441 Yu yuan Lu, in Jing An District, Shanghai
|Phone Number||021 6233 9651|
|Food Style||Farm fresh quality oysters and other seafood and meats|
|Price per head||¥350+ pp|
Situated in a newly renovated space in the recently expanding area I am now calling “Jingan West”, The Oyster House is the kind of neighborhood spot I can see myself going to regularly. Beyond their wide range of ultra-fresh imported oysters, diners at this “new kid on the block” can also enjoy a myriad of comfort foods, such as Deviled Eggs & Cheese Fries, Salads (Chopped or Cesar), Soups (Gazpacho & Oyster Chowder), Sandwiches (Po’Boys & Paninis), and alcoholic beverages including home-brewed Craft Beers, well-paired Wines, and Japanese-style, top-shelf signature Cocktails.
The Oyster House (OH) is the brainchild of David Brode, former co-proprietor of Shanghai’s Plump Oyster. Born and raised in Chicago, David has been involved in food since he was cooking eggs for himself at the age of 2, and then went on to working professionally in the industry at the age of 15. David holds a no-nonsense, matter of fact, detailed approach towards life, which manifests clearly in his new restaurant, from its menu selection to its simple and clean décor. Multiple elements combine in the dining area to create a comfortable, casual, and intimate ambience, where Classy background jazz tunes dance lightly off the soothing burnt orange walls, sparsely decorated with some of David’s hanging photos.
Further reflecting his direct and to the point attitude, David is partnering up with food importer FG Fine Foods to bring the freshest and highest quality ingredients from the farm directly to OH’s customers. This approach of keeping the supply chain as short as possible consistently makes use of the freshest and healthiest, source-able and ethically raised ingredients. This recipe for success appears to be a winner, judging from how full their newly opened, cozy dining room was on this late, rainy, Sunday night. Don’t worry if you arrive to find that all the tables are full. Head over to the quaint seating at the oyster bar, where you will appreciate the expert shucking in action.
The first dish to arrive at our table was their Hand-made Sausage Platter (自制手工香肠) (¥78/4pc). Currently, the four flavors on this sampler platter included Italian, Sicilian, Chorizo, & Cuban (意大利红酒肠, 西西里肠, 香辣墨西哥肠, 古巴风味香肠). As with much of the items on their ever-growing menu, David informed me that more varieties will soon be added. The success of this incredibly popular dish, seen on most tables, comes down to the skills of this seafood joint’s in-house butcher. Fernando, their “meat man”, is a 3rd generation butcher from northeastern Italy. The Sicilian sausage, with its oozing cheese, diced fresh tomato, and spices, was our favorite style.
Next up was the Oyster Chowder (生蚝浓汤) (¥78), featuring 3 plump, warm and juicy oysters (Pacific’s, on the night we visited), decadently rich French cream, crunchy house-made bacon bits, chunks of unpeeled potatoes and crunchy celery, a hint of lager beer, and served with crunchy baguette wafers. Considering that the price of this classic chowder is the same as that of 3 Pacific oysters alone, this dish is a great value. There is no wonder why this is another one of the most popular menu choices.
After sampling these substantial starters, we moved on to the main attraction for loving David’s Oyster House – their dazzling selection of ultra-fresh, raw Imported Oysters (进口生蚝菜单). From the farm, to your plate, these oysters are well cared for, and well presented. Each order is served on a bed of shiny ice chips and simply accompanied by some fresh lemon wedges and a small cup of chopped shallots soaking in red wine vinegar.
OH’s wide selection of oysters varies daily to guarantee that only the freshest pearl-makers are on offer. For those diners, like me, who are not well versed in the many oyster species, fear not. Mr. Brode eagerly attends to each table, personally introducing the day’s options. On the night of our visit, David suggested that we sample seven from among the nine varieties on hand. We soon realized first-hand that each different species varied greatly in characteristics, such as shape, size, taste, and even texture. The helpful proprietor further helped us understand that the influences of these differences include the oyster’s region, water temperature, water composition, and others. This brought to mind the way wine grapes are similarly influenced by similar differences in their environment (weather, terroir, etc.). Perhaps on my next visit I can try to pair some of the oysters with different style wines also served here. More on this later.
We were advised to start with the Kumamoto (美国华盛顿熊本生蚝) (¥28/pc), from Washington State, USA. We found these tasty morsels to be sweet, creamy, and mild, with hints of melon. This variety is classically smaller than the oysters which most of us might usually picture. However, these petite best sellers pack a concentrated bright ocean experience, and are a great reminder that big things can come in small packages.
Next in tasting order, sometimes thought of as Kumamoto’s bigger brother, were the Pacifics (美国西海岸处女蚝) (¥26/pc) are also from Washington State, USA. I agree that the sweet, mild, and slightly saltier taste and substantial texture of these larger oysters are quite similar to Kumamoto; they just come in a larger body.
Our tour continued, from America on to Marennes-Oléron, France. The Gillardeau #1 (法国吉拉多生蚝) (¥45/pc), is a classic French styled oyster with a rich body. Its sweeter taste mingled with a briny ocean tang and nutty undertones. The Geay #1(法国生蚝) (¥44/pc) species, originally from Japan, was also sweet, meaty, and a little salty and nutty.
The largest variety usually available at OH, both in taste and size, is the Wild Fine De Clair (野生) (¥78/pc), from Carantec, Brittany, France. Each one of these monsters weighs in at a minimum of a generous 150 grams. These special oysters are raised wild in the sea and then finished in fresh water ponds, achieving a nice balance of superb tastes. Biting into each one creates surges of ocean spray leaping bursting inside our mouths, with hints of hazelnut.
Leaving France, we next moved on to New South Wales, Australia, and tasted some Sydney Rock (悉尼石头蚝) (¥32/pc), and Angasi (安加斯生蚝) (¥34/pc). Both species exhibited slightly salty, creamy, and bitter characteristics, while the Sydney Rock was more slippery, and the Angasi was a bit crispier in texture. The other two varieties also available on this night, but will need to wait until my next visit to try, include the Coffin Bay (哥芬湾生蚝) (¥18/pc) from South Australia, and the Moulting Bay (摩尔廷湾生蚝) (¥24/pc) from Tasmania.
To round out the seafood experience, we were also treated to a whopping serving of their 250-gram prime Canadian Wild Coho Salmon steak (加拿大野生三文鱼) (¥148), accompanied by roasted mushrooms and buttered rice. Tantalizing grill marks are seared into this plump and juicy steak glistened with bright orange salmon oils. Its skin was slightly salted and crispy, while the center of this nearly 2-inch thick cut of fish steak remained sushi-like. I enjoyed an abundance of salmon flavor in each flaky bite, despite that their salmon cuts are leaner, and less oily, than other venues.
For those feeling the need to bite into something red and juicy, OH proudly features a meaty, grass-fed, 120-day grain-finished, 45 day-aged, 250 gram, AAA Canadian Angus Ribeye (加拿大安格斯肉眼) (¥268), directly from the farms in Alberta Canada. We promised ourselves that we’d be back another time when our bellies would have the room to enjoy this special dish.
Along with their great eats, OH offers a wide variety of tasty alcoholic treats, from an eclectic selection of fine bottled wines, to high-quality premium-pour, Japanese-styled cocktails (¥99), to an impressive selection of delicious, some hard-to-find, beer on tap and in bottles. Ensuring that there is something for everyone and every occasion, OH also boasts a selection of fine Caviar (鱼子酱) paired with great Champagne (香槟).
From the adequate selection of tasty wines by the glass (¥49), my friend chose the 2010 Chateau de Fesles, Cabernet Rosé D’Anjou, from Loire, France. This pleasant, light, option is a great choice for the ladies, yielding a delightfully fresh taste and fruity bouquet, an ideal pairing for the bright tastes of the OH’s seafood fare.
As a big-time craft beer fan, I opted to sample something on tap. I was delighted to find that, not just one, but two, different Kentucky Bourbon Ales were available, including their exotic tasting Coffee Stout (¥59). I found that this stout, which I’ve personally had never seen before, tasted as amazing as it sounded. The deep stout drew out earthy tones from the meaty sausages, and accentuated the chowder’s secret lager ingredient.
My coffee stout quickly went empty and I was suggested to try something a bit lighter and more fragrant to pair with the oysters and fish. I chose to sample their Negroni, a well-balanced, potent, and refreshing mix of ample portions of gin, Campari, vermouth, orange, bitters, and one very large hand-chipped chunk of ice. Following this classic Japanese style (think about one of Shanghai’s Constellation bars) of using one large solid ice chunk keeps the cocktail icy cold, without too quickly diluting the taste with melting ice.
Considering all their well-executed comfort foods, offerings of the freshest and highest quality of seafood and meats, diverse selection of tap beers, wines and cocktails, and, last but not least, their fabulous array of fresh, raw oysters, I’m happy to add this great new neighborhood joint as one of my favorite local go-to places. I also can’t wait to get back soon to indulge in their new, specially made, home brewed craft beers, which I was promised should be available on tap by the time you get to read this article.