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Introduce me to Oysters

We stopped for beer and shrimp at a seafood restaurant a couple of weeks ago, and it turns out they're famous for their oysters. They had lists of what was in stock, a whole menu page of different combos you could get, the works. I've never had them. I hate to waste good money on gross food, and I know oysters are an acquired taste (it's more the texture I assume), but I'm adventurous and they looked interesting.

So introduce me, oyster lovers! If I'm giving it a go for the first time, what do you recommend?

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    1. re: bbqboy

      Los Angeles. Though I'm open to restaurants, etc. I'm more interested in just general opinions--what kinds should I look for or avoid or try or will I be really grossed out?

      1. re: thursday

        I know this may be sacrilegious, but you should consider steamed oysters in black bean sauce. You can find this in Cantonese seafood restaurants in the SGV. I think raw oysters are good, but I prefer mine cooked.

    2. Thursday, oysters... Oyster, Thursday.


      Sorry, couldn't resist.

      My advice??

      Ask questions.. find a local fishmonger and tell him/her you're an oyster virgin.. get some tasting in before you spend good dosh on a resto meal that you might hate.

      My personal preference.. freshly shucked, with a simple squeeze of lemon.

      If that grosses you out, find a good oyster bar/resto.. plenty here in my home town that do a tapas thingy of various oysters, and try some cooked ones.

      Mayve even get some smoked oysters (available in cans in most supermarkets) and give then a try... although they are a LONG way from the beauty of the real thing

      1 Reply
      1. re: purple goddess

        "Thursday, oysters... Oyster, Thursday."

        I was gonna say that.


      2. Start with small and North East Coast (NE England and up) although Chincoteagues are good too.

        West Coast are too big until later in your quest (but really good for stew)

        go to New Orleans and hit either Felix or Acme and dig in. then you'll know.

        2 Replies
        1. re: hill food

          I prefer the smaller West Coast oysters like kumamotos, to what I think of as generally larger East Coast ones - though I'm no expert.

          1. re: MMRuth

            West vs.East: the ones from Tomales Bay are usu. good, but the stuff from Puget Sound is not among my favorites.

        2. "I lost my oyster cherry to a saucy little Bluepoint from Maine. She was full-bodied, voluptuous, her skin glistened and she curved in ways that would make a bishop stutter. Her shell brimmed with fresh seawater and she was wore nothing but a come-hither look, some fresh lemon juice and a few strategically placed drops of cocktail sauce. I'll never forget that sunny afternoon, there in Morro Bay, where the pounding surf matched the pounding of my heart and a boy became a man."

          Hang on, I need a moment....


          I'm still learning about oysters, so here's what I've learned so far:

          Above all else, make sure the oysters you eat are as fresh as you can get. Oysters should taste like the sea. One of my bucket list items is to go out on an oyster boat and eat some oysters that have just been harvested and shucked.

          Since you're in LA, are you near Glendale? I used to live there, and Fish King seafood market on Glendale Ave. above the 138 carried good quality, fresh seafood and the guys there were helpful and knowledgeable.There are many good fish markets in LA, FK is just the one familiar to me.

          There are various arguments pro and con about West Coast vs. East Coast and warm water vs. cold water oysters. My preference is for cold water oysters from as far north on either coast as I can get. Try some of each and make up your own mind.

          There's no wrong way to dress an oyster. You're eating it so put what you like on it. Just be aware the simpler and cleaner the flavor of your dressing, the more the oyster taste comes through. A few drops of lemon juice, hot sauce or cocktail sauce are common dressings.

          Look for a good seafood restaurant that offers a variety of oysters and ask for a sampler plate--one or two of every oyster. The busier a fish market or seafood resto is, the better. High volume means higher levels of product turnover. Seafood is less likely grow old in the walk-in before it's served.

          Links to helpful CHOW oyster discussions:


          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/471281 (Best oyster bar in LA?


          Best success to you in your education!

          1 Reply
          1. re: KenWritez

            Phew, KenWritez.. you live up to your moniker! Thank goodness Child Protective Services wasn't around when I was four years old scarfing my first oysters with my grandpa and his pal Andreyev on that jetty on Tomales Bay! Between the three of us we wiped out a croaker sack of tiny Tomales Bay oysters. Give me my raw oysters small, cold, and fresh, with that wee squeeze of lemon. The big question is: To Chew or Not to Chew? I, before I swallow, diddle the oyster with my molars just enough to release those exquisitely seductive juices. I have never had my fill of oysters. Never.

          2. I adore oysters, but didn't acquire a taste for them until I was well into my 20's. My recommendation is to start with smaller ones and start with them fried then work your way up with prepared oysters (Rockafeller, etc.) to raw (mmmmmmm).

            3 Replies
              1. re: dolores


                Raw oysters and foie gras. Now *that* is food of the gods!

                1. re: dolores

                  I agree. I got hooked on them.
                  They're a lot like fresh, salty scallops. So if you like scallops........


              2. for an interesting background resource here's a couple of reviews of a book from a couple of years ago:



                1. Wow, thanks everyone! All good ideas. I'm now really excited to give them a go, and writing down the names of the ones suggested to be sure and look for some of them at the seafood place. I'll let you know!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: thursday

                    My preference is for briny, but I've found that a lot of beginners prefer the kumamoto as they're not as briny and "creamier" than some of the other ones.

                    And I like my oysters plain or with a squirt of lemon, but have found that a lot of people I eat with like it with cocktail sauce or mignonette.

                    And I think Janet of Richmond's advice is good -- start with deep-fried or cooked.

                  2. "Consider the Oyster" is a good read if you are an MFK Fisher fan.

                    1. aside from the many varieties,i love a great oyster dish;rockefller,poboy,sushi.last year we were at a very good chinese place and on the specials that night were huge northwestern oysters broiled with black bean sauce.good stuff!

                      1. Hi Thursday,

                        Working at a restaurant with an oyster bar up the road from you in Portland, we get quite a few oyster newbies on a monthly basis. The three that I always recommend are kumamoto, gigamoto, and royal miyagi. They are smallish, transluscent, with powerful hints of cantaloupe and honeydew. And, when they are nice and fresh, are sublimely briney, so it is akin to eating melon sprinkled with sea water.

                        The texture of a really fresh raw oyster isn't at all offputting. Just tip the shell into your mouth, give a couple of chews to release the flavor, and swallow. You are probably gonna love it!! If you are of age and enjoy a glass of wine, chase your oyster down with some champagne, or a nice crisp white wine. Heaven!


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: AndyP

                          I had my first raw oyster here in Seattle after a couple glasses of white wine and had to sneak up on it! My first one I covered in cocktail sauce but when I discovered it "wasn't bad" I now like them with just a squeeze of lemon or nothing at all. Funny, I don't really care for cooked oysters, just the small to medium raw ones.

                        2. No matter where you are, it is really fun to try a variety - you will be able to distinguish the subtle difference in the flavors, as long as you don't cover them with any overpowering sauces. Most restaurants that offer oysters should have a few different varieties and you can order a dozen with three or four different choices so that you can compare them. Your server can point out which ones are which and you can sample them and compare as you move along. I am in agreement with the fresh lemon juice and nothing else, but most places on the east coast offer a few different sauces with their oysters, including a mignonette sauce and a red chili sauce with a bit of a punch. The taste of the oyster is so delicate that I really prefer a little lemon juice and that is it. Nothing like fresh shucked oysters on the beach with lemon dripping down your chin. One other thought for the newcomer to oysters is to look for an oyster stew or pan roast if you just can't do the raw oyster slurp. Done correctly, you'll still get the wonderful, subtle flavor of the oysters but you'll also have a delicious warm and rich broth to pair them with. Oysters are one of my top 5 favorite things ever. They are a real treat. Remember- it was a brave man who first ate an oyster. Enjoy.

                          1. My advice is to get a good riesling (refill as necessary) and order as many different types of oysters as are available. Nothing I could say would equal what you would learn doing this. IMO don't bother with any of the various sauces for flavouring (cocktail sauce, oil and vinegar w/shallot).

                            1. ok heres the skinny on oysters. personally, i cant stand raw oysters but i feel i know a good bit about them. it seems obvious, but the saltier the water they grow in the salty/more savory they are. this is due to an enzyme in them that they use for personal osmosis so that the sea water doesnt "cure" them. the fattier looking oysters are about to spawn so they are filled with roe and usually tastier (so im told). flabby looking ones just spawned and therefore just used up the majority of their energy for reproduction (less tasty...from what ive been told). just a little crash course

                              1. Thursday,

                                I'm going to give you the same advice I give friends trying sushi for the first time. Find yourself a nice raw bar or seafood place that is clean, well lit and busy. Introduce yourself to the guy shucking the oysters, or to your server, and explain that you haven't tried oysters before, and are interested in trying a variety of them so you can find out what you like.

                                There are alot of traditional toppings for oysters. For your first foray, skip them, or use them very sparingly. Get to know what an oyster is all about. Once you do, you'll better be able to determine if a squirt of lemon is going to go well with your favorite, or a dash of spicy cocktail sauce, or an oniony splash of minonette sauce.

                                That said, my personal favorites (and as you can tell from the posts here, favorite oysters are pretty personal. There are LOT'S of winners.) are Wellfleets, Raspberry Points from Prince Edward Island, and Canoe Lagoon from Alaska.

                                For an interesting list of oysters, Pacific and Atlantic, check out American Mussels ordering page. (www.americanmussel.com)

                                1. I think I prefer the Northwest oysters over others around the US and I do prefer those from the colder northern waters. I enjoyed the plump, little kumamotos in Seattle. To me, all oysters are good but I prefer something bigger. Some are so small it is hard to get any satisfaction. I was spoiled when I started eating Gulf oysters, when I was 21. There were Zuider Zee Seafood Inns in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area and on Sunday they had all you could eat buffets, which included Gulf oysters raw and cooked. There was also a bar on Greenville that had a yearly oyster eating contest. You had to eat over six dozen or pay. There were a couple of us that were friends and we would go to Zuider Zee and practice. The manager (of the Lemmon Avenue restaurant) once came over and asked us to stop commandeering the raw oyster platter. Once I ate six and one-half dozen and that was just the raw oysters...

                                  I think the most luscious, mouth-filling treat I have ever had was eating huge pale oysters, on the coast of France, that were from the English Channel.
                                  If oysters are really fresh and delicious I prefer them "au naturel". If I eat a lot (which isn't often) I want a little lemon or mignonette for variety. I suggest you forgo any dressing if you are doing a sampler and want to experience the subtle differences.
                                  Don't forget that it is an expensive proposition once you have acquired the taste!

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Scargod

                                    Ah, Scargod, "The lad speaks the truth!"

                                    Thursday, realize enjoying oysters is like eating foie gras in front of militant vegans: Someone's going to have a problem with it. In my case, my family. They think raw oysters are disgusting and refuse to try them no matter hard hard I try to convince them they're wonderful. Sadly, too many people share that opinion.

                                    Oyster lovers tend to congregate in a small huddle at buffets, wallowing in the pleasure what is a raw oyster, but always aware of the cold, disapproving eye cast by the rest of the human herd. "How can you eat those?!" "Yuck!" "Oysters are disgusting!"

                                    All the more for us, then. Ha!

                                    1. re: Scargod

                                      Yeah, those big French belon oysters are fabulous. Also agree about Pacific NW oysters over east coast.

                                      1. re: steinpilz

                                        I stopped at my favorite market once and they had just received the French belon oysters. I couldn't wait. The fish guy shucked it for me right there and I ate it over the sink. Delicious!

                                        Other than those, I prefer Pacific NW oysters. The first time I had a raw oyster I was quite drunk and we stopped in a great spot in the French Quarter...years ago. I dunked the first few in some spicey red sauce...but as the night wore on, I took em up straight and have loved em since then. I crave them sometimes.

                                        1. re: melly

                                          I agree, Belon oysters are really great. This isn't semantics BTW, there is a very distinctive flavour.

                                          I understand that the French would like to control the name, how obsessively French, but how unappealing is "flats" and why should those Frenchies force me to call these great oysters "flats" anyway? What about "claret," for instance, I'd rather have a good CA claret than some musty and inferior French impostor any day.

                                          They'll be "Belon's" for me, and I do think that they are "larger," being "flat," (any definition including Kumamoto's and Belons would say that Belon's are certainly "large" compared to those exquisite Pacific gems).

                                    2. I adore oysters, all kinds.

                                      Since Oysters have a Hepatititis connection, I am somewhat picky about where I eat them but others are less so,

                                      Living in the Boston area, Legal Seafoods has the best oysters, and every Oyster is tested for every possible thing that could be bad for you.

                                      Recently, I have discovered Grilled Oysters.....which are TRULY fabulous.

                                      Best made on a wood-fired grill (smoking chips, if you are so incluned).

                                      Shuck the oysters
                                      Put a 1/2 TB slice of garlic/chive butter (make your own, or available in gourmet groceries by the stick) on top of the oyster
                                      Grill in shell until butter is melted, and sizzling around the edges

                                      Heavenly as an appetizer

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: johnecampbell

                                        Legal is definitely 2nd tier vs Neptune, and I go to the Kendall Prudential and Chestnut Hill Legal locations all the time.

                                        Those grilled oysters sound great.

                                        1. re: johnecampbell

                                          ABSOLUTELY try GRILLED OYSTERS.

                                          for raw oysters, i love them plain or with a bit of lemon juice. no tangy cocktail sauce to confuse the taste buds. good oysters has a complex saltiness from the juice/water. bad oysters have no taste... for these perhaps the flavor develop once you start cooking them:

                                          grilling oysters is a matter of throwing them on a grill until they just *start* to open and steam out. you *can eat this plain and theyre great like that, or with a slurry of lemon juice, salt, and pepper. vietnamese people also make this sauce that i simply cant recall its composition..

                                          1. re: paleogeek

                                            It's salt, pepper and lime juice. It's practically 50/50 salt and pepper and then enough lime juice to dissolve the salt.

                                        2. I agree with almost all the recommendations made here. Oyster stew or a pan roast is a great way to start, and Chinese oysters in black bean sauce are something we always order when they're on the menu.

                                          I am surprised no one has mentioned the old saw that you should only eat oysters in months with an "R" in them. The origins of the myth are that 1) bacteria and other organisms grew more quickly in warmer summer weather, and 2) that because the oysters were spawning, they didn't have as much meat.

                                          Warm water is a real problem; annually in the Philippines people die from eating contaminated shellfish. I avoid warm water oysters, as I feel the northern varieties have much more flavour.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: KevinB

                                            Great point, especially if you are eating Gulf oysters!
                                            I just found this:http://beoysteraware.com/risk.html
                                            about Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium that occurs naturally in warm, unpolluted seawater.
                                            I've not heard of this one. For people with weakened immune systems, liver diseae , diabetes and a few other things, it can be a real problem especially if it goes untreated.
                                            I'm liking the cold water ones more and more...

                                            1. re: Scargod

                                              Are the French belons big? I always thought of them as being the same thing as the really wonderful, "not too big, not too small" Irish 'natives'. And, for some reason, I thought it had also become a term in New England for flat oysters - much bigger and less sweet. What do you reckon?

                                              1. re: Foodlexi

                                                Can't really say but they were large and quite white or pale.
                                                I found additional reading: http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main...
                                                Also: http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main...

                                                1. re: Scargod

                                                  Thanks Scargod,
                                                  We have just checked into our accommodation in New York having flown in from the UK and I have just logged on. I will digest this great information tomorrow but should head for bed as it's 3.30 am my time. There is a great book called 'The French, the English and the Oyster' by an economist at Trinity College in Cambridge. That's where I gleaned most of my knowledge about oysters....... but this from thenibble is very much appreciated.

                                              2. re: Scargod

                                                I hope you're not spooked off of gulf coast oysters completely. I had my first oyster a few weeks ago. It had been pulled from the water that morning not far from the restaurant's dock.
                                                My only advice to the OP, don't hesitate and just throw it back. You'll be pleasantly surprised as I was.

                                                1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                  Oh no! Those look wonderful. Large and plump, as I remember them. Where did you eat yours; in-around Biloxi?
                                                  Looks like you were letting 'em slide down....

                                            2. For me oysters are the opposite of a lot of meats. It's the only food that taste worse the more fat it has. Although some people will probably disagree with me here. My advice is to get oysters with the least fat possible which means to get them from cold waters and during the winter time.

                                              I eat them raw with a little lemon juice and salt although I'm perfectly capable of eating them without anything. I really don't think you have to go to a raw bar since all they do is open it up. Also I wouldn't think of it as wasting money since they can be 40 cents each. I never got used to eating them cooked.

                                              In my experience oysters only have two taste. Really good or really bad. There is no middle. So even if you had one you didn't like don't let that dissuade you from trying oysters again.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Captainspirou

                                                When you say "really bad" I guess that is when they don't make you sick but they don't taste good.
                                                I had some recently where, on first chew - the first one of a dozen, I had to immediately spit it out. It was terrible. I had to go rinse my mouth out. I did not get sick but I was temporarily nauseated. These oysters were not glossy and wet when I received them and I thought they looked kind of funny and had a kind of orangish tint; but I went ahead anyway. I think they were shucked 14-16 hours earlier (for the previous evening's use).
                                                My recommendation is to see if they are glossy and wet, when served. This will indicate that they are freshly shucked. Then smell the first one to see if has any offensive odor. You may not enjoy them (even if they are OK), if you don't like the smell. This won't ever be an issue in most quality places. I suggest eating oysters where there is good patronage or where they feature seafood/oysters. Cooked is a slightly different story.

                                              2. I just read that you're in LA. Try the Santa Monica Seafood company. I wouldn't recommend getting anything from outside of California since it's my experience that oysters don't travel well. Get them close and as fresh as possible.


                                                1. If you can get to a McCormick and Schmick's, they offer oyster samplers for up to six varieties at once. Sit at the bar and let the cook tell you about them. I find most varieties very mild, and frankly the size of the shell sometimes doesn't matter with respect to the size of the oyster. Big, fat Chesapeake oysters are not that much larger than average once shucked, for example. I really find the small Kumamotos to be one of the strongest tasting varieties and actually like them a little less than some of of the Nova Scotia and Pacific Northwest varieties. Don't shy away from trying any of them, as your taste may be different. BTW, I don't think it took more than one or two oysters for me to "acquire" the taste for them. Way easier to eat than clams.

                                                  DH won't eat anything raw, but loves oysters cooked much more than clams. Rockefeller, smoked, baked -- they are really good.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: RGC1982

                                                    I hope you have a decent McCormick and Schmick's in your town. I won't ever eat at the one in my city..ever again!

                                                  2. The only way to eat a great oyster is Raw On The Half Shell atop some ice and with nothing but it's own juices!

                                                    I have gotten sick twice on Puget Sound types....so I stick to the East Coast variety......occasionally a Japanese type....but for me and others in my clan....the best oysters on the planet.....without a doubt are....Raw Wellfleet Oysters from Wellfleet MA.

                                                    I must admit I have never tried a Belon, but the French claim they are the creme de la creme!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: httpmom

                                                      A raw Wellfleet is a thing of beauty, no doubt about it. Other varieties to try if you're ever on the East Coast are cold Blue Points right out of Long Island Sound and a little something called a "Pemaquid,"--one of the best things the great state of Maine ever produced. I wouldn't say no to anything from Canada, either, like a Malpeque from PEI or a very salty Fox Island.

                                                      The best way to eat a raw oyster, IMHO, is with a squirt of lemon and a grind of fresh pepper. With enough iced vodka in me I've also been known to eat oysters with freshly made salsa but that's another story.

                                                    2. I would suggest roasted oysters first, before graduating to raw. I like them both ways, but roasted is yummy and a good excuse to dip something in melted butter. Growing up, my special memories of my grandfather were centered around going with him into his basement during family get-togethers to shuck some "ursters'. I went thru stages where I loved them and then through some where I really gagged them down. But, the look on Grandad's face when he could share them with his favorite granddaughter was the best. Thanks for bringing back the memories. I can even remember the smell of the musty basement.

                                                      1. Start with a little one, and smell it first. If it smells bad, don't eat it. It probably IS bad, and it will turn you off oysters for a very long time. If it smells good, squirt a little lemon on it, ease it off the shell into your mouth and chew on it a couple of times. The texture thing is only an issue if you try to swallow it whole.

                                                        1. Thursday, meet the oyster. Oyster, meet Thursday. This large specimen was farm raised at Tamales Bay. If you're ever in the SF area and traveling up toward wine country along the coast, it would be a criminal act not to stop here. Bring some Cowgirl cheese and a baguette-- the local hardware store will sell you wine and an oyster knife. Ask for a quick tutorial on how to use it, and you're good to go.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: rubysdad

                                                            Wow, we can now enjoy farm-raised Thursdays?! Yummy! I've got some cheese and cocktail sauce, lemon's over there.... So Thursday, when can we expect you for lunch?