Grazing: Oysters come to (down)town
I love, love, love oysters, but since I can't shuck them with any grace, I'm dependent on others to satisfy my addiction. Yet for some reason I rarely ventured up to Riverside Avenue to have them at Bluebird Tavern, where they were usually on the menu.
When the relocated Bluebird opened on St. Paul Street this week, though, the pusher had come to town. Shimmering bivalves a few blocks' walk from work?
It took me only two days to wander into the new Bluebird, where the bar was heaving and the open kitchen was cranking. I planned to have a half-dozen oysters on the half-shell — last night's selection included Malpeques and Island Creeks — but on the menu, an appetizer called Hot Oysters also beckoned. It turned out to be a simple name for a kinda complex dish: hot oysters topped with bright green seaweed aioli, squishy pink trout roe and maple sugar (four for $13).
The three raw Island Creeks were buttery and slightly sweet, and came with a zingy orange-blossom mignonette. The hot oysters, though, were a bombshell, resting on a bed of rock salt and peppercorns. Each bite was a mashup of warm, slightly smoky oyster meat, umami creaminess and tiny explosions of brine from the roe. (I could barely detect the maple sugar, though). Mmm.
Oysters are in their prime now. They're loaded with zinc and contain two rare amino acids that can spike testosterone in men and progesterone in women (ooh-la-la). They're easy to grow, can filter a gallon of water through their bodies every hour ... and now they've moved nearby. My wallet may never recover.
Photo of an oyster at the first incarnation of Bluebird Tavern, by Andy Duback.