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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Bar, An Oyster, But No Oyster Bar

Readers of the Oracle quite possibly are aware that I am a fool for oysters on the half shell. Succulent, juicy oysters with the salty taste of the sea. I swoon at the very thought.

With that being said, I was overjoyed to discover that Tampa's sister city across the bay, St. Petersburg, has an oyster bar smack in the heart of downtown - The Central Avenue Oyster Bar

From restaurant website
Since my bride and I had the day off together this past Monday, and since we are always on the lookout for new and exciting dining options we decided to make the trek across the bay.
The Bar
From restaurant website

The Central Avenue Oyster Bar is a very attractive restaurant that reminded us a bit of a few of our favorite dining spots in New Orleans's Vieux Carré.

Seeing the signs "Oyster Bar" and "Raw Oysters" just set my taste buds a-tingling. We were greeted at the door and invited to sit "wherever" since the place was empty at two in the afternoon. We had apparently missed the lunch crowd.

It also became immediately apparent that while this establishment has a bar and serves oysters that it was not an oyster bar. Our server said the oysters are shucked in the kitchen and could be served at the bar, at the tables, or outside on the patio.

The Oyster Bar website says, "We at the Oyster Bar feature the Crassostrea Virginica East Coast oyster." This species occurs naturally from Canada down the East Coast to New York and Chesapeake Bay and all the way across the Gulf. On our visit their oysters came from Louisiana waters, and said our server, "They are the big ones." I requested a dozen. In the meantime, my dining partner ordered the California Cobb Salad, which she declared was very good. I should mention that ever since my bride discovered that raw oysters on the half shell were alive when served, she has since eschewed these aquatic delights.

When my oysters arrived on a tray of ice it was obvious to even the most casual observer that they were dead. There was no way they could have lived through the mangling they received at the hands of the shucker. On top of that, they were nowhere near large, but rather small and medium, and any natural juices had been drained away.

Hoping to mitigate some of the disappointment over the oyster fiasco, I ordered the bar's Mother's Mussels in a Garlic Basil Wine Sauce. The mussels themselves weren't bad, but the sauce did not give a hint of garlic or basil, but instead had an ever so slight hint of lemon, and was overwhelmingly bland.

I am sure that all the other menu items at The Central Avenue Oyster Bar are orgasmically good. But, if you are looking for a real oyster bar that truly knows how to shuck and serve an oyster on the half shell, I suggest you travel a little farther north of the Tampa area - probably up to the panhandle west of Perry.

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” ― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Hemingway would not have been inspired to write this ode to oysters had he been dining around Tampa Bay. How sad is that?

To read more on my Oyster Odysseys, click HERE.

Central Avenue Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon 

Central Avenue Oyster Bar on Foodio54

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