West Coast or East Coast oysters – tasting mission in NYC
Trying 5 completely different types of oysters is not something we do every day.
I am a big oyster lover and this is a good reason, once in Manhattan, to book NY oyster tasting experience.
Many of you know already that this was once a poor man’s food and the only difference was how did people pair them – possibly with cheap gin, wine or Champagne.
Many of the best oyster shacks and trendy unusual oyster bars today are in NY, the big Apple is also famous with the biggest and finest seafood festival at Oyster Bay.
I have purposely visited the Crave Fishbar in Manhattan famous and cool seafood place, where I met the owner Brian Owens and his celebrity chef Tod Mitgang.
Brian is one of those guys who can talk for hours about his passion, and this is not the accounting career and the MBA in finance he once was pursuing, this is food, sustainable seafood, connecting with likeminded young restauranteurs and clients, creating new experiences.
“The days of fancy places and fine dining are no longer on the agenda for the New Yorkers” People like going out and have real, unpretentious experiences, good food and time for conversations with friends and family. But this doesn’t mean we don’t need to be innovative and exciting.” – point out Brian.
Probably that is why Brian has chosen to work together with Todd Mitgang. Todd is famous in NY, he is one of these celebrity chefs from the TV programmes, he has a huge smile and great presence. Todd is convincing you straight away, that his efforts is labour of love and passion. He is eager immediately to give you his best shot, even if this means to show you how to open an oyster.
“A good restaurant owner has to partner with great chef”- Brian shares with me – “This is the best recipe I can give to anyone who wants to be successful in this business, not only in Manhattan, but all over the world. It is like pairing fresh sea food with the right white! Seafood lovers would know how this can taste”.
So is there a real difference between the East Coast and the West Coast Oysters?
Yes there is and that is why I went on this tasting mission. Price wise very much depends on where you are. If you order oysters in NYC, you definitely pay much for those coming from the West Coast. The expensive transport and overnight shipping of fresh seafood add much more than just a taste. This is one of the reasons the East Coast oysters are more popular.
Whether they are better, I am not sure, depends on your pallet, I definitely prefer the West Coast Oysters.
Chef Tod has suggested me to try 5 different types of Oysters.
The East Coast Oysters are generally slightly cheaper – around $3 each, smaller as a size and lighter as a taste. I tried:Great Gun (Moriches Bay, NY) – They are salty slightly sweet finish, almost average as taste, similar to the ones we buy in London, coming from our South East coast.
Black Duck Salt ( Hog Island bay, VA) – – these have more prominent salinity and their finish is creamy.
Point Lookout ( Chesapeak Bay, MD) – Delicate creaminess, hints of green freshness, cucumber .
Malpeque ( Prince Edward Island, CAN) – These have delicate finish and they are the briniest of all that I have tried from the East Coast.
From the West Coast oysters tent to be bigger, tastier, slightly chewier, definitely more character, more expensive up to $4 each.:
I recommend Totten Inlet (Puget Sound, WA) – probably my favourite of all, very creamy, but mild as a taste.Neptunes Choice – (Hood Canal, WA) – My second favourite – very luscious, complex with long briny finish, some people don’t like the way they look, as they are bigger than average and not easy to eat in one go.
The truth about this seafood is that it is very difficult to pair, because oysters have a hint of umami and choosing wine is a challenge.
Nevertheless, the wine world has settled on arranged marriage with white wine:
Best for me are the light whites – Champagne, Italian Prosecco, good French Muscadet or Sauvignon Blank.
Oyster can be very exciting and you can really make a great fun of it by trying oyster shucking techniques and oyster eating demonstrations for newbies at home or in your restaurant.
Thank you Brian and Todd for the memorable tasting and great time in your amazing Crave Fishbar.
And one tip …please don’t put sauces before knowing how hot they are, this can be very chilli experience…
A native of Bayside, Queens, Brian Owens grew up in the Manhattan pubs and restaurants his father owned, winding his way through every aspect of the business from the kitchen to the host stand. His ability to plumb the moment for current trends while keeping an eye on “what’s next?” has made Crave Fishbar a local haunt as well as a dining destination.
While pursuing an MBA in Accounting from Hofstra University, he started working with his uncle, first at the Midtown lounge One51 and later launching another project in Chelsea, Suede. At the tender age of 24, Owens opened the Gallery Lounge at The Gershwin Hotel.
When he met chef Todd Mitgang, Owens knew they had a hit on their hands with Crave Ceviche Bar and its distinctive menu of global ceviche. After the tragic crane accident, Owens was determined to reopen in the same neighborhood and Crave Fishbar was finally born in July, 2012.
Executive Chef Todd Mitgang is the creative force behind the innovative, sustainable seafood menu for which Crave Fishbar has come to be known. With over a decade of culinary experience in a multitude of gastronomic settings, Todd brings great variety and bold flavors to his food.
Todd graduated from the University of Buffalo before enrolling at the French Culinary Institute. After a stint as Executive Chef at Lisenda (now Ruby Room) in his native Roslyn, New York, Todd accepted a position at the Soho’s critically acclaimed and consumer-popular Kittichai in 2004, where Mitgang’s work with Executive Chef Ian Chalermkittichai played a major role in forming some of Mitgang’s signature flavor profiles.
He then met business partner Brian Owens in 2007 and they opened Crave Ceviche Bar in Midtown Manhattan. When the restaurant was tragically destroyed in a crane accident in 2008, hopes were high that Crave would return to the neighborhood as soon as possible. The team however, was not able to immediately find a new home and Todd went on to consult for various projects in New York including Cascabel Taqueria before opening his Montauk seafood shrine South Edison in 2010.