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Un-detached oysters?

Ordered a half-dozen oysters at Harvest the other day, and found the meat still attached to the shell on all six. I asked the waitron about it and was told "yes, that's our policy to leave them attached."

Can anyone educate me why a restaurant might choose this? I must admit I'm totally confounded.

(I considered a "get off my back" meaning, but 1. my waitron was obviously invested in my happiness/doing the job well (and _very_ kindly comped a problem dish) and 2. knew the answer already, as if they'd been asked the question before.)

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  1. I took a cooking class at Davios last Saturday and part of the class was learning to shuck oysters. We were taight that after opening the oyster, you remove the oyster from its muscle that attaches it to the shell. I love oysters and have eaten them in numerous places. I have never had the served attached to there shell. How would one remove them? An oyster knife is needed!

    1. A properly shucked oyster or clam should be loose so the meat removes easily. I may expect that from a super buffet but not a restaurant like Harvest.

      1. i have been served poorly shucked oysters that were partly attached, but never a platter full of still-attached. that's idiocy.

        1. I've always been able to get them freed from the shell, with a fork, without too much trouble but I agree that it's a pain when they are served that way.

          Did you eat them or send them back?

          1. Personally, I want my oysters attached..loose but attached.

            I have seen and heard restaurants using canned oysters for Oysters Rock, AYCE oysters at buffets, etc.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Beach Chick

              I prefer my oysters and women unattached. Loose is OK, too.

                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    There are reliable suppliers of shucked oysters for cooking including East Coast and Canada, but its bigger on the Gulf and Pacific. These aren' t the same thing as canned, cooked oysters. And while they aren' t what you want for a raw oyster tasting, they are perfect for fried, carpetbagger steak, etc.

                    What I think you are talking about are frozen oysters on the half-shell. These are pre-shucked, rinsed, and come from far far away... many of them from New Zealand. I wouldn' t want to eat those raw and to me they are completely flavorless. Those buffets who don' t serve oysters which are already shucked, often rinse the oysters in part to hide the bits of shell left from their lousy shucking job. If you want good raw oysters, order them whole and have them shucked in sight.

                    1. re: itaunas

                      But, don't you think, if you're serving cheap frozen oysters, you'd detach 'em so as to make 'em seem more appealing? Otherwise, it's kinda like:

                      "Here's some shitty, prefrozen oysters sent from the other side of the Earth even though we could get 'em from a few miles away. Oh, and we're gonna want you to finish cleaning 'em, OK?"

                      "Ahh, sure, um, thanks?"

                      "Don't mention it. I hope you don't get sick!"

                  2. I have shucked hundreds and hundreds of oysters. I simply cannot understand why they would leave them attached. Do they serve them with an oyster knife?

                    Actually, I may have one idea. If you take off the top shell and leave the oyster attached, you can keep them "alive" longer. Maybe even for a day. That way they can do all the prep at once. It's not something I'd be too happy to pay for, but I guess it's better than having the detached meat sit overnight?

                    To me, it's analogous to serving your burgers vacuum sealed. Why put your customers through the extra work? You could just detach at the last moment before serving.

                    1. In Paris the oysters are always served attached to the bottom shell. They are served with a small fork. I have no problem with it.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: bcc

                        You detach 'em with a fork? Does it have an edge on a side? Or, do you just wind up scraping a coupla times?

                        1. re: MGZ

                          You just go under the oyster from the side, scrape back and forth a bit, and voilĂ .

                        2. re: bcc

                          That's called an oyster fork and that one tine is designed to sever that membrane:


                          Makes sense. I love the French!

                          1. re: c oliver

                            Oyster forks? What's next, special forks for salad? Different spoon sizes?

                            Me and my greasy fingers will just sit here in our ignorance.

                            1. re: MGZ

                              It did say that oyster forks are only for informal meals :)

                          2. re: bcc

                            Yes, attached is the French way to keep the oyster alive and slithery when you eat it.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              Oh, good point. I hadn't thought about the alive part. Thanks.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                if the oyster is shucked immediately before being served it's still alive.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  This reminds me of the time I was shucking a bunch of oyster at home. I had up to that moment never seen any reaction from any oyster I had shucked. So I pop one open at the hinge and pry the top shell off. Then I actually saw a part of the oyster rise up from the bottom of the shell and fall back. I paused for a moment then went ahead and cut through the lower abductor muscle. It was weird. I've seen clams move before but never an oyster.

                            2. re: bcc

                              The reason French oysters are shucked non detached is a story from a Cancale oystermen. Some time back there were instances of new out of France oysters being plopped on French shells, thus counterfeiting the non French product. As many french oysters are Irish and finished in French waters this is not as important as it used to be, but the habit stuck.
                              Also l carry a knife to oyster bars in France as it is much sharper than the silly forks and deals with the muscle immediately with no hassle.

                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                I think I would like to follow you around Paris.

                            3. Just went to our fave burrito place and ordered a dozen oysters each (only $10!). All came attached. Coincidence.

                              28 Replies
                              1. re: c oliver

                                "Just went to our fave burrito place and ordered a dozen oysters each (only $10!).

                                You have no idea how odd that concept would be for a 'hound in NJ.

                                1. re: MGZ

                                  The 3 Anna Maria Oyster Bar Restaurants around Bradenton FL have 50 cent raw oysters today (June 1) and tomorrow between 2 and 5. Get 'em while they're cold!

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    I can't drive that fast. I'm gonna have to settle for bass and tequila this afternoon.

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      Veggo, could you please let me know which 3 places are offering the 50 cent oysters? I have family out there that are interested. They claim they can find out, but you might be able to save them some time. Thanks

                                      1. re: primebeefisgood

                                        The 3 AMOB's are at 6906 14th St. W in Bradenton, 1525 51st Ave. E in Ellenton (off 301), and 6696 Cortez Rd.

                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          Thank you. I misread the original message and thought it was random restaurants on Anna Marie. Rereading it, I see you were giving the name. Sorry.

                                    2. re: MGZ

                                      as a bostonian, i'm still wide-eyed over a burrito place that sells oysters!

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        I know. But, it would be cool if there was one within walkin' distance that did both things right, no? Especially, at less than a buck a shell?

                                        1. re: MGZ

                                          well, i lived briefly and painfully in florida for awhile and the oysters were dirt cheap, but those gulf oysters are flaccid and nasty.

                                          am ok with the trade-off as far as that goes.

                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                            I like the plump FL Apalachicolas in comparison to many others, but we are now in a non-R month so they will be a little flaccid but I wouldn't say nasty.

                                            1. re: Veggo

                                              Actually there is a health risk from FL (and other) oysters as the waters get warm. Some seafood purveyors won't use them then and some chefs won't serve them. From Wiki, but there's plenty more info:

                                              "Oysters can contain harmful bacteria. Oysters are filter feeders, so will naturally concentrate anything present in the surrounding water. Oysters from the Gulf Coast of the United States, for example, contain high bacterial loads of human pathogens in the warm months, most notably Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus. In these cases, the main danger is for immunocompromised individuals, who are unable to fight off infection and can succumb to septicemia, leading to death. Vibrio vulnificus is the most deadly seafood-borne pathogen, with a higher case-to-death ratio than even Salmonella enterica.[citation needed]"

                                              For at risk people, it can cause death! For the rest of us, 'just' vomiting, diarrhea, etc.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                My buddy Rick won't take the chance, and my afternoon Tiki Bar friends include a vegetarian, so I'm on my own. I have never been sickened by an oyster. Clams and smoked marlin, yes.

                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                  Since we probably aren't eating oysters from warm FL waters, I doubt we have any risk. Plus I drink tap water all over the world.... :)

                                                  ETA: Oh, did you find out that she's not a vegan? That makes things A LOT easier.

                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                    I have eaten raw Gulf oysters all summer long for years. Never been sick. Got to die of something, may as well be oysters.

                                                  2. re: c oliver

                                                    Vibrio can kill you. Many reasons for not eating Gulf oysters in warm months. l eat EVERYTHING, but do not eat warm water oysters in the warm months.

                                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                      I just returned from Anna Maria Oyster Bar where I scarfed down 4 dozen unattached, plump, nicely chilled oysters from Louisiana area #28, wild caught.
                                                      The portly gentleman from eastern Europe to my left at the bar was finishing his 6th dozen when I arrived.
                                                      So far, vital signs are good.

                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                        Assuming you were drinking ice cold beer or a nice wine with those oysters, I'm jealous.

                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                            Veggo buddy, read Robb Walsh's 'Sex, Death, and Oysters' might change your perspective, it certainly altered mine. OTOH high alcohol kills most bacteria [[ :>))

                                                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                              I'll consider it. With Jody Arias out of the dating circuit, my concerns have been limited to just Sex and Oysters. I know you are shamelessly working me over for angulas in 2 weeks, so I bought more from Spain.
                                                              The oysters today were very good, and cheap. If they lead to my demise I will send you an H-mail. You figure out which H.

                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                If they lead to your demise, please forward angulas

                                                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                  was that whole arias thing over angulas? now it makes sense.

                                                      2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                        Yeah, I was kinda surprised by that. I thought the whole R-month thing was over and done with since there's now refrigeration. But Vibrio sounds pretty nasty. I'm a VERY bold eater but I think I might pass on those also. Plenty of other great seafood.

                                                    2. re: Veggo

                                                      Story in today's NYT about the difficulties of the oyster fishery in the bay


                                                      1. re: Bkeats

                                                        Interesting, thank you Bkeats. It explains the LA oysters in FL. I have an aunt who has a B&B in Apalachicola, a beautiful spot, but oysters have been the economy there forever.

                                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                                          I've been hearing about the impending doom of the Apalachicola oyster grounds as long as I can remember. This may be the time. Given the upstream neighbors it's probably just a matter of when.

                                                2. re: MGZ

                                                  If not odd, we certainly found it unusual :) We have more Mexican restaurants than anything else probably but that was a new one for us. But with guacamole, chips, salsa and a Tecate it made tasty lunch.

                                                  1. re: MGZ

                                                    That's the typical price for oysters on the half-shell in Mexican mom & pops I frequent in Northern Calif. $1 each with a slight discount by the dozen.

                                                3. I would have thought it would be to keep them alive for longer, and thus, fresher.

                                                  1. Well, I've got a couple minutes and this thread makes me think of a funny story. I've probably told it before, but if you will indulge an old man . . . .

                                                    The greatest wedding I ever went to was a decade or so ago on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The bride and groom were from old watermen families. So much so that the ancient, wooden chapel on the Island they lived on had each family's crest in one of the stained glass windows. Coolest church I've ever been in.

                                                    The reception was held in a big, borrowed house on a piece of land jutting out into the Bay. Absolutely, breathtaking spot. It was the Chesapeake version of a Gatsby setting.

                                                    At this point in time I'm workin' as a "Big City" lawyer, so I wore a jacket and tie. It's your friends' wedding, right? Apparently, every other guy thought it was one or the other. Needless to say, I ditched the jacket after we left the chapel.

                                                    Now, keep in mind, I come from a pretty crusty Jersey Shore family. I've dug clams, pulled traps, bled stripers, etc. I mean, I'm not a pretty guy.

                                                    The Bride's brother farms oysters. His gift was two yard long coolers full of bivalves he pulled that morning (in fact, he was late for the wedding because of having to "package" his present). I've never seen anything like it. A seemingly infinite amount of salty, fresh, Chesapeake oysters presented as tribute. So, so fucking cool.

                                                    Our gift, by request, was to pay for part of, and bring down several cases of those big bottles of Lindemans Framboise. We did live in the "Big City", after all. We brought a lot. And, everyone was starting to get a taste.

                                                    Well, the brother drops off the coolers and then brings around his turkey fryer (which, honestly, confused the hell outta me at first). Then, he looks upset.

                                                    One guy I had just met says, "Dude, what's up?"

                                                    "I forgot the fuckin' knives."

                                                    Three or four guys get up and head out to the driveway and the eleven or so pickup trucks parked out there. They all return with oyster knives. Two also came back with bottles of Tabasco. Apparently, they keep 'em in the glove compartment?

                                                    So, wanting to be helpful, offer my assistance.

                                                    "Just keep the glasses full, Jersey."

                                                    The brother lights the fryer and starts steaming dozens of oysters The other guys settle into a shuckin' contest. I've never seen anything like it. They cleaned 'em in such a machine like way, that it reminded me of watching someone type. In minutes, the tables were covered in bottom shells.

                                                    I've never eaten so many oysters. So tasty, very saline. I don't think I even used any of the hot sauces offered on more than a couple. Mrs. Z says I ate a hundred combined, but I think she's roundin' up.

                                                    Moreover, I'd never had steamed oysters before.* I didn't realize that Framboise was such a great compliment.** I can't remember whatever food the hostess served after that. It was a blast!

                                                    One thing I know, those guys would NEVER not detach the bottom muscle.

                                                    *I love to make them now.

                                                    **Keep that in mind.

                                                    12 Replies
                                                    1. re: MGZ

                                                      I've only had steamed oysters a few times, but they are my favorite steamed shellfish. Great story. A friend has a big organic vegetable farm on a river on the edge of the Eastern Shore and we used to have amazing parties with tons of shellfish, crabs, etc. and fresh veggies from the farm.

                                                      1. re: JMF

                                                        Steamed oysters are a thoroughly underappreciated dish. Yet they are so easy. Meltin' the butter almost takes more effort.

                                                        A few hours after I posted the story, I asked my beautiful wife if she remembered what else we ate that night.

                                                        "Um, no, I'm, um, maybe . . . ."

                                                        "Yeah, me neither, why?"

                                                        "Well, Phat Dave brought his Mead and that Stinky Phil guy had all that pot."*

                                                        "Good point, my Darling."

                                                        *Other wedding presents - each made by the guys who brung 'em. Sorta a Frankincense and Myrrh kinda thing.

                                                        1. re: MGZ

                                                          My favorite way to have oysters is the New Orleans style chargrilled oysters. The oysters on the half shell are covered with tons of butter garlic, herbs and spices, and topped with grated Romano cheese. Then grilled (or sometimes broiled) until the cheese is browned and the oysters have cooked in all that buttery garlic goodness. Served with crusty French bread. Amazing! I'll miss not making my annual pilgrimage to NOLA this summer for Tales of the Cocktail. I think I'll have to grill up a mess of these at home tonight.

                                                          This video shows them at one of my favorite places, Acme Oyster House, to grab some and a bowl of seafood gumbo for a quick lunch in the French Quarter in between seminars and copious amounts of cocktails.


                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                            To each his/her own, of course, but I would never want to cover up the taste of the oyster with " tons of butter garlic, herbs and spices, and topped with grated Romano cheese. " All I want to taste is the sea.

                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                              The last sack of oysters I bought ended up costing about .25 each. Easy to try different preparations at that price and done the way JMF mentions is a real good one.

                                                              I agree with you if we are talking about some hellishly expensive cold water oysters.

                                                              1. re: kengk

                                                                Oh, I get what JMF was saying. I just don't think I'd be able to taste oyster with that much other stuff on it.

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  The seasoning is actually not overwhelming. The flavor of the oysters intensify as they grill in the butter, herbs, and their own juices. Don't knock it until you try it.

                                                                  1. re: JMF

                                                                    Tried it many times, often at Drago's. Have a kid who lives in N.O.
                                                                    Yes it is interesting, for me raw only way to go.

                                                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                      But we enjoyed a few dozen grilled at the Half Shell Oyster House in Sarasota, no?
                                                                      Those 48 succulent Louisiana raw oysters yesterday were excellent; not milky or flaccid. I'm glad I eschewed your advice.
                                                                      I want more.

                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                        I've practically had a lifetime of "eschewing" advice. Yeah, I've got scars and had to endure steel bracelets, but if you're willin' to buy me a shot and a beer, I'd bet I can keep you from lookin' up at the Fox News on the TV behind the bar.

                                                                        Keep on esCHEWin', my friend, keep on!

                                                                      2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                        There are a few perfect foods that, for me, need no tinkering with. GOOD raw oysters are one of those foods.

                                                        2. re: MGZ

                                                          Great story! We are headed to one of several places that serve chargrilled oysters today here in Houston. Our daughter and son-in-law are at Oyster Festival in New Orleans and their pictures are driving us crazy! So we plan our own Oyster Festival!

                                                        3. Perhaps by leaving them connected, they are pointing out that they didn't buy pre-shucked oysters, and just lay them on the shell. Sort of like escargot. Take out of jar (can) place on (in) recycled shells. I guess it would save labor and prevent loss due to spoilage.