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Oyster Bar Grand Central

b
bb22 Jan 20, 2011 09:19 AM

Hello, my husband and I will be midtown NYC this Saturday. He just read a review of the Oyster Bar pan roast recently touted in NY Magazine as a NY "superlative". Myself, I have read bad reviews of the Oyster Bar that include just fair service.
Hopefully, someone will be kind enough to give an opinion of this restaurant and their “pan roasted” items. This information will help us make our decision. We will be there for an early lunch. Also, alternative suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you, bb22

  1. bigmackdaddy Jan 21, 2011 10:01 AM

    IMO, GCOB is way overrated, culinary wise. While it has a beautiful interior their, food is usually bland or salty. I've been going there since I was a kid, so this isn't a one-time-experience review. I can tell you that Track's in Penn Station probably has one of the better raw bars in NYC. But they won't have aesthetics that GCOB or Aquagrill has. Nor do they have good kitchen food, except for their clam chowder and sea scallop salad. All these places that people rave about, Ed's, Mary's Aquagrill, Schaffer's and so on, have a bad habit (IMO) of letting the ice suck out the natural brine of the bivalves, or they'll even rinse the shellfish after they're shucked. And they're cooked food is usually over cooked and/or has too much bread. Blue Water Grill seems to be a hit or miss kind of seafood restaurant. I wish you the very best of luck finding a decent pan roast and/or oyster stew in NYC.

    -----
    Aquagrill
    210 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

    Blue Water Grill
    31 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003

    1. m
      M. Dery Jan 21, 2011 08:38 AM

      (Re-posting from another thread, to ensure the word gets out):

      It pains me to say it, because I have an inordinate affection for the GCOB, a holdover from the pre-Rudy, pre-Disney, pre-K-Mart Manhattan of Damon Runyon and Joseph Mitchell. But (and there is a "But"): While the saloon is Don Draper's idea of a watering hole, with the requisite bored-to-death barkeeps and enough nautical kitsch to sink the POSEIDON, the food has slumped to assisted-living-cafeteria lows. Dreaming of the fried clam bellies of the Cape Cod summers of my youth, I ordered the fried clam appetizer. The clams---a grease-sodden mound of tough, leathery strips, with one or two bellies included, in a feeble attempt to justify the price tag---were buried under inch-thick, flavorless batter. I should note that this is probably the third time I've made this mistake, the message of which has finally penetrated my nostalgia-fuddled brain: DO. NOT. ORDER. THE. FRIED. CLAMS.

      The New England clam chowder is tasty, in an I-know-I'm-going-to-regret-this sort of way. True New England clam chowder, which I grew up on (Braintree, MA; Chatham, MA), is rich but far thinner than the gloppy, glutinous, corn-starch (?) thickened stuff the GCOB serves, which you can stand the proverbial spoon in. Again, it is tasty, but by the time the bowl's empty, you feel queasy from the artery-clogging richness of the thing.

      As for the fish dishes, the preparations are bland and badly executed, characterized by a Wonder bread-era timidity that hints at an older, stuck-in-the-Lobster-Newburg-era clientele. It's a shame, because some rocket-hot Top Chef could turn the GCOB into the best of both worlds: American seafood classics at their best, with a contemporary spin. Or something like that. But the owners clearly don't care, because the supply of clueless tourists is inexhaustible.

      Executive Summary: Stick to the raw bar. How can you ruin a freshly shucked Wellfleet oyster? And the saloon. I recommend a Hendrick's martini with a cucumber twist and a dozen oysters. While you’re polishing them off, book a table. Elsewhere.

      -----
      Grand Central Oyster Bar
      89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017

      8 Replies
      1. re: M. Dery
        h
        hazelhurst Jan 21, 2011 08:46 AM

        Yow! On the other hand, the raw bar is all I ever do these days. The New England Clam Chowder _used_ to be passable..it had enough clam juice in it to keep it from being glue. I wil do the pan roast from time-to-time but it must have been five or more visits ago (read about 2006) when I last had it. But the clam/oyster tour is great fun and a beefeater martini (I go back that far), then a trip to teh Greybar Building to say hello to the rats.

        1. re: hazelhurst
          penthouse pup Jan 21, 2011 02:11 PM

          Hazelhurst, it's good to see you trolling the Manhattan board...I knew a few rats in the Graybar Building as well, on the 20th floor or so...For me, the pan roast and a dozen Wellfleets work best, with a Bombay martini up with a twist (please, no Saphire nonsense.) By the way, the Buster Holmes cookbook has now been reprinted by Pelican...

          1. re: penthouse pup
            h
            hazelhurst Jan 21, 2011 02:29 PM

            How very nice of you to say so...I recall fondly our discussion of Soltner and Soule some time back...the Olde Days. I enjoy these comments about the joints I went to in the Halcyon Days of yore---and there are so few left. That's one reason I love the Oyster Bar: it reminds me of my father whose office was just across the street. I did avoid it for awhile and I suppose my enthusiasm for the raw bar is connected to all those happy memories but I still think that, for NYC, it is a good deal. Obviously, in New Orleans, our prices for purely local oysters are far less but I cannot get Wellfleets or Belons around here so I don't mind the splurge. It is so very easy for me, in the Oyster Bar, to see the New York I knew as a boy and young man (but sometimes I gotta squint).

        2. re: M. Dery
          linguafood Jan 21, 2011 08:48 AM

          Frankly, I don't know why anyone would order anything other than from the vast selection of bivalves. It's called Oyster Bar for a reason, ya know?

          1. re: M. Dery
            c oliver Jan 21, 2011 09:02 AM

            And here is my reply to yours:

            "Don't you think inch thick batter might be a HUGE exaggeration??? We've had a fried clam sandwich there and thought it was great. We usually have raw oysters. And prefer Plymouth gin over Hendricks :)"

            1. re: c oliver
              m
              M. Dery Jan 21, 2011 09:30 AM

              Is poetic license revoked, on Chowhound? For the literalists in the crowd, translate the time-honored trope "inch-think" as: too thick. But that's no fun, is it?
              Anyway, order the fried-clam plate and go on a Where's-Waldo? hunt for bellies. I defy you to find more than, like, three.

              1. re: M. Dery
                m
                M. Dery Jan 21, 2011 09:38 AM

                But the barmen (and they are all men) do make a mean martini, and have the good breeding to give you the shaker, to top off your glass when you've whittled it down. Very old-school of them.

            2. re: M. Dery
              h
              hazelhurst Jan 21, 2011 12:07 PM

              BTW, love the use of the POSEIDON...it fits, too. I can imagine the men's room in the bar being on teh TV remake version of the ship.

            3. meatme Jan 21, 2011 06:59 AM

              An Oyster Bar pan roast is a very nice thing to eat, but remember: it's not "pan roasted" in the usual sense; it's a bowl of stew with a slice of toast at the bottom and some chili sauce mixed in.

              1 Reply
              1. re: meatme
                b
                bronwen Jan 21, 2011 08:06 AM

                I too love the oyster bar. I like the bar across from the entrance for a drink and then going to the saloon bar for lunch. I always used to have the Dover Sole, I don't know if it's still on the menu, it is a very expensive dish. Their chocolate mousse is fab!

              2. a
                AubWah Jan 21, 2011 06:13 AM

                go for oyster bar its cool if you order right!

                1. k
                  kagemusha49 Jan 20, 2011 01:26 PM

                  I replied to the deleted thread. I love the Oyster Bar and I also love looking around at the restored Grand Central Terminal (restored in the mid 90s - you have to love the zodiac signs on the ceiling). Raw oysters are absolutely fine and so are the pan roasted oysters and oyster stew. I usually sit at the counter and munch my way through a few raw oysters and then some pan roasted and whatever else takes my fancy. The checkered cloth table area may be the area with the less than satisfactory service and ambience.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: kagemusha49
                    neuroticalways Jan 20, 2011 02:19 PM

                    The oyster pan roast at the The john Dory is AMAZING!

                  2. a
                    AdamD Jan 20, 2011 10:43 AM

                    I love the oyster bar. Great place to grab a bloody mary and eat some food. Definitely the saloon, counter or even the small counter bar in the middle of the restaurant -but dont choose table service at the little bar, its notoriously slow.

                    I stay away from entrees and generally stick to oysters and clams (the little necks are terrific and often overlooked), appetizers such as the fried oysters or clams, and the pan roasts. Soups are ok, but nothing earth shattering.
                    Stay away from the steamed mussels app-the broth is not good. The fried oyster and fried clam po boys are good too, but stay away from the tuna burger. I also tend to just get a house salad if I want greens as some of those salads are pricey and completely overdressed.

                    http://www.oysterbarny.com/pdf/dailymenu.pdf
                    http://www.oysterbarny.com/pdf/sandwi...

                    1. c oliver Jan 20, 2011 10:26 AM

                      We too love to sit up at the bar (and that's not the counter in the big room). Some martinis, some oysters, life is good :)

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: c oliver
                        steve h. Jan 20, 2011 04:38 PM

                        I know that bar in the back room. Haven't been there in awhile. Glad you cracked the code. Well done.

                        1. re: steve h.
                          c oliver Jan 20, 2011 04:46 PM

                          Pretty easy when there's a sign over the door that says "BAR" I think :)

                          1. re: c oliver
                            steve h. Jan 20, 2011 05:08 PM

                            Right after 9/11, it was the preferred hangout for off-duty cops and firemen. They had a hard time picking up the tabs.

                            1. re: steve h.
                              c oliver Jan 20, 2011 07:14 PM

                              I bet.

                      2. Beach Chick Jan 20, 2011 09:45 AM

                        I posted on this thread a couple of days ago but it vanished..
                        Love love love the Oyster Bar and it's a must for lunch every time I'm in NYC and have always had great oysters, chowder, fish and service.

                        1. h
                          hazelhurst Jan 20, 2011 09:36 AM

                          I have eaten there since I was a boy in the early 1960's and I admit it had problems for a time but in recent years, after it was fixed up, it has been fine and now that they have the Maine belons and others which were not available in the long-ago days, it is one of my favorite Manhattan stops. I eat there at least once whenever I am in town. Also has the enormous advantage of a clean restroom in the bar. I just wish the crackers were not in cellophane...used to be in little bowls with spoons.

                          1. Motosport Jan 20, 2011 09:34 AM

                            We love the Oyster Bar. When it's just the two of us we sit at the bar. If there are more than 2 we sit in the pub section near the bar. Food and service is aways great!!

                            1. s
                              small h Jan 20, 2011 09:33 AM

                              Did you post this same question earlier in the week? There were a number of replies (one of them mine), but the thread has vanished. Mysterious.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: small h
                                b
                                bb22 Jan 20, 2011 10:13 AM

                                Yes, my post was deleted , reason being, inappropriate word, have adjusted language. I am delighted with the replies on corrected posting, will be having lunch at the Oyster Bar Saturday. Excited for "pan roast"! Thanks

                                1. re: bb22
                                  Phil Ogelos Jan 20, 2011 12:47 PM

                                  ... check out the wine list, too -assuming it's available in both rooms; for a resto like that, it's really something.
                                  (and make sure to whisper to your man using the fornix arch outside the front door!)

                                  1. re: bb22
                                    s
                                    small h Jan 20, 2011 06:07 PM

                                    Aha. I recall the problematic language. I hope you also saw the original replies, and that you enjoy your meal at the Oyster Bar, should you decide to go there.

                                2. n
                                  nyctripper Jan 20, 2011 09:22 AM

                                  I'm a huge pan roast fan. I always sit at the oyster bar and have always had quick service (and the same guys have worked there forever) and love to watch the preparation. Although seeing how they fix a pan roast, I'm amazed at how simple it looks!!

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