Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fun (and painful?) night at Island Creek Oyster Bar and Eastern Standard

We avoid the Fenway area like the plague. We're not Red Sox fans, so there's no reason for us to hang out in that neighborhood. But we've heard great things about the Island Creek Oyster Bar (including the Serious Eats review here) and we love oysters, so when it came time to celebrate my promotion at work, we decided to brave the Kenmore square neighborhood.

It pays to go out in terrible weather - it had been pouring cold rain all day, and it was a miserable enough evening to keep people indoors. For those brave or crazy enough to venture outside, like us, it meant we found parking right in front of the restaurant and no lineup to be seated. It did help it was only 6:30, but when we left an hour later it had only gotten marginally busier.

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Island Creek Oyster Bar was surprisingly large - I guess we had in both of our minds that it would be more like an intimate oyster shack, as opposed to a swank restaurant. In spite of the somewhat impersonal setting, the bar is a perfectly comfortable spot to indulge in your seafood cravings. When settled in with a glass of prosecco, we proceeded to devour 10 oysters consisting of Island Creeks (obviously) and four varieties from WA state, with Kumamotos as the only type that we knew and the fave of the bunch. It's amazing how different they taste from each other, even though they're all oysters. I also realize that's a somewhat dumb thing to say, since different breeds or varieties of fruits, vegetables or meats can taste vastly different, but that's as deep as I could get on a Friday night.

We decided to go with a variety of smaller plates for the rest of the meal. We went with razor clams from Scituate, lightly grilled with olive oil, garlic and bacon bits. While tasty, they were disappointing when compared to the first time we tried razor clams - but that was in Barcelona, and it's hard to expect the same thing anywhere else. We also ordered a small basket of fried clams as per the recommendation of Serious Eats. These were non-greasy little bundles of fried goodness, but I find the novelty of fried clams wears off fast and I can only eat 10 at the most.

My favorite dish of the evening though was the small, unassuming oyster slider. At $4 each, I wasn't expecting much, but this crunchy fried oyster was paired with a great spread (tartar sauce, maybe) and placed on a delectably buttery brioche bun. Each bite was rich yet balanced by the acidity of the sauce and I could have eaten a few more of those.

Once we were filled with seafood, we moved on to Eastern Standard just a few doors down. Unlike the Island Creek Oyster Bar, Eastern Standard was hopping - long waits for tables, and a packed bar 2-people deep. The husband was thinking of eating a burger (where he puts it, I will never understand) and ordered a beer, but I was moving to dessert mode and ordered a Raspberry Lemon Fizz. This proved to be a delicious and lethal combination of raspberry vodka, limoncello, soda water and an egg white that froths up once shaken vigorously by the bartender. Light and summery, it was the perfect foil to the weather outside, which had switched from pouring rain to heavy snow by this point in the evening.

It seemed like ordering a second Raspberry Lemon Fizz would be the right thing to do under the circumstances, but on top of the glass of prosecco I'd had at the beginning of the evening and the fact that I'm a small person with low alcohol tolerance, it sent me to bed by 8:30pm. Maybe I should start working on my endurance...

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