On Saturday around noon, the Grand Central Oyster Bar was relatively quiet. There were a few pods of tourists who were engrossed in their obnoxious maps and a handful of elderly locals who would occasionally gaze around in nostalgia.
Prior to taking the Metro North to Tarrytown for a wedding (congrats to Eric & Mel!), Bryan and I decided to grab lunch at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. I’ve visited this historic oyster bar a few times before, but its massive selection has continued to allow me to discover something new and exciting.
Before diving into the oysters, Bryan and I split bowl of New England Clam Chowder. A single order was big enough to satisfy two people, especially if you’re ordering it as an appetizer. The hearty soup was filled with substantial chunks of chewy clam, potatoes, and long-simmered veggies. My new mental note for next time is to request that it is brought out AFTER the oysters, and not before.
Now to the good stuff… I ordered three west coast oysters, a couple from eastern Canada, and one from New Zealand. You know, I’ve never encountered a small oyster at the Grand Central Oyster Bar before. Regardless of the type, they are always immensely fat and seem to be too large for their shells. From the photo above, you can kind of tell what I’m talking about. Does the Grand Central Oyster Bar only buy the largest sizes of each kind? Perhaps the best way to tell is to try these kinds again at another bar. Below are my tasting notes in the order that I tried them in.
Clevedon Coast from Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand
My first non-North American oyster! These stunning giants (3.5 inches) were deep-cupped and the shells were brushed with a thin coat of greenish-yellow algae. As I bit into the plump flesh, a shockingly fresh splash of sea water first hit my palette. It wasn’t as salty as I was expecting it to be. The meat was creamy in texture and had an earthy flavor that I can only describe as “umami.” A hint of seaweed clung to the back of my mouth after chewing. I really enjoyed this oyster; it was a hearty, clean, and delicious. My only concern would be the size for beginners. It may be a little daunting, but I guarantee that it’s well worth the bite. (****)
French Kiss from New Brunswick, Canada
If you enjoy Beau Soleils, these oysters are grown from the same area. They are larger and plumper than its petite, manicured counterpart. The jelly-like and ultra-creamy texture threw me off a bit, but it matched its soft and salty flavor. While some oyster have a sharp, almost astringent saltiness about them, these French Kiss oysters were much more well-rounded. I probably would not order this oyster again, unless if I could conduct a direct comparison to the Beau Soleils. (***)
Brooklyn Creek from British Columbia, Canada
These oysters were also deeply cupped and creamy in texture. The liquor tasted of semi-sweet brackish water and it left a subdued metallic aftertaste in my mouth. Upon chewing, the meat gave off a slightly fishy aroma that was more pleasant than bizarre. Overall, this oyster had a lot of personality and a complex flavor profile. I’d definitely like to try it again sometime. (***)
Lady Chatterly from Northumberland Strait in Nova Scotia, Canada
The first thing that I noticed about this oyster was its prominent adductor muscle. Despite their delicate name, these ladies definitely work out! They were roughly 2.5 inches long and deep-cupped. Be liquor was very briny, which was also reflected to a lesser degree in the soft meat. Like always, I really enjoyed chewing on the sturdy adductor muscle. (***)
Rainier from South Puget Sound, Washington
Another extra-massive oyster (3+ inches) from the west coast that tasted like a splash of fresh sea water that was packed with minerals. Similar to mineral water, it had a slightly sour aftertaste and reminded me of rainfall. I had a difficult time differentiating this oyster’s profile from others that come from the South Puget Sound. Perhaps I should try for a “South Puget Sound oyster tasting” sometime. (**)
Totten Inlet Virginica from South Puget Sound, Washington
This east coast transplant is probably one of the best sellers at the Grand Central Oyster Bar, and a consistent favorite among its staff (this oyster came recommended by two waiters on different occasions). The complex flavors synthesizes into a singular, powerful taste. Initially, the slightly briny and sweet flavors immediately come to the forefront, which diminishes upon chewing. Then notes of vegetation, rice and oats make the meat ultra-savory and satisfying. I’ve had this oyster before and it’s consistently good. (****)