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Oysters and Clams - Questions and Suggestions

I'm a seafood lover always looking to expand my horizons. Sadly (sigh), I must confess that I've never tried raw oysters - cooked yes, but never raw. I'm loath to order a platter of raw oysters in case I try one and don't like it, only to find myself on the hook for the whole plate. Plus, none of my friends have ever tried them raw, nor have any interest, so I can't sample them with the fallback of having somebody who will gobble them up.

My question is twofold. Is there any place in town that will allow you to sample one (even if you have to pay), without committing to a whole plate, and for the experienced raw oyster connoisseurs, how would you describe the experience to a newbie, and is there any advice you would impart?

Finally (on the oyster front), I know with shellfish that if you cook them and they fail to open, they're bad and must be discarded, but how do you know if an uncooked oyster is off?

Clams - anybody know if there are restos that sell deep fried whole belly clams here, like they do in New England?

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  1. You can buy individual oysters for 49 cents each at metro in La Cite.

    1. Maestro SVP on St. Laurent will fix you up - sit at the bar, have a couple drinks of liquid courage, speak to the bartender and go from there. Try their cheapest oyster (no use in getting a "high-end" oyster ifn you really don't like it - even so, I tend to like the most common oysters in their repertoire).

      Most newbies are afraid of the taste, but this is not the problem. Oysters are actually quite mild and basically taste like the sea. Kinda like swimming in the ocean and swallowing a bit of sea-water. Of course its a bit more complex than this, but not too far off.
      I think its more of a textural thing. Oysters are slippery critters and this might be off-putting for some. A beginner can simply plop it into their mouth, swallow, blink, and say "thats it?" Me? I like to chew and really enjoy.
      I would suggest to first try an oyster "au natural" - no lemon, no hot sauce, no crackers, no salt no pepper, no horseradish, no cocktail sauce, no shallot vinaigrette, then go from there, adding accompaniments you like to enhance rather than hide the flavor.

      Also, if you find you no gusta, no problem.

      Clams? Actually I like raw cherrystones (or any other clams) much more than oysters. Chewier with more body and more flavor, but actually harder to find in Montreal.

      How do you tell if a raw oyster of clam is off? YOU WILL KNOW! It will stink like hell.
      Generally, in a restaurant, the shucker will throw out a bad one and it won't get on your plate. Sometimes it does get by. I always give it a sniff - its like fresh fish and should have barely any odor. If it smells like you shouldn't eat it, then don't. Sometimes (rarely) it passes the sniff test, but once in the mouth, you realize its not good. Simply spit out, rinse with beer and think good thoughts - haha.

      Finally belly clams - I never saw them in Montreal.

      2 Replies
      1. re: porker

        The only addition I would make is that since even the most expensive of Ilene's Oysters (Maestro SVP) is something like $5 if bought individually, I would strongly recommend starting with the high end oysters and then slowly working your way down - in the same way that I would suggest that someone start with a high end wine before starting in on the plonk.

        Always lead with your best...

        1. re: EaterBob

          I would normally agree with you, EBob, but what if oysters really isn't Haggisboy's cup of tea. Plus if he's trying a beausoleil or a malpeque, chances are he'll come across this very same type at the next restaurant he tries oysters, giving him some heads-up advantage. Like I said, I always found the cheapest oysters the best. Maybe its turnover freshness, maybe its bad taste on my part, I dunno, but I rarely found an out-of-the-ordinary oyster over the top.
          Again, maybe I'm not trying the right ones at the right time or something, but I found some west-coasters too mineral, some imported ones lacking flavor and a few americans too watery.
          I did try some kumamotos ahwile back which were absolutely fantastic in every way - briny, meaty, fresh. Too bad they were so small. They were reputed to be Japanese, but my friends tell me they are also cultivated on the west coast.

      2. There is nothing scary about raw oysters. Like Porker said it's a mild taste with the swish of the ocean. Dive in, you'll love them.

        1. The fish place at Jean Talon market (Poissonnerie Aqua Mare) was selling oyesters that you could try on the spot for about 2$ each. You could have the calamari to get the taste out of your mouth if you don't like them. But they are delicious, in my opinion.

          1 Reply
          1. re: stephlovestoeat

            I just went to Jean-Talon Market this weekend and saw this as well. A little counter facing Aqua Mare served them. They are all displayed upfront so you can see before you decide to sample.

            -----
            Jean-Talon Market
            7075 Avenue Casgrain, Montreal, QC H2S, CA

          2. If you eat a few and love them (um, who wouldn't?), try out Lucille's on Monkland in NDG. Ain't bad...

            Read the review from this week's Mirror: tinyurl.com/29awzcr

            6 Replies
            1. re: Gary Biscuits

              I want to thank everyone who's responded here. You've really piqued my curiosity to the point where I think I will soon give raw oysters a try, especially since they're now coming into season.

              1. re: Haggisboy

                Next step is to shuck 'em at home.
                I remember as a kid I was in Florida with my dad, sister and her friend. Not passing up a good deal, my father bought some oysters for $10....a bushel!
                For 5 of us...
                After opening about 8 dozen or so, we put a pot on the stove and steamed them in batches.

                1. re: porker

                  Stopped by Metro on the way home as they're having an oyster sale. They had various varieties but I went with 8 of the lowest price Malpeques. I can honestly say I'm sorry I didn't muster up the courage to try raw oysters years ago. They were sublime. Very delicate in flavor and left me sorry I didn't buy more.

                  1. re: Haggisboy

                    La Mer's fish store usually has a nice selection of oysters and the guys behind the counter are enthusiastic and will make suggestions (even in which order to eat your selection of various oysters). They may even slip you a taste.

                2. Go to L'Orignal and ask for Daniel. You are unlikely to meet anyone more passionate about oysters!

                  Osters are priced individually so no problem with ordering one or two.