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Oysters in Seattle?

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seagrace May 14, 2009 11:08 AM

I've got four relatives coming up from Phoenix in a couple weeks for a whirlwind three day visit. I've been commanded to take us to a place with oysters, but that also doesn't break the budget--I know hard to do. Oysters are wasted on me, and the only suggestions I've received are Elliott's and Flying Fish.

Truly, there are no foodies in this group, although they range in age and tastes. Still, l want them to experience my city bring them to spots that blend local Seattle with good food and possibly a view--at least some balance in all that. So it may be Lowell's for breakfast and Etta's for brunch, Matt's and Redhook Woodinville for lunch, Space Needle for drinks/view (really can't skip the Needle but wont eat there), Pink Door for dinner, Stumptown for coffee etc. But I'm digressing.

thanks!

  1. OCAnn Sep 14, 2009 09:00 AM

    Absolutely great thread! Was in SEA for the weekend and we hit up Elliott's and sat at the oyster bar. The shucker advised us to get a mixed dozen (sweet, briny, small and large). I don't remember what I got (I should have written it down), but I LOVED the variety (I believe they had 24 different oysters). They served the oysters with a champagne granita with which to top the oyster...and that was really nice. No tabasco or horseradish necessary.

    We also had the garlic mussels...OMG, they were so plump and succulent and we finished off with a cup of oyster chowder which had two large oysters. I wish I lived in Seattle; for my next visit, I'll have to time it so I can enjoy Elliott's during happy hour....

    1. southernwayfarer Aug 31, 2009 07:41 AM

      Rather than start a new thread I'll ask here... Where are the recommended places to buy fresh unshucked oysters for preparation at home? I know you can get them at Pike Market. Are there any other places? I'll be staying in Ballard and am also planning lots of day trips so I'm willing to go out of the way. I'd love to find a local source!

      10 Replies
      1. re: southernwayfarer
        Tom Armitage Aug 31, 2009 08:34 AM

        Generally speaking, two of the best sources of seafood in Seattle are Mutual Fish and Uwajimaya, but I don't know anything about how they keep their oysters. I would not buy oysters that are kept in aerated water tanks. The salt water in these tanks is not fresh sea water, it is artificially salted water, and because the oysters exchange their natural sea water for this manmade salt water solution, it adversely affects the taste of the oyster. Central Market on Aurora, for example, although in many respects an admirable market, unfortunately keeps its oysters in such tanks. Whole Foods, on Roosevelt and 65th, by contrast, keeps its osters on ice, which is the only way I'd recommend buying them.

        1. re: Tom Armitage
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          bluedog67 Aug 31, 2009 11:02 AM

          Wild Salmon in Fisherman's Terminal (just over the ballard bridge) always has 2-3 varieties avail (on ice). But the real find is Taylor Shellfish at the Ballard Farmer's Market (sundays 10-3). If this fits your schedule, these are the best oysters - they supply many of the top restaurants in town. The totten virginicas are best if avail, but they have several species. Get there early for your best picks.

        2. re: southernwayfarer
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          Booklegger451 Aug 31, 2009 07:59 PM

          Mutual Fish has them live in well maintained water, and they are, in my experience, always great. It'd be interesting to compare them with iced oysters, and see if there is a perceptible difference... I've never considered that one method might be superior to another.

          If you want a good source for a wider variety of oysters, take a look at americanmussel.com. When I lived in Arizona, I ordered from them fairly often, and they always delivered top quality products.

          1. re: Booklegger451
            Tom Armitage Aug 31, 2009 08:53 PM

            What is "well-maintained" water? And what do you know about how the water at Mutual Fish is "maintained"?

            1. re: Tom Armitage
              Scargod Sep 1, 2009 04:56 AM

              I'm sure it would be relevant how long the oysters were in this non-sea saltwater. I was amazed recently with my first taste of freshwater razor clams from our lake in BC. Virtually no taste! By themselves, not really worth eating.

              1. re: Scargod
                Tom Armitage Sep 1, 2009 10:27 AM

                An important aspect of eating fresh raw oysters is the oyster “liquor,” or the residual sea water inside the oyster shell. The best way to experience a raw oyster is to suck the oyster and the oyster liquor together out of the half-shell in a single slurp. The quality of the oyster liquor significantly affects the overall taste, just as the particular types of plankton on which the oyster feeds affects its taste. With respect to the question whether the practice of keeping oysters in aerated water tanks makes any difference in the taste of the oyster, it helps to understand the anatomy and feeding habits of an oyster. Oysters are filter feeders, drawing water and suspended plankton in over their gills through the beating of cilia. Oysters can filter up to 5 liters of water per hour. The water tanks used by some restaurants and some retail sources of fresh oysters, such as fish markets and grocery stores with a large seafood department, do not contain natural sea water, rich with plankton and other organic matter, but man-made salt water made by adding salt to tap water. The man-made salt water, needless to say, doesn’t have the same flavor as natural sea water, and as the oysters filter the man-made salt water through their systems, it changes the taste of the oyster liquor, and eventually the oyster itself. This is why, when buying oysters, whether in a fish market or at a restaurant, I only buy those that are kept on ice with their natural sea-water oyster liquor in tact. For a previous thread on this subject, see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/398610.

                Some oyster bars drain out the oyster liquor before serving the oyster. This is a major crime and deprives the oyster eater of an important part of the experience of enjoying the raw oyster. See the Chowhound thread on this subject at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/322978. Another crime, in my opinion, is to douse the oyster with a vinegar mignonette or Tabasco, which severely impedes the ability to experience the delicate taste of the oyster, including the differences in taste between oysters from different locales, in which differences in the sea water and plankton can produce oysters that range from intensely briny and salty to mild and sweet.

                1. re: Tom Armitage
                  Scargod Sep 1, 2009 10:50 AM

                  I'm with you and I agree completely. I love the liquor and wouldn't want it altered or removed. I have been fortunate, on multiple visits, to try many of the types of oysters, and yes, they vary greatly in taste and size. Do you know the type indigenous to the Agamemnon Channel or those farmed in Vanguard Bay and how they rate?

                  1. re: Scargod
                    Tom Armitage Sep 1, 2009 03:36 PM

                    Aside from a few places that farm Belons, Olympias, Eastern Oysters, and Kumamotos, almost all of the oysters farmed in the Pacific Northwest are Pacific Oysters. Your question about oysters from Agamemnon Channel or Vanguard Bay raises an interesting point, however. When a non-commercial buyer purchases oysters, the oysters are usually identified only by the general geographic area where they are grown. For example, at Elliott’s Oyster House (where you will frequently find me at the oyster bar) you will sometimes find Malaspina oysters on their list. Most of the oyster farms in the general area of the Malaspina Strait seem to be located around Okeover Inlet, Lancelot Inlet, and Theodosia Arm. There are approximately 40 shellfish farms in this area. The oysters aren’t identified by the individual oyster farm that raised them, however, just by the general area. Offhand, I don’t know of any commercial oyster farms in Vanguard Bay or the Agamemnon Channel, further south in the Nelson Island area. And, if there are some, I don’t know whether they would be identified at Malaspinas, or by some other geographic identifier, such as Nelson Island. Thanks to your good question, I’ve now got something to explore further.

                  2. re: Tom Armitage
                    rp1760 Sep 13, 2009 05:59 PM

                    Tom, and the rest, thank you for the great posts on oysters. This land-locked, oyster virgin now has some great information for her upcoming trip to Elliots.

                2. re: Tom Armitage
                  b
                  Booklegger451 Sep 1, 2009 06:10 PM

                  I know that they are very dilligent about the water's sanitation, working very hard to keep customers hands out of the baths, and changing the water when it does get contaminated, from personal observation. This leads me to believe that they excerise similar discipline in maintaining the water in general.

            2. Pigeage May 26, 2009 01:41 PM

              HI all - hope you all had a nice long weekend! Pictures from the damage at Elliot's (two dozen mixed based on the rec's from our shucker and waitress - half of which were Totten V's from Tailor Shellfish because, well, we like them best. (And I grew up playing on the oyster middens along the Damarascotta so that has, I'm sure, prejudiced my palate to Virginicas) The Olympias were outstanding, too . . . so were the Kusshis - salty, sweet fresh, little sea candies! Couldn't say enough about nice things about the location on the water, the wait staff, the guys behind the oyster bar, the selection. The wine list could use ONE French white, please - there were Australian and Italian on the menu so it wasn't due to flag waving, surely. Last - they serve a mignonette sorbet with every plate which is clever, really delicious, and is in the best tradition of west coast innovation and creativity without going over the top that I can immediately think of! I love Elliot's will be back (and I seriously doubt I'll ever try the fin fish there!) Salud everyone! (Will have to resize photos and try posting again, sorry - also: I have the reciepe for the Oyster granita from Elliot's if anyone wants it!)

              2 Replies
              1. re: Pigeage
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                awiley Nov 14, 2009 05:20 PM

                Pigeage,
                I don't know if you'll see this post, but I've been searching and searching for Elliott's Oyster granita recipe since our trip in July 2009. If you see this, and have the recipe, please post! Thanks so much...

                1. re: awiley
                  a
                  akq Nov 25, 2009 02:10 PM

                  http://www.seattledining.com/ARCHIVE/...

              2. morgblorg May 21, 2009 08:58 AM

                If you're looking for somewhere that offers good oysters that are super affordable, Ivar's Salmon House has a really great happy hour (3:30pm-close) until May 24th. You can order from the happy hour menu for the more affordable options and I'm sure they have others available on the main menu as well.

                5 Replies
                1. re: morgblorg
                  Scargod Aug 31, 2009 07:48 AM

                  I've enjoyed Ivar's for all that it offers, when I have been in Seattle.

                  1. re: Scargod
                    g
                    GreenYoshi Aug 31, 2009 09:54 AM

                    But only the Salmon house.
                    The Acres of Clams waterfront location is a much, much lesser touristier version.

                    1. re: GreenYoshi
                      Scargod Aug 31, 2009 10:54 AM

                      I appreciate that tip, but isn't it in a "touristy area" being sandwiched by Pike's Place Market and the ferry?

                      1. re: Scargod
                        g
                        GreenYoshi Aug 31, 2009 11:51 AM

                        Sorry, that was bad punctuation on my part.

                        It's not "less tourist-y" it is "lesser" and "more tourist-y"
                        (ie, don't go there...)

                        1. re: GreenYoshi
                          Scargod Aug 31, 2009 12:46 PM

                          Thanks. We have had about three good meals at Maximilien, even though it is a tourist area. It does have a nice view.

                2. Tom Armitage May 15, 2009 04:46 PM

                  Since Pacific Northwest oysters are among the best oysters in the world, I can understand why you were commanded by your relatives to take them to a place with oysters. Kudos to them. Elliott’s will give you the largest and freshest selection of oysters in Seattle. At a recent visit to Elliott’s, there were 26 different kinds of oysters to choose from. The standouts, for my taste, were the Pacific oysters from Snow Creek (Port Angeles) and Kusshi (Deep Bay, Vancouver Island), and the Eastern oysters from Island Creek, Duxbury Bay, Massachusetts. Other good choices were the Pacific Oysters from Judd Cove (Orcas Island) and Mirada (Hood Canal). I agree with terrier that Elliott’s progressive oyster happy hour is a spectacular deal, but you only get one type of oyster that they have chosen as their “happy hour oyster.” The chosen oyster will be just fine, and maybe you want a dozen or so to save the bucks, but I’d recommend sampling a variety of the different oysters to experience the range of textures, tastes, and brininess. There are other good spots for oysters in Seattle, including Shuckers and The Brooklyn, but I think for oysters, despite the departure of oyster guru and champion shucker Dave Leck, Elliott’s is the place to go. It also has the advantage of being on the Seattle waterfront, which will be a picturesque venue for your visitors.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Tom Armitage
                    s
                    seagrace May 16, 2009 04:59 PM

                    (-: Thanks for the shout out for Elliott's. My visitors are looking forward to it and the chowder too. I guess can't blame them. I've already eaten my lifetime supply of the stuff.

                    1. re: Tom Armitage
                      r
                      renspr Mar 15, 2010 03:21 PM

                      I LOVE Judd Coves! The perfect balance of brine-ness and sweetness. Even went on a mecca trip to Orcas Island to get them as close to their bed as possible! They are hard to find though, but am glad to hear there is a chance of finding them at Elliot's too.

                    2. p
                      PAO May 14, 2009 02:43 PM

                      Elliott's. Good oysters, right on the waterfront. No view to speak of from the Brooklyn.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: PAO
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                        berbadeerface May 14, 2009 03:08 PM

                        No view? You must have had a blindfold on - I had a perfect view of the kitchen from my seat at the raw bar! ;)

                        1. re: PAO
                          WildSwede Jan 7, 2010 12:03 PM

                          We will be visiting in May and I am wondering what time Elliott's Happy Hour starts/ends and days of the week that they have it. My goal is to eat as many oysters as I can! Thanks!

                          1. re: WildSwede
                            OCAnn Jan 7, 2010 02:26 PM

                            Mon-Fri, 15:00 - 18:00. You will absolutely love it...nothing in LA/OC compares!

                            1. re: OCAnn
                              WildSwede Jan 7, 2010 04:08 PM

                              Thank you!! I cannot wait!!

                        2. terrier May 14, 2009 12:22 PM

                          Elliott's progressive oyster happy hour is impossible to beat for oysters. Get there by 3 when they've got a variety for $6/dozen (the price goes up every half-hour.) Other varieties will be pretty expensive, but happily they don't cheap out on quality on whatever they're shucking for happy hour.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: terrier
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                            boisenewbie May 14, 2009 12:55 PM

                            I agree!

                            I had 3dz oysters and a rockfish taco all for $21 :-D

                            1. re: boisenewbie
                              s
                              seagrace May 14, 2009 01:28 PM

                              Thanks! Maybe Elliott's will be a good happy hour spot before an 8pm dinner. I know the Brooklyn is an oyster house, but I'm afraid I'll ruin their budget.

                              1. re: seagrace
                                b
                                bluedog67 May 14, 2009 01:44 PM

                                Emmet Watsons in the market is a great dive for beer and oysters. But Elliots is really the spot for impressing out of towners. Oh, and the kumomotos ride back seat to the totten virginicas for best oyster.

                                1. re: bluedog67
                                  s
                                  Spot May 17, 2009 01:35 PM

                                  Yes. I had a dozen Totten Inlet Virginicas at Cafe Campagne last fall that were revelatory.

                                  1. re: Spot
                                    Pigeage May 20, 2009 04:43 PM

                                    Glad to have read this - the oyster prices surprise me at Elliott's I just peeked at their menu online. $2.50 per for a dozen Tottens! At Grand Central Oyster Bar in NYC (two months ago) they were $2.95 each - I would have expected (hoped, really) that being so close to their farms would mean lower prices (kind of like if you dine at Shaw's on the Wharf in New Harbor, Maine, lobsters are easier on the wallet.) Still - Tottens are so dang good I've recruited my buddy to ferry over there this weekend to see them in their (transplanted) native (farm) habitat - will post next week and thanks for the recs - if you happen to be at Elliott's on Friday lunchtime (1PM) say howdy!

                                    1. re: Pigeage
                                      terrier May 20, 2009 06:51 PM

                                      Totten Virginicas were the happy hour oyster the last time I went to Elliott's, so you can get lucky.

                                      1. re: terrier
                                        Pigeage May 20, 2009 08:21 PM

                                        Wow - those are dice worth rolling, but lunch is locked. It'll be $30 and I'll have beans for breakfast to balance the budget - some things are worth it!

                                        1. re: Pigeage
                                          barleywino May 21, 2009 09:31 AM

                                          the Tottens at Union (when they have them) always seem extra plump and pristine compared to those at some other places (maybe the kitchen discards any bad ones)...you can get them at the bar during happy hour/ dinner

                                  2. re: bluedog67
                                    d
                                    dkcaudill Nov 25, 2009 11:47 AM

                                    Actually, I had JUST this same experience with family coming from out of town and wanting local seafood. The service at Emmet Watson's was SO awful that I was terribly embarrassed. They even told my mother that they would not give her a straw because she had ordered water... her jaw was wired.
                                    Then the food was awful and lukewarm. Bummer, because it had been good in the past.

                            2. f
                              firecracker May 14, 2009 11:35 AM

                              Oysters? Hands down it has to be The Brooklyn. Try the Kumomotos.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: firecracker
                                b
                                berbadeerface May 14, 2009 01:56 PM

                                I have to agree here. I had a wonderful oyster and microbrew sampler when I was there.

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