Earlier this summer, I trekked out to Astoria to check out a new oyster bar that’s been more or less off the usual NYC-food radar. I was pleasantly surprised by Oyster Cafe of New York, a little oasis amidst an ever-changing neighborhood.

UPDATE: Oyster Cafe of New York has closed. ūüôĀ¬†

If you love the nautical charm of The John Dory, but want the intimacy of Upstate, with a twist of Kanoyama, and happen to live in Queens, Oyster Cafe of New York should be your new go-to spot. This relatively new Astoria eatery by Daigo Yamaguchi has everything you need for a stellar after work pick-me-up: a great array of East and West Coast oysters, knock-out small plates and savory snacks, and a reasonably priced drinks menu.

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The first thing you’ll notice when you enter is the ceiling-high under-the-sea¬†chalkboard art. The shucking station in the back corner of the restaurant is decorated with flotsam and jetsam. Guests either have a choice of sitting at the long counter (perfect for singles and couples) or one of the six high tables.


I arrived just around the start of Oyster Happy Hour: $1.10 East Coast select and $1.70 West Coast select. Today, they were featuring Sewansecotts (VA) and Samish Bays (WA). I ordered those and topped the half dozen off with another three Kusshis (BC) and Effinghams (BC) for good measure.

Sewansecotts from the Eastern Shore of Virginia are a tried and true favorite. At Oyster Cafe, they were just as meaty and refreshingly briny as I remember them being. Although the shell size seemed a bit small for Sewansecotts, they were still the largest on the plate.

The Samish Bays from Washington were deliciously pillowy and sweet. Their shell had a nice cat paw effect that sort of resembled true Kumamotos. The meat had a medium brininess that transitioned into a silky, mineral finish. Samish Bay is located north of Seattle, between Mount Baker and the magnificent San Juan Islands. In 1919, the very first Pacific (gigas) oysters flourished, after being tossed from their cargo ship. They have since changed the face of the oyster industry on the West Coast forever.

Kusshi oysters¬†grown in Deep Bay, British Columbia are so consistent that I’m able to identify them by sight alone now. However, these few felt a bit different (I might even go as far as to say “off”) than usual. Unlike their usual pearly white and ivory shells, these had a dusty grey exterior. The oyster flavor itself wasn’t pleasant either. They had little brininess and zero sweetness — very strange for this particular brand.

Lastly, it’s good to see Effinghams back on the menu again! These gorgeous¬†Pacific oysters trekked a long way from British Columbia to get to my plate. The meat was plump, but liquor was limited. They didn’t have the velvety black mantle that I’ve come to associate with the name¬†— perhaps they’re using a different genetic strain. The crisp, celery salt-like brininess tastes discernibly different from its Washington neighbors.


My platter of oysters arrived with a series of little black chalkboard tabs that identified each variety. For accoutrements, I was given couple lemon wedges, a small cup of horseradish, and three miniature squeeze bottles of different sauces: homemade cocktail sauce, ponzu, and salsa verde. The bottles allowed me to apply just the right amount of dressing onto each oyster without any waste. Quite genius!


I¬†decided to try their popular 3 Bean Salad, which consisted of¬†chickpea, butter bean, kidney bean, grape tomato, celery, avocado and corn with shiokoji dressing. I was intrigued by the dressing — it was made partly with Koji, a special mold¬†used in the production of sake. The combination was¬†really addictive and I found myself scarfing the entire thing down.

Christian (my server and resident Oyster Cafe Instagrammer) probably thought I was a little nuts to order not one, but two oyster shooters. The chef was in the middle of refining the menu, so I inadvertently volunteered myself up as a guinea pig for a new type of oyster shooter. The classic was a straight up Bloody Mary oyster shot. Simple, smooth, but a little too much liquid. The experimental one contained raw quail egg and some sort of citrusy puree. The flavors worked nicely, but the experience was a bit awkward. The contents were suctioned to the bottom, so it took a little finesse to drink it elegantly.


Overall, I had a great time at Oyster Cafe of New York and would love to visit again. It is a bit of a hike from Manhattan, especially where I’m based. However, it’s not terrible enough to keep me away.¬†More importantly, it’s a great option for all you oyster lovers who are already based in Astoria!

Oyster Cafe of New York (CLOSED)
25-07 Broadway, Astoria, New York