing. I was too bleary to walk the extra block to Blue Ribbon, so we plunked down at the stainless steel bar, and ordered a half dozen Malpeques and two glasses of Txacoli (which, in retrospect, turned out to be the highlight of the meal).

Decor-wise, not too much to write home — I mean, blog — about: homey-ish, kraft paper on the tables (implying greasy fry shack), not too much faux nautical crap hanging from the walls, a nice open kitchen manned by three earnest-looking cookers. The patio seating looked nice, though we took what we could get inside to shorten our wait.

Oh, the oysters. What can you say really about oysters? Either they’re fresh or they’re not. (We’ll not talk about when they’re not.) These were damn fresh, well-treated, and seemed to have marinated perfectly in waters of the Prince Edward Islands. The truth is, I wouldn’t be able to distinguish between a Malpeque and a Kumamoto, but all I know was these ones were right yummy.

But that has more to do with mother nature (and the ability and desire of the chef to get them to our plates post-haste) so hats off to both.

We bypassed the Restaurant Week menu, and went straight for our instinctual choices: for Aya, the Shellfish Bouillabaisse and for me, that would be the Lobster Pot Pie. Ironic that our engrossing dinner conversation had to do with the increasingly ubiquitous sentiment of “Photo/Video or it didn’t happen” because I have no proof that we had either of these dishes.

Unfortunately I cannot say that I failed to photograph them because they were devoured so quickly, that they were so utterly delicious that they made me lose all sense of bloggerly responsibility. No, while the Lobster Pot Pie was well-made and replete with fresh lobster meat and mushrooms and cream, and a butter-rich pastry to cap it off, I found myself searching for a lemon to squeeze into my mouth, a cornichon, anything with acid to cut through the fat bath in my mouth. Yes, there is a point at which cream and butter can become too much. And this crossed that line.

Aya’s Bouillabaisse, while right tasty and, again, full of fresh ingredients, left me slightly less than impressed. My memory latched onto the ridiculously stale piece of bread that was served with the dish. Peasant that I am, the thing about bouillabaisse I look forward to most (after the actual broth itself) is the crusty crouton (garlic rubbed and toasted) with which one mops up the last drops of the soup. There’s something satisfying in pleasing your gullet with flavored starch AND cleaning your plate at the same time. And to this end, we were thwarted as the staleness factor on the bread piece was so old as to be injurious to the teeth (and I have pretty strong ones).

The sides were also middling, we got french fries and broccoli rabe, though I would have expected our entrees would come with some kind of side action (the pot pie surely could have used it). The pile of broccoli rabe was fairly flavorful thanks to the slices of garlic present, but I found myself reaching for some sea salt and olive oil, not finding either. The fries were thin, the shoestring kind, and ultimately became a ketchup-delivery device (especially after the top on the squeeze bottle popped off and splooged ketchup all over the crayon drawings on our kraft-paper. When we alerted our Lynda-Barry-esque waitress to this, she laughed abruptly at it and walked away).

Like I said, it’s the little things that can add up to contribute to one’s overall impression of a place.