Olympias are the tiny ones. Pacifics are the jagged, oval ones. The kumamotos are shallow and fluted. I love delving into oysters identification and investigating the briny, tangy nuance of their flesh and liquor.
Through March, Anthony’s restaurants are digging deep into West Coast oysters. A month-long oyster menu offers a daily selection of fresh oysters on the half shell and more than a dozen entrees with oysters as the starring bivalve.
I stopped in at the Point Defiance Anthony’s. Here’s what I ate …
Oyster purists will appreciate the daily fresh selection. A menu describes the origin of the oysters – all but a few oysters hail from the Puget Sound region, and only one California oyster appears on the menu- and the menu gives guidance in the form of tasting notes. We ordered the sampler ($14.95), and were brought eight chilly, fresh oysters, perfectly shucked with shells full of the tasty liquor. They came served with cocktail sauce and a ginger-red wine vinegar mignonette. We tasted ours smallest to largest, which turned out to be a great strategy. The tiny Olympias were crisp and light, the larger kumamoto was buttery and with a pronounced tart finish. I didn’t use the accompanying sauces. For my palate, the raw oysters were treat enough.
For the rest of the menu, oysters come cooked in the form of tacos ($8.95), a burger ($9.95), hangtown fry ($11.95) and pan-fried ($12.95) at lunch. At dinner, they come seared ($14.95), baked ($18.95) and steak and oysters ($19.95). There’s even an oyster sorbet on the menu. But, alas, it’s a joke listing on the menu. Sort of a silly one. If I were in the Anthony’s kitchen, I probably would have come up with some kind of oyster dessert. Anything can be turned into dessert with the right flavor combination – even oysters (you may think I've lost my mind, but I'm not this crazy).
The hangtown fry ($11.95) on the lunch menu read and tasted like breakfast, save for the golden thin-cut fries on the side instead of hash browns. A runny open-faced omelet was laced with spinach, diced tomatoes, gooey Tillamook cheddar cheese and thick pieces of alder smoked bacon. But I wanted more bivalve infiltration in the dish. Perched atop the dish were four plump oysters, breaded in panko and fried. The oyster juice spilled onto the omelet, giving it a briny flavor, but I wish the oysters had been better incorporated into the omelet. It just felt like an omelet with some oysters plopped on top.
The pan-fried oysters ($12.95) yielded briny little morsels, also coated in panko and fried, but we were disappointed that it seemed the kitchen used the smallest oysters for the entrée. I’m much more a fan of oysters with more surface area. If you fry oysters, they lose the delicate flavor; and if they’re small, the breading overwhelms the oyster. I wanted bigger, plumper oysters.
On a return visit, I’d give the oyster tacos ($8.95) a try for lunch. They’re described as seared oysters finished with a salsa mayo, cabbage and roasted corn salsa in warm Santa Fe tortillas. For dinner, I’d go for the steak & oysters ($19.95), a Double R Ranch signature top sirloin char-grilled with panfried Willapa Bay oysters on the side. Sounds like meaty oyster heaven.
Other highlights for the March oyster fest at Anthony’s:
Lounge Oysters: Shooters and slurps are offered in the bar. The “90 Proof” oyster shooter ($2.95) is made with Stoli Citros and bloody mary mix. The shells ‘n shot sampler ($12.95) give a half dozen oysters with a shot of Stoli. On Friday nights, at 6 p.m. in the lounge, hands-free slurping contests will yield prizes to the fastest slurper (you’ll get gift certificates for your effort).
Wine pairings: Ask for the oyster pairing wine list. If I hadn’t been dining in the middle of my work day (Hi boss! Nothing to see here! Move along now!), I’d have ordered up a glass of Big Fire pinot gris ($7.95 by the glass). At happy hour, the wines are discounted to $5 (from 7 p.m.-10 p.m. nightly)
Anthony’s RestaurantsWebsite: http://www.anthonys.com/Point Defiance: 5910 North Waterfront Drive, Tacoma; 253-752-9700Gig Harbor: 8827 Harborview Drive N.; 253-853-6353Olympia: 704 Columbia St. N.W., Olympia; 360-357-9700