Raising the (Oyster) Bar
6 must-dine places for devoted oyster-lovers.
Oysters are given star treatment at Bread and Brine, the hip Hastings-on-Hudson bistro. Daily offerings are listed on a big, movie-marquee-like sign by the bar, so patrons can easily see what’s available. Inspired by summers spent in Maine, owner Jeremy McLellan offers only fresh-from-icy-water varieties, such as briny Pemaquids or Little Shemogues, delivered by the “crème-de-la-crème of purveyors.” Even the sauces are cool here, including a frosty apple-cucumber mignonette. Adult Swim Happy Hours (with dollar oysters) draw a crowd.
It makes sense that the favorite oyster of Lisa McKiernan, owner of Ruby’s Oyster Bar & Bistro in Rye, is the Beausoleil. Farmed in floating containers off the eastern coast of Canada, they form perfect shells and are known as the prettiest of oysters. Ruby’s, with beaded chandeliers, coffered ceilings, and red banquettes, is the prettiest of oyster bars — the perfect spot to sip a crisp Sancerre while waiting for your six-variety sampler. The impeccably sourced oysters here are so good, McKiernan says, that most people immediately order six more.
Shuckers at Lilly’s in White Plains must meet Executive Chef Tyler Jacobs’ strict standards, even on the busiest evenings — a challenge when serving more than a thousand Blue Points a week. “Nobody wants a beaten up oyster,” he explains. Using a top supplier, whose name he won’t share (trade secret), Jacobs offers an ever-changing mix of local favorites and West Coast stars. His mignonette (made from pepper, vinegar, and shallots) is a fave, and cocktail sauce comes with extra-fresh horseradish, for customizing the heat.
Every mollusk served at Northeast Oyster Company, a small oyster emporium in Mamaroneck, is expertly shucked by owner Ray Schramm in front of his eager customers. The meat is left intact, and the juices preserved to form a delicious slurp. Carefully selecting oysters based on their merroir (aquatic terroir), Schramm describes their specific flavors with wine-listy adjectives like “buttery,” “citrus notes,” and “sweet finish.” Schramm says his most knowledgeable customers insist on downing these exceptional shellfish plain, scoffing at the notion of sauce.
Pacific oyster fans need travel no farther than Hartsdale’s Tsuru Sushi Asian Bistro, a mod eatery with electric-blue waterfall walls, bright-orange seating, and a wooden ceiling resembling a wave. Small, sweet, West Coast varieties are the only oysters served here, including Hama Hamas farmed in waters off Seattle. (Of course, the extensive menu includes all manner of seafood, to round out an amazing feast.) Tucked into a strip mall, it’s easy to miss but worth seeking out.
With an impressive résumé that includes training at Le Bernardin (Eric Ripert’s seafood temple in NYC), chef-owner Anthony Labriola of Pelham’s Caffe Regatta certainly knows his way around an oyster. He stocks the raw bar here with cold-water oysters from Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Alaska, and other points north. This summer, his topping of choice is a tiny scoop of frozen lemon-basil mignonette. He also offers the shellfish “fried, sautéed, or Rockefeller-ed,” for those who aren’t ready for raw.