Oyster Safari

Published February 12, 2003

Boston’s Weekly Dig

Many of you lucky enough to have snagged a date this Valentine's Day may be asking yourself what you can do to fully impress your companion. My suggestion is to leave behind the Belgian chocolates and pricier-than-thou champagne and take your companion to an oyster bar.

What, you ask, is so appealing about a slimy, wet oyster?

Well, consult any love doctor and he or she will surely emphasize the overtly sexual qualities of this shellfish: the rawness, the color and the shape. Furthermore, just slurping up the juices is enough to rev your engines. To some, there is nothing that conjures up the sweet aroma of love like a plate full of freshly shucked oysters.

To sway my peers with a myriad of suggestions and satiate my adventurous taste buds with a bit of pre-Valentine's Day shopping, I took myself on an oyster bar crawl through the Boston area in an attempt to draft some recommendations for wining and dining the loved one in your life. Just be warned, however, oysters are not a food for the squeamish, despite their often delicate flavor. Therefore, make sure your partner is an adventurous eater before you follow my suggestions to woo and dazzle.

My first stop was the East Coast Grill and Raw Bar in Inman Square. Its motto, "Eat Oysters, Love Longer," fully captures the essence of this supposed aphrodisiac. A Bloody Mary ($4.75) in hand, I asked the bartender what he had on tap for the night. He handed me a dozen Duxbury oysters ($21) with the usual mignonette and cocktail sauce accompaniments. The oysters were of the smaller variety and very mild; their texture was smooth, the aftertaste minimal, and the East Coast Grill is the perfect place to eat them. I just love the ever-festive nature of the bar and restaurant. It’s a perfect location for a date, although preferably for those who are well acquainted, due to the casual atmosphere and noise level.

I continued to flex my love muscles at the Oak Bar in the Fairmont Copley Hotel. Here, I chose a more elegant drink for a more elegant setting. My perfect dry martini ($14) went smashingly with our dozen Blue Point oysters ($26), more muscular than the Duxbury, but also very tender. The presentation was extremely refined and traditional: symmetrically arranged oysters surrounding several lemon halves and two tiny cups of cocktail sauce. Unlike the East Coast Grill, though, the Oak Bar is never a casual excursion. Take your date here if you wish to ask for a hand in marriage. You may do so with the waste-not-want-not Shrieve, Crump & Low Martini ($12,750), complete with diamond engagement ring!

As I had not yet had enough oysters to prove my point, my friends and I walked across the street to the recently revamped Turner Fisheries to try the flight of oysters ($12 for a half dozen), which comes with tangy cucumber, lemon and champagne vinaigrettes and a flash card to help identify the various oysters, their place of origin, their tastes and aftertastes and the order in which they should be consumed. The very friendly bartender informed me that Turner receives a different variety of oysters daily. The customers will be pleasantly surprised, as they will rarely receive a repeat combination, which excited me very much. I would definitely bring someone here to experience the thrill of taste-testing a wide range of flavors; it’s a great conversation piece. Try Turner Fisheries on for size on a first or second date!

On my final stop, I ventured to the Village Fish in Brookline for my last, but not least, half-dozen oysters ($8.25 or $1.50 each). The waitress told me they were serving Malpeque oysters, which I had not yet experienced on this outing.  Tender and mild, they were served simply and quickly with a lemon and cocktail sauce. The restaurant and oyster bar, much like the oysters themselves, gives the sense of a summer evening on Cape Cod. This is the type of ambiance for an extremely casual yet fresh and fun evening.