Thursday, March 23, 2006

Oysters Great, Small, Shucked & Fried at Neptune Oyster ♆

Last Thursday night resulted in yet another fruitful trip to the North End. This time out the goal was to enjoy the fruits of the sea, the almighty oysters, at Neptune Oyster. This place is a nice alternative to all of the pasta being tossed around the North End. Although the restaurant does give a nod to Italy with a couple of Italian appetizers and entrees, clearly the main attraction here is fresh, delicious seafood.

Neptune Oyster is charming. It has a nice big window in the front so you can see them shucking the oysters (pictured above). That definitely captures your attention and whets your appetite. Like most North End restaurants, the space is small but cozy. There is a bar to your right where my brother and I chose to sit. There are hooks under the bar so you can hang your purse or bag. This is a huge plus in my book. Any restaurant that thinks of these kinds of details is a winner in my book. To the left are a handful of tables, most adorned with a multi-tier display of raw bar items. I imagine it's rough getting a seat on a Saturday night.

When we indicated to the bartender we wanted to order some oysters, our bartender handed us a small sheet of paper similar to an a la carte order form for sushi. On the sheet was a full list of all the oysters and raw bar items available along with where they were from, the price and much to our entertainment, a colorful description of each. For example, the Potter's Pond oysters we ordered were described as "Medium, high salt start, briny finish, green apple hints" while the Norwalk Blues were deemed "Large, lower salt, very briny with hints of anise." I love oysters as much as the next person but "green apple hints" and "hints of anise?" I think that might be pushing it a bit. Or maybe my palate is just not that sophisticated to pick those kinds of things up. It's fun nonetheless and gives you something to help you choose amongst the many different kinds. We ordered 4 different kinds and although they were all delicious, we hold a special place in our hearts for the tiny Kumamoto, the cutest little oyster you'll ever see which surprisingly packs a lot of flavor (pictured below).

For our entree, we decided to split the Green garlic halibut with cauliflower, almonds, egg crumbs and white anchovy salad. But we also decided at the last minute that we had to try the Fried Oysters (there's one left in the photo below, just before we devoured it) which turned out to be an excellent call. You have got to try these oysters. They are heavenly. Just flash fried so they are not greasy at all and the oysters are still somewhat raw and melt in your mouth. The oysters are accompanied with blue cheese and very thin strips of celery. Delicious.

The halibut was excellent as well. The only thing we noted was that the fish itself was a bit bland but accompanied with the other items on the plate, it was very flavorful. The almonds added some nice texture to the dish.

There is an excellent wine selection as well as a small but quality beer selection. Service is friendly and the atmosphere is lively. So next time you're up for oysters, try Neptune. And don't be afraid to order them raw and fried or heck, even in a stew. Last but not least, one more hot (or cold item) for you - the luscious Maine lobster roll (served hot with butter or cold with mayo). It passed by us at the bar and we put it on the list for next time.

Finally, if you want to read up on oysters, I recommend "The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell," by Mark Kurlansky. Who knew Manhattan was once the breeding ground for some of the world's best oysters? In addition to the history of oysters, this book also contains lots of recipes.

Thanks, James, for the dinner, the book and the great company as always!

Neptune Oyster
63 Salem Street, North End, Boston, MA, 617.742.3474


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