Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oyster House

You know you love something when you'll go through hell and high water for it -- and still come back for more. Like oysters, for instance! As some of you may know, one bad oyster can knock you out for 24 hours.  That said, the joy of slurping down a good oyster (or several perhaps) with just a bit of lemon juice or a dash of the perfect mignonette is really quite memorable.

Living in Center City, I'd passed by Oyster House numerous times since I moved here, and I'd been dying to go ever since I found out about their "A-Buck-A-Shuck" Oyster Hour. An oyster for a buck? While that wouldn't be surprising at all to see in a coastal town, where seafood is fresh, convenient and cheap, it's always a little questionable to see it in places that are further inland.

That said, my foodie friend extraordinaire Peter had mentioned that Oyster House was one of his favorite places, where he finds himself once a week. When my birthday rolled around, I knew I had to book this place as one of my many celebration venues. And I was far from disappointed!

While the restaurant normally doesn't take reservations, the hostess on the phone was kind enough to set aside space for me up front. In addition, the in-person service was impeccable -- attentive without being intrusive. (Because we all know how suffocating too much service can be.) Our server made sure to check on every new guest who joined the table, and even brought complimentary ice cream for those of us who lingered till the end.

Even without all the wonderful extras, we would've been perfectly happy, especially given how fresh and well-prepared everything was. The raw oysters (both the specific ones for Oyster Hour and the others on the menu) were delicious -- and with no sand! Even the freshest oysters always seem to have sand in them, but the ones offered up to us that night were most definitely sand-free. While it was mildly disconcerting that we didn't have our choice of oysters to have for "a-buck-a-shuck," the ones we did have were quite substantial in size (which is what I was personally looking for). And because I was so pleased with the $1 oysters, I even ordered a plate of other oysters to sample against them -- all of different sizes, textures, and origins. It was great to be able to taste the freshness as well as the variations in salinity.

While the snapper turtle soup left a lot to be desired, I absolutely loved my fried Ipswich clams, Peter his OH burger (with a fried oyster on top), and Noelle her roasted oyster sampler. The clams could have been slightly less greasy, but were otherwise perfect with the accompanying tartar sauce. The burger was a great contrast in flavor and texture, with the moist beef, creamy yet pungent blue cheese,  crispy fried oyster, and slightly sweet grilled onions. The sampler came with three different kinds of roasted oyster preparations, all of which highlighted the freshness of the oysters in different ways.

Ultimately, there are many other delicious dishes to try here, including the clams casino, the southern fried oysters, the lobster roll, and the crab cakes. I'm seriously hopeful that there will be more visits on the horizon--and soon!

Oyster House
1516 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102

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